Heavier bleeding on the first two to three days of your period is normal and does not always indicate that something is wrong. Your flow can vary from month to month and can be affected by lifestyle, diet and hormonal changes.
But how heavy is too heavy for a period? To start off, we want to clarify that what is normal for one person, might be a heavy period for another. Research so far shows that the average amount of menstrual fluid that leaves the body is at around 30-40 ml (which equals 4-8 teaspoons of blood).
There is a general understanding that you have a heavy period (also known as menorrhagia), if you bleed more than 60 ml in total each cycle. If you find that your flow is heavy for five days or more and you additionally feel very tired, you might be suffering from heavy periods.
Menorrhagia: How do you know if you have a heavy period?
Every period is experienced differently, but your period is considered heavy if you:
- Have to change your pad or tampon every 1-2 hours for at least a day
- Frequent flooding or leaking onto your clothes even though you’re using a menstrual product
- Use tampons and pads together to manage your flow
- Pass large blood clots
- Regularly have to cancel activities because of your heavy period.
- You feel anaemic, weak and very tired.
Like mentioned above, the current common understanding is that you have a heavy period if you lose more than 60 ml of menstrual fluid. One of the ways to measure your flow to find out if you have a heavy period is to use a menstrual cup. For instance, Ruby Cup Medium holds 24 ml of menstrual fluid, which is 3x more than a super tampon.
Each normal sized pad or tampon can hold up to 5 ml of menstrual fluid. So the 60 ml would sum up to 12 normal sized tampons used during your period.
Try this self-assessment to see how many factors that define a heavy period apply to you:
When to see a doctor
If you have an unusually heavy period that you cannot manage, visit your doctor for a check up. Oral contraceptives, hormone supplements and surgery are treatments for abnormally heavy bleeding, so keep track of your flow and visit a doctor if in doubt.
How do I know if I have heavy periods and what causes them?
If only a couple of the above symptoms apply to you, you can also collect data yourself by tracking your period and then consult with your doctor. You can ask for a pelvic exam, to make sure everything is alright.
Some flows are just heavier by nature. Other reasons can be health-related.
Natural causes for heavy periods:
- Especially during puberty, when your hormone levels are still adjusting, an imbalance in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause heavy periods.
- If you’ve just ditched the pill, your first periods can be heavier while your body is adjusting after being used to daily hormones.
- The first periods after you’ve given birth also tend to be heavier.
Other common causes for heavy periods:
Heavy menstrual bleeding can be caused by a newly inserted IUD, a hormonal disruption or a condition such as endometriosis, dysfunction of the ovaries, fibroids or by a medication you are taking.
It’s not always a reason for concern, although if you get sudden heavy periods or experience abnormal strong menstrual cramps, you should definitely consult your doctor.
If your period is heavy every month, let your doctor know so he/she can rule out any symptoms that might indicate complications caused by your heavy period.
How to manage heavy periods?
Many menstruators find that heavy flow does not need medical treatment. Instead it’s about finding the right menstrual health product that can make period life easy and comfortable.
Keeping track of your period is also helpful to see how long it lasts, how heavy your flow is, what might influence it and make it heavier or lighter.
Why we think menstrual cups are the best solution for heavy periods:
- A menstrual cup holds 3x more fluid than a super tampon, you stay safe.
- With a larger capacity than tampons or pads, this means less bathroom visits!
- Menstrual cups are a healthy and handy product. If inserted correctly, you will not feel it at all. The medical grade silicone does not dry you out or leave cotton residue in your vagina.
- Being reusable, no emergency runs to the drugstore are needed and you save insane amounts of waste produced by used tampons and pads.
How to make heavy periods lighter?
Hormonal Birth Control
If your heavy period is interfering with your daily life, keeping you from going to work or participating in social activities regularly, your doctor might prescribe you hormonal birth control, as that might help regulate and lighten periods. Before choosing this solution, we recommend to do a thorough research about hormonal birth control and the effects it can have on your body, health and mind.
Pay attention to what you eat.
Your diet has a great influence on your period. Try to drink lots of water and avoid sugary and high-fat, processed foods. Opt for food rich in iron and potassium such as bananas, lentils, raisins, or salmon.
There are also some foods that can increase your period flow, such as pineapples or papaya.