It’s a bit of an icky subject that for our reputation of talking too much we don’t often talk about but periods don’t get the airtime they deserve! 1 in 5 women experience heavy periods but what is a normal period and if you have a heavy period what can you do about it?
Gynacaeologist Dr Rachel Green describes a “normal period” in broad terms as “4 to 7 days in length, and the volume is around 2 tablespoons (which often feels like more!)”.
Unfortunately, mild cramping is normal but what’s not is if you always reach for pain killers, or experience nausea and vomiting each month also bowel pain is not a good sign. Bleeding between periods and after sex are also red flags to look out for.
A good indicator of a heavy period is if you need to change your tampon or sanitary products every 2-3 hours and if it is interrupting your sleep with intense period pain and/or the need to change your sanitary protection.
But we’re luckier than our ancestors when it comes to options, there are plenty out there to help reduce your red badge of honour. There are two main categories hormonal and non-hormonal for two very different audiences.
Hormonal options for combating a heavy red are generally suited to those who are not trying to conceive. These include the contraceptive pill or an IUD.
The oral contraceptive pill not only acts as a contraceptive method but it also helps to regulate your cycle and reduces excessive and prolonged bleeding.
The hormone-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) often known as the Mirena is more of a long term strategy for heavy periods as lasts 5 years but is also contraceptive. It is great for young women and is completely reversible with no long term effects.
Copper IUD’s are also on the rise in younger women due to the increased education and awareness around hormonal treatment options but some patients “don’t like the side effects”
The non-hormonal methods to lighten your period load are long-term and are best suited to women who are finished their child-bearing years, so are most common in women aged over 40.
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If you are past your child-bearing years it is likely that your doctor may recommend Endometrial Ablation. This non-invasive procedure can we performed in as quickly as 90 seconds. It involves removing the lining of the uterus and has been proven to reduce or completely stop bleeding in 90% of patients.
Getting a hysterectomy or getting your “tubes tied” is a major procedure that is often prescribed as a last resort. In this surgical procedure the uterus and often fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix are removed in order to treat conditions like fibroids, heavy bleeding, endometriosis and cancer *1. Recovery time can be as long as 8 weeks.
So remember ladies when it comes to your crimson tide there are plenty of treatment options available.
If you experience heavy bleeding or severe pain during your period please see your local GP or gynaecologist for more information.