You might not often talk about your periods, but that only makes it harder to realise when they are heavy. We are here to help with some simple advice.
What is a heavy period?
Did you know that 1 in 5 women will experience heavy periods? 1 in 5 women with heavy periods may have a bleeding disorder. Any of these symptoms sound familiar?
If your periods last for 7 days or more
Needing to change your pads/tampons more frequently than every 2 hours
Passing clots of blood larger than a €1 coin
Low iron levels, anaemia or the need for regular iron tablets may indicate heavy periods
Needing a blood transfusion because of anaemia caused by periods indicates heavier than normal periods
Why is it important to know?
Many women do not realise their periods are heavier than normal. Without treatment, heavy periods can lead to:
Low iron levels
Anaemia (low haemoglobin)
Poor concentration, tiredness
When you lose blood with periods, your body needs to use up iron to create new blood cells. With heavy periods, your iron stores may gradually fall. Low iron can cause poor concentration, tiredness, dizziness and even anaemia. By treating heavy periods, both your iron levels and these symptoms will improve.
Some Common Questions
There are lots of different treatments for heavy periods. If you've had heavy periods for a while, your iron levels may be low and you might need iron tablets. Other treatments include hormonal treatments such as the pill or medications to slow bleeding like tranexamic acid. Talk to your doctor, they can discuss the options and advise on what is the best fit for you.
Many bleeding disorders run in families so if you have bleeding symptoms, it is not surprising that others in your family may also have a similar pattern. In fact, many women may be slower to get a diagnosis of a bleeding disorder because heavy bleeding is treated as normal in their family. All the more reason to know your flow and understand when bleeding is heavy. If you are concerned, check out our next steps section.
A simple blood test with your doctor can check if your iron levels or your blood count (haemoglobin) are reduced. If your iron is low, you can try to boost your iron intake in your diet. Foods rich in iron include red meat, fish, spinach and lentils. You may need iron tablets to boost your iron levels. Eating food rich in Vitamin C (oranges, citrus fruits) with your iron will help your body to absorb more.
Your doctor can help assess your bleeding symptoms. Heavy periods on their own are not enough to diagnose a bleeding tendency but if you have other bleeding as shown above it is important that these are considered together rather than each on their own. Why not check out our Bleeding Symptoms page and try the online bleeding score to see if you might require further testing.
It is great if your periods are light and you do not have any bleeding symptoms. However, it is important to be aware your friends may not have the same experience. We hope to educate and open the conversations about periods so women can talk more freely about their experience. This information may not benefit you but it could help someone you know - don’t be afraid to talk about periods or bleeding, you never know when it could help someone else.