Have you ever felt like you’ve had to hide from the world when you get your period? Or that your heavy bleeding is going to seep through your pants while you’re at work or out for dinner?
Although I haven’t personally experienced heavy bleeding, also known as Menorrhagia; yes, that’s the fancy term for heavy bleeding, I work with many women in my practice who experience and dread their monthly period for this very reason.
In fact, aside from your typical pms symptoms such as bloating, cramping, fatigue and moodiness, heavy bleeding is by far one of the top concerns my clients are suffering with.
And suffering it is! From literally having to wear a super tampon, and a super pad, plus 2 pairs of undies, it’s embarrassing, frustrating and down right uncomfortable.
So what’s a woman supposed to do? How exactly can you fix your heavy bleeding?
First off, it’s important to note that an average blood loss ranges from 10-80 milliliters. Each soaked regular pad or tampon holds roughly 5ml of blood, so it’s normal to soak 2-7 pads/tampons during each period. A super tampon holds 10 mL. So, 80 mL equates to 16 fully soaked regular tampons, or 8 fully soaked super-tampons over all the days of the period.
Very heavy bleeding is much more than 80 mL. Some women report that they lose up to 500 mL, or 2 cups of blood. That is A LOT! This can literally mean blood-soaked clothing or sheets.
It’s important to note that these numbers are statistics. You have to determine what is normal for you, as each women’s bleed and cycle is completely unique.
So how much are you actually bleeding?
One soaked regular tampon or pad holds 5ml or 1 teaspoon of blood and a fully soaked super tampon holds 10ml. A half soaked regular pad or tampon equals 2.5 ml and a half soaked super tampon holds 5ml.
Make a note every time you change your pad or tampon over a 24 hour cycle while on your period. If the number of fully soaked or half soaked pads or tampons in any given cycle is more than 16, then you have a heavy flow.
Heavy periods can occur at any age, however, we tend to see this happen most often during teenage years as well as in perimenopause. In both cases, it’s typically the result of too much estrogen, which thickens the uterine lining and not enough progesterone, which reduces the uterine lining.
Progesterone is made in the ovaries after ovulation occurs. For young teenagers, once they start to ovulate and have gone through 1 or 2 years of a regular cycle, estrogen receptors become less sensitive and progesterone becomes more prominent, making periods lighter.
So why heavy periods? What’s the actual cause?
It’s important to look at a few areas:
Hormonal Imbalances –
- Low thyroid function (hypothyroid) can pose an issue since it is linked to progesterone production. If your thyroid is low, then typically your progesterone will be low as well, causing your estrogen to rise. To top it off, low thyroid also causes poor estrogen detoxification – meaning an excess build up in your body and not enough elimination through the bowels. This is also known as estrogen dominance.
- Another way to determine if you have estrogen dominance is too look at your actual flow. If it’s dark, clotted, clumpy and heavy; this is typically a sign of high estrogen levels. Breast tenderness, stubborn weight, acne, PMS, headaches or migraines can result from too much estrogen in relation to progesterone.
Uterine Conditions – it’s important to rule out these possibilities, such as:
- Uterine fibroids – which is caused by too much estrogen and can lead to fibroids developing
- Endometriosis or Adenomyosis
I recommend booking an appointment with your doctor or health practitioner if you are experiencing any of the above issues. It may be necessary to do a pelvic exam to determine if there are any physical issues. This should also include a pelvic ultrasound to check for fibroids and endometrial thickness.
I would also recommend a full thyroid panel, a pap smear, STI testing, and a complete blood count to determine if you have anemia. For your thyroid panel, it’s important to test: TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, Anti TPO and Anti TG. You need ALL of these tests for a full picture of your thyroid health.
The conventional treatments for heavy periods include the birth control pill, which I do not recommend at all or the Mirena IUD (progesterone-releasing), which I also do not recommend. You are better off with the copper IUD, but it can increase blood flow and cramping, but it is not hormonal, which is a good thing.
Endometrial ablation and hysterectomy are also commonly recommended as treatments, but it’s important to remember that these are permanent, so if you want kids, they are definitely not for you.
So how do you treat heavy bleeding? Here’s some natural recommendations:
Let’s start with the ABC’s shall we!
- Vitamin A – I prefer getting this from cod liver oil, which also means you’ll be getting two for the price of one! Healthy anti-inflammatory omega 3’s + vitamin A, which is typically deficient in those experiencing heavy bleeding.
- B Complex – Your liver metabolizes your hormones and if you’re deficient in B vitamins, you will have a hard time breaking down and metabolizing estrogen. Plus, your B’s are involved in every metabolic process in the body and if you’re highly stressed, there’s a good chance you’re low in them.
- Vitamin C – One study found that vitamin C was able to reduce heavy bleeding in 87% of it’s participants. That’s a lot and very promising! Vitamin C also helps improve iron absorption, which also tends to be low with heavy bleeding.
A few other supplements and remedies that can be helpful:
- As mentioned above, iron deficiency tends to be low in those with heavy bleeding and iron deficiency can worsen heavy periods! It’s essential to supplement with iron. Use a good quality, gentle chelated iron. I personally recommend this one from NuLife. It’s a vegan formula that combines therapeutic doses of iron with supportive ingredients like vitamin C, B2, B6, B12, folic acid and probiotics to aid in iron absorption and help prevent constipation.
- Turmeric is amazing for heavy bleeding and contains anti-inflammatory properties. It’s safe to use daily.
- Iodine is another supplement to keep in mind as it down-regulates estrogen receptors in the breasts and uterus and reduces the thickness of the uterine lining. I recommend getting testing to see your levels and be careful supplementing with this if you have hashimotos. It’s important to work with a practitioner who can help you design a strategic protocol.
- If you’re in your perimenopause years, I recommend eating phytoestrogen rich foods. Phytoestrogens such as nuts, soy, and flaxseeds make periods lighter. I know you’ve been taught differently, and hear how terrible soy is for you, but quality is key here. Look for organic, fermented and non-gmo soy. Phytoestrogens compete with stronger endogenous estrogens and therefore reduce estrogen stimulation of the uterine lining.
- Ibuprofen (advil) is also incredibly helpful for heavy bleeding. It’s not something that is at top of my list to recommend, but it’s better taking for 1 or 2 days during your period than popping the birth control pill everyday. Ibuprofen works by blocking prostaglandins and can reduce menstrual flow by half. Yes – half! This can really be helpful when you have an event or something important to attend and need that extra support.
- Magnesium is amazing for reducing cramping and supports liver detoxification. Although it doesn’t directly impact your bleeding, it is involved in supporting the metabolization of hormones and it’s often a mineral that is depleted in women. 400mg of magnesium before bed is what I often recommend to my clients (more my be required if there testing comes back low or deficient).
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I’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments below any questions regarding your period and flow or join me in the free detox challenge and come hang out with us in the private Facebook group! (You’ll receive the link for the group once you join the challenge).