What causes periods?
Getting your period happens when the uterus sheds its lining (called the endometrium) that it’s been building up for the past few weeks (since your last period). The body prepares the endometrium with a thicker layer of blood vessels on the chance that you become pregnant this month: that potentially fertilized egg needs somewhere welcoming to go and grow! If there’s no fertilized egg, however, there’s no need for the thick endometrial lining, so good-bye to the unneeded blood and tissue.
What causes heavy periods?
Every woman’s body is different.
Some women’s hair will grow down past their waist, whereas other women can’t get their hair to grow longer than mid-back, no matter how many years they go without a haircut. Some women’s hands get chapped and cracked as soon as it turns chilly; other women go all winter without putting on moisturizer and their hands are fine. Some women have slow metabolisms; other women eat a lot but never seem to gain weight.
And some women bleed heavily and have a period that lasts 7 or 8 days, while others bleed lightly for 4 or 5 – and then they’re done. (Lucky, right?)
If you’ve had heavy, long periods since you started getting them as a teenager, that’s most likely just how your body works. Your body tends to build up a thicker uterine lining. It might be one of those things you wish you could trade with someone else… but your body probably has a few things about it other people wish they could trade with you!
Sometimes, however, heavy menstrual bleeding is the sign of an underlying issue. We’ll deal with how to tell the difference in the next sections, but first, here are some tips on dealing practically with heavy bleeding (whatever the cause).
How to deal with heavy periods
Find the right sanitary products.
Whether you prefer pads or tampons, look for products that are made to deal with heavier menstrual flow. Pads with wings, long pads, overnight pads… and not all “long” pads are created equal. Some absorb more, some less. Buy a few different types and try them out until you find a brand and product that works best for you.
If no matter what product you use, you have leakage onto your underwear, use multiple products (multiple pads, pad +pantiliners, tampon + pantiliner, etc.) in different configurations. It’s worth it to not be worried about stains showing up on clothing at inconvenient and potentially embarrassing times.
Wear the right clothing
Comfort is the name of the game. Consider looser clothing (flowy skirts rather than fitted jeans) and dark clothing (think black or navy, not pastels). Loose outer clothing will reduce the chances of blood leaking onto your clothing. If it does leak, dark clothing will hide it much better until you’ve had the chance to change.
When are heavy periods a problem?
One indicator that heavy menstrual bleeding is a sign of a problem is if it’s a change from your personal norm. If you’ve had heavy bleeding since you were 13, heavy bleeding at 28 isn’t usually cause for concern. But if you’ve been the light-bleeding-for-5-days type since 13, and suddenly at 28 you find yourself a heavy-bleeder-for-more-days than usual, that bears checking out.
Another indicator that heavy menstrual bleeding should be looked into is if it is accompanied by other symptoms. Pelvic pressure, the need to go to the bathroom frequently, pain during sex – these are all potential symptoms of uterine fibroids. Take a look at our Symptom Checker to see if your symptoms could be a sign of uterine fibroids – or another condition that bears medical attention.
If your heavy periods are just your individualism and therefore normal to you, take a deep breath and try some of the tips above. But if they’re the sign of an underlying issue, you can get help for them. You don’t have to suffer every month. While your period may never be something you look forward to, at least it won’t have to be something you dread. Should you experience doubts surrounding whether your flow is normal, go see your gynecologist to ensure that everything is in order.
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