What are heavy periods?

Heavy periods are menstrual periods that are characterized by excessively heavy or prolonged blood loss. This condition is also called menorrhagia.

Menstrual periods vary from woman to woman. Most women have a normal period approximately every 28 days, and each period typically lasts from four to seven days. The amount of blood lost during a menstrual period ranges from 20 to 80 milliliters (mL). Blood loss of more than 80 mL may be considered a heavy period. A possible indication of heavy periods is soaking through a feminine hygiene product (pad or tampon) every hour for as long as three hours straight.

Heavy periods may occur for various reasons, including abnormal blood clotting, a disorder of the uterus, or hormonal imbalances. For instance, endometrial hyperplasia occurs when there is excessive growth of the cells that line the uterus. This condition may result from disruption of the two hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that control menstrual periods.

Heavy periods can happen at different ages and stages of life. For instance, young women in the first few years of their menstrual periods may experience heavy periods. Women of childbearing age may have heavy periods because of gynecologic disorders, such as fibroids or polyps, or from complications of hormone-releasing contraceptive devices. Women who are nearing menopause may have irregular periods, including heavy bleeding during menstruation (menorrhagia). Heavy periods may be related to the use of blood-thinning medications, a uterine infection, or cancer of the uterus.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, are pregnant and experience vaginal bleeding. If you are not pregnant, your health care provider will determine the cause of your heavy periods through a pelvic exam and other tests. If your heavy periods are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with heavy periods?

Heavy periods may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.... Read more about heavy periodssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes heavy periods?

Heavy periods may occur for various reasons, including abnormal blood clotting, a disorder of the uterus, or hormonal imbalances.... Read more about heavy periodscauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.