What do heavy periods mean?
Last updated: 5/8/2020
What do heavy periods mean?
Well, quite often it means that something isn’t right.
When your period doesn’t feel right, it may manifest itself in different ways…
So, what do heavy periods mean?
It is true that heavy periods are common, but they can have a big effect on a woman’s everyday life.
They don’t always have any underlying causes, but as my wife’s case showed, they can result in very bad problems such as fibroids or endometriosis.
My wife’s heavy periods led her to serious iron deficiency which resulted in extreme weakness.
So, could heavy periods be a sign of something serious or should they be left alone?
Well, nothing should be ignored.
Some doctors may tell you porky pies such as “periods should hurt” or “it’s just a normal menstrual cycle”.
Do not believe that and ask for a second opinion immediately. It could be serious, especially if:
- You’re worried about your bleeding.
- Your periods have got heavier.
- You’re also having other symptoms, such as period pain or bleeding between your periods.
You should always listen to your body and never ignore your intuition. Your body doesn’t lie. It gives you clues of what’s wrong with you.
Could it be endometriosis? The problem is, endometriosis is a very unknown condition for the majority of people.
If you want to know all about it, take a look at my wife’s extensive article about endometriosis.
It takes on average 7 to 8 years to diagnose it.
In order to do that you need to confirm it with laparoscopic surgery. That’s a gold standard which proves it 100%.
It takes years because of the various symptoms that can be easily mistaken for other conditions.
Before we talk about other conditions, I’d like to point out the most common early symptoms of endometriosis.
Amongst period clots there are many disturbing signs which can lead you to find some clues of what might be happening to you.
I wanted to stress the subject of period problems because there is somewhat stigma attached to it.
Besides, since this blog is dedicated to chronic illness, it would be unwise of me not to mention endometriosis.
It might not fully diagnose this brutal illness but since it’s so debilitating, it may at least give you some clues on what you should look for.
Symptoms of endometriosis vary from woman to woman but I wanted to focus today on your periods because they are the first indicator of this terrible disease.
They may often include:
- Heavier period
- Period clots
- Period spotting
- Shorter or longer period time
- A period cycle is out of place
- Stronger than usual period pain
- Period wave feels like stabbing
You begin to ask yourself questions such as:
- What is going on with me?
- Why doctors don’t take me seriously?
How period works?
When a period signals a problem it can reflect itself in different ways:
- No periods
- Painful periods
- Stabbing agony
- Light periods
- Heavy periods
As you probably learned back at school, menstruation is the monthly shedding of the female uterine lining.
It can be very uncomfortable and sometimes inconvenient because the period is a body’s way of saying that the reproductive system is working properly.
Every woman is unique and so every woman’s period has its own personality. Some are short, others are long. Some are heavy, others are light.
After a few year’s worth of bleeding every month, most women are going to recognize their period’s frequency, its duration, and flow.
When something out of the ordinary happens, even little, the woman is going to recognize that.
Is there such a thing as a normal period? Let’s think about it for a minute. The answer is no, not really.
The reason being is that the average woman’s menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, the average bleeding lasts for three to five days but periods can vary from woman to woman.
Every woman should be tracking her own menstrual cycle because it allows her to notice whether something is wrong or not.
The period can either:
- Slow down or stop.
- Get heavier than normal.
- Bleed between periods.
- Get extremely painful.
Many women have heavy bleeding and cramps when they have their period. It is known as menorrhagia.
This is the reason why some (my words) uneducated and ignorant male doctors say that women should have painful periods and that it is normal.
Heavy periods are sometimes caused by other health problems. Beyond that, they can lead to other health issues.
If you soak through a pad or tampon every hour or so on you need to consider that option and contact your doctor.
It is important because heavy bleeding, as it was the case of my wife, causes anemia, which undoubtedly is going to leave you weak, fatigued, drained, tired all the time.
My wife had to:
- Change pads at least once an hour or two for an entire day at the time.
- Change pads in the middle of the night.
- Wear pads at a time to manage the heavy flow.
But women may also:
- Skip things they like doing, due to painful cramps.
- Pass blood clots that are the size of quarters.
- Have periods that last longer than 7 days.
- Feel tired or short of breath.
- Bleed between periods.
- Bleed after menopause
There are some common causes of period changes. Let’s discuss them one by one so you can get a sense of this.
The causes might be:
Hormone problems. Every month, a lining builds up inside the womb which needs to be shed during a period.
If the hormone levels aren’t balanced, the body can make the lining too thick, which leads to heavy bleeding.
If then the ovulation (release an egg from an ovary) won’t happen, this can throw off the hormone balance in the body and that leads to a thicker lining and a heavier period.
Growths in the womb. They can be in a form of polyps or fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumors that grow within the uterus.
Both, too, can make periods much heavier or make them last longer than they should.
Certain IUD’s. Some of them can definitely cause changes in the period and many women use them for birth control. If IUD doesn’t contain hormones, it may make periods heavier.
Female cancers. It’s pretty rare but cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries may cause excess bleeding, which may appear to be a heavy period.
Pregnancy problems. An example here is an ectopic pregnancy. It’s also rare but it happens.
After sperm and egg meet, the growing ball of cells. It may cause serious health problems and such as heavy bleeding.
Besides all the above there are bleeding disorders, which can occur in a family or certain medications such as blood thinners may also cause heavy periods.
So, there’s plenty to take into consideration when it comes to menstruation changes if you are looking for evidence for endometriosis.
And if it wasn’t enough, there are other health problems that can be mistaken for but also accompany endometriosis.
That can complicate already difficult diagnosis and this is why it takes years to do so.
But before we get to that, there is a very important issue I’d like to tackle when it comes to hormones imbalance using pills such as the contraceptive one.
It can really put your hormones out of balance, which may affect your not only your cycle but your mood. My wife experienced the side effects first hand.
Below I attached one of the best books m wife has ever read! This book will help you balance your hormones, reclaim your body, and even reverse the dangerous side effects of the birth control pill.
Great book, great opportunity to learn all you need to know about heavy periods, painful periods, endometriosis, and of course the pill.
Out of the 100 million women – almost 11 million in the United States alone – who are on the pill, roughly 60 percent take it for non-contraceptive reasons like painful periods, endometriosis, PCOS, and acne. While the birth control pill is widely prescribed as a quick-fix solution to a variety of women’s health conditions, taking it can also result in other more serious and dangerous health consequences.
Conditions connected with endometriosis:
There are lots of other medical conditions that affect mental health, especially if they are causing you to have a low quality of life.
Endometriosis is one of them but before we get to the very subject, I would also want to briefly touch upon five other chronic conditions.
It is quite common amongst women suffering from endometriosis to either, be misdiagnosed or have them alongside this terrible disease.
The first one is very close to my heart because my wife also suffers from it.
Both of us try to bring awareness about fibromyalgia aside from endometriosis, as it is also a very difficult disease to get diagnosed and there is currently no cure for either of them.
Fibromyalgia, (FMS) short for fibromyalgia syndrome, is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
It’s s a long-term, chronic disease which undoubtedly causes:
- Pain in the muscles and bone.
- Areas of tenderness.
- General fatigue.
- Sleep and cognitive disturbance
This condition can be difficult to understand because the symptoms mimic those of other conditions.
Endometriosis is one of them but unlike the latter, there aren’t any real tests to confirm the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
As a result, this condition is often misdiagnosed.
Until recently, some healthcare providers even questioned whether fibromyalgia was real although today, even though it is much better understood, there is still some stigma attached to it.
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat. Medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes can help you to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
But in more detail, let’s talk about the symptoms…
Fibromyalgia causes so-called “regions of pain.”
What does it mean? It means that some of the areas overlap with areas that are tender.
These areas are called “trigger points” or “tender points” and the pain in these regions feels like a consistent dull ache.
The more detailed symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- trouble sleeping
- sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested (nonrestorative sleep)
- trouble focusing or paying attention
- pain or a dull ache in the lower belly
- dry eyes
- bladder problems, such as interstitial cystitis
In people suffering from fibromyalgia, the brain and nerves may misinterpret normal pain signals and cause a widespread reaction.
Aside from physical symptoms, fibromyalgia can also impact your mental health affecting both, your emotions and energy level.
Fibromyalgia fog, also known as “fibro fog” or “brain fog” is a fuzzy feeling of which signs include:
- memory lapses
- difficulty concentrating
- trouble staying alert
I mentioned this important symptom because it is described by those who suffer as worse than the pain of fibromyalgia.
In the past, people were diagnosed if they had widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 specific trigger points around their bodies.
Today, doctors would check to see how many of these points were painful by pressing firmly on them.
Common trigger points included the:
- back of the head
- tops of the shoulders
- upper chest
- outer elbows
Today, many trigger points are no longer needed for the diagnostic process. Instead, your doctor may diagnose fibromyalgia if you’ve only had pain in 4 or 5 areas, but you must have excluded other chronic conditions.
It’s defined by the 2016 revised diagnostic criteria, but at the point of your diagnosis, you mustn’t have other diagnosable medical condition that could explain the pain.
But since this article is about endometriosis, let’s move quickly to another condition…
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Hmm… This one can be tricky because chronic pain and fatigue are common symptoms of both, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The only difference here is that in fibromyalgia, fatigue is lesser than muscle pain.
In chronic fatigue syndrome, however, people experience an overwhelming lack of energy and that’s the primary problem, but they also can experience some pain.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as CFS) is a long-term illness with a pretty wide range of symptoms.
As mentioned above, the most common symptom is extreme tiredness.
ME/CFS can affect anyone, even children. It’s more common in women and it tends to affect them between their mid-20’s, and mid-40’s.
In addition to feeling extremely tired and generally unwell,
people may have other symptoms, such as:
- Problems with sleeping
- Problems thinking
- Problems with remembering or concentrating
- Muscle or/and joint pain
- Sore throat
- Sore glands (but not swollen)
- Symptoms of a common flu
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling sick
- Fast or irregular heartbeats
People find that when they exercise too much, it makes their symptoms worsen. Their severity can vary from day to day, or even within a day.
The symptoms of CFS/ME are similar to the symptoms of some other illnesses, so it’s important to see a GP to get a correct diagnosis.
Well, there is no specific test for chronic fatigue syndrome, so it is diagnosed based on the symptoms, by ruling out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as fibromyalgia mentioned before.
Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms and your medical history.
It may include blood and urine tests too, but because the symptoms of CFS are similar to other illnesses, the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome may be considered if you don’t get better quicker than expected.
The main treatment is to relieve the symptoms. It will depend on how CFS is affecting you. It may include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
- A structured program called graded exercise therapy (GET).
- Medication for pain relief, sleeping problems, and nausea.
It’s important to remember that most people with CFS get better over time, so there’s always hope and something to look forward to, although some people don’t make full recovery.
And bear in mind that there will be periods of time when your symptoms get better or worse. Children and youngsters are more likely to recover fully.
Interstitial cystitis is a bladder condition that causes long-term pain and problems peeing.
It can be mistaken for endometriosis because its symptoms on the bladder can vary with the menstrual cycle.
It tends to be worst in the days before and during a period and the pain worsens when the bladder is full.
Occasionally, blood in the urine may occur during a period. In other people, it can be a loin pain in the area of the kidneys.
So as you see, it can also be mistaken when it comes to the diagnosis.
Other symptoms that can appear in endometriosis are:
- Intense pelvic pain (below the belly button)
- Pain in the lower tummy
- Sudden urges to pee
- Needing to pee more often than normal
- Waking up several times during the night to go to the toilet
The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is still unknown. It’s not a bladder infection like other types of cystitis.
People suffering from interstitial cystitis need to change their lifestyle by avoiding certain foods or drinks because it can help a lot.
Some people may also need medication and even surgery.
Self-care and medication (pain relief). Self-care is the primary treatment and the best choice for you, since the diagnosis may take a while.
So again, your lifestyle changes will usually be recommended.
Things that may help improve your interstitial cystitis symptoms include:
- Reducing stress
- Mindfulness-based techniques, such as meditation
- Avoiding certain foods or drinks (tomatoes, alcohol)
- Dropping smoking as it may irritate your bladder
- Control how much you drink before going to bed
- Take regular toilet breaks before becoming too full
This chronic condition has a long-lasting pain in the vulva, to be exact, the area around the opening of the vagina.
It can be also mistaken for endometriosis, which causes pain during and after sex.
The main symptom is pain. This pain occurs around the vulva and vagina, even though the vulva usually looks normal.
This pain may be:
It can also be:
- Triggered by touch during sex or when inserting a tampon
- The pain is constantly there on and off
- Worse when sitting down
- Limited opening of the vagina
- The pain can be widespread
Some women also have problems where the muscles around the vagina tighten involuntarily, it’s called “Vaginosis”.
Having persistent vulval pain can affect any relationship, so there may occur a reduced sex drive, and as always with chronic illness, it may cause low mood and even depression.
Pain in the genital area is often embarrassing to talk about and can make you feel isolated. You may feel very anxious.
The treatment is similar to interstitial cystitis, self-care, and pain relief medication.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Known as IBS, irritable bowel syndrome is a very common condition affecting the digestive system.
Symptoms of IBS may vary and they include:
- stomach cramps
All these symptoms may come and go over time.
You can usually help ease irritable bowel syndrome by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, such as avoiding things that trigger your symptoms.
Stomach pain or cramps get usually worse after eating and they get better after doing a poo. Bloating may feel uncomfortable, your stomach feels full and swollen.
Diarrhea means watery poo and sometimes a sudden need to poo, whereas constipation may feel like you cannot empty your bowels fully.
There may be days when your symptoms flare-up, which means, there can be better and worse days, which may be triggered by food or drink.
Heavy periods come with pain and chronic pain gives women a lot of problems – it’s invisible and no one can see it.
The very fact that you cannot explain how you feel, or you’re simply fed up with endless repeating, that makes you feel stressed.
This was always the case for my wife, and that is the case for many women.
As her husband, I wanted to break this pattern, and so I decided to create The Mini Chronic Pain Bundle.
You don’t have to struggle with endless explanations of how terrible you feel!
Why should you?
All in the self-explanatory Chronic Pain Bundle is easy to fill in.
You can show it to your doctor, family, friends. All the people that never believed you, can be now proven wrong.
The Mini Chronic Pain Bundle includes:
- • Endometriosis Pain & Symptoms Tracker.
- • Chronic Pain Body Map.
Experts say that 1 in 4 women in their menstruating years can’t afford essential period products, like tampons or pads.
There is a huge stigma behind speaking about periods. Personally, I don’t have a clue why?
When my wife is in too much pain to even move, I have no problems going to the shop for her pads. I don’t give a hoot about what people think of me when I look at lady’s products.
It is because half of the time people don’t really care. They mind their own business.
Rachel Crews (Plan International UK’s Senior Digital Editor) had to fight for two years to put a blood drop emoji on our phones.
Simple things like this matter because small steps put together take us from A to B.
I am happy to spread awareness and fight the stigma of the period talk. Especially when I notice the lack of confidence of women around the world struggling to reach out for the basics they need.
“Most women in our village are not comfortable buying sanitary pads. The salespeople are mostly male, so women feel very embarrassed.” – Lucky, Bangladesh
The variety of period nicknames reveals how people don’t really like talking about periods.
Menstruation is one of the most natural things in the world and yet is being seen as negative.
Let’s face it once and for all – without menstruation, human life would not exist!
As it is clearly obvious, not only here in the UK, the situation has an impact on girls’ education. Every month, many of them take time off school because they didn’t have access to sanitary products, and their school lacks the proper facilities to help them manage their periods.
It is not only in the United Kingdom. Around the world, girls are missing up to a week of school every month because they don’t have access to the sanitary products they need.
It is not only girls that need educating, because the stigma over periods also won’t end until boys learn about them too!
The world of menstruation is often a big mystery to boys, and adult men, who haven’t experienced it. They never will, and so half the world’s population endures psychological pain while the other half remain in blissful ignorance.
At school, girls may be taught to slip a tampon up my sleeve when going to the toilet, but starting in primary school, boys should be taught about periods.
Boys need to be taught about the pain, stress, mood swings that come with hormones. The sudden bloating and unstoppable tears.
Boys and men need to remember that indirectly, periods will affect them too.
This is why it’s so important to learn what women feel and go through. It is not only during the period.
My wife suffers pain during ovulation shortly after, and in addition to endometriosis she suffers from, the pain is almost never-ending.
Most of the months, my wife has a week top without pain during the month, so in a year she roughly experiences pain about 280 days, and only 85 days she can function like everyone else.
Nearly every woman will have experienced this feeling of the need to hide a tampon up a sleeve or lie about why they’re feeling unwell because men don’t have a clue about it and the fear of being talked about, makes women want to hide it.
The difference between women and men, a combination of cultures, society, and religion, all that is difficult to tackle when it comes to period stigma.
But when endometriosis comes to play and a woman who’s affected by it unexpectedly and suddenly bleeds through her clothing, not having anything to change can be really humiliating and confidence damaging experience.
Luckily for my wife, she bled like this at home on the white carpet, her father was understanding enough to take her immediately to A&E.
Unfortunately, not all men are so understanding, nor they are helpful. This creates fear in women.
We need to challenge men’s lack of understanding, women’s lack of comfort and awkwardness, and get to the key question – why?
Why do you feel awkward talking about periods?
So my message here is simple and clear… just say it. Period.
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