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07th Jun 2024

Her Health: Ten causes of heavy periods and when to see a doctor

Sophie Collins


Heavy periods, while common, can significantly impact everyday life for many women

Known as menorrhagia, heavy periods do not always have an underlying cause, but it can be associated with various medical issues such as fibroids or endometriosis.

What Constitutes Heavy Bleeding?

Defining a heavy period can be subjective, as menstrual bleeding varies widely among women. 

Generally, most women lose less than 16 teaspoons (80ml) of blood during their period, with an average of about 6 to 8 teaspoons. 

Heavy menstrual bleeding is typically defined as losing 80ml or more per period, having periods that last longer than seven days, or both.

Signs that your periods may be heavy include:

  • Needing to change sanitary products every hour or two
  • Passing blood clots larger than 2.5 cm (about the size of a 50c coin)
  • Bleeding through to your clothes or bedding
  • Using two types of sanitary products together (e.g., tampons and pads).

Causes of Heavy Periods

In approximately half of the cases, no underlying cause is identified. 

However, several conditions and factors can contribute to heavy menstrual bleeding:

Conditions of the Womb and Ovaries:

  • Fibroids: Non-cancerous growths in or around the womb
  • Endometriosis: Tissue similar to the womb lining grows outside the womb
  • Adenomyosis: Womb lining tissue embeds in the womb wall
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Infection in the upper genital tract causing pain and bleeding
  • Endometrial Polyps: Non-cancerous growths in the womb lining
  • Womb Cancer: Abnormal bleeding, especially post-menopause
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Affects ovarian function, causing irregular and heavy periods.

Other Medical Conditions:

  • Blood Clotting Disorders: Such as Von Willebrand disease
  • Hypothyroidism: Underactive thyroid causing various symptoms including heavy periods
  • Diabetes: Can also contribute to menstrual irregularities.

Medical Treatments

Depending on your unique situation, your doctor may recommend some of the following:

  • Intrauterine Device (IUD): Can cause heavier periods initially
  • Anticoagulant Medicines: Used to prevent blood clots but can increase bleeding
  • Chemotherapy Medicines: Can affect menstrual bleeding
  • Herbal Supplements: Such as ginseng, ginkgo, and soya may affect hormone levels and periods.


Your GP will discuss your symptoms and may conduct a physical examination. 

They might also suggest a blood test to check for iron deficiency anaemia or other underlying conditions. 

Further diagnostic tests could include:

  • Additional blood tests
  • An ultrasound scan
  • A hysteroscopy to examine the inside of the womb.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the cause of heavy periods, your overall health, and your personal preferences. 

If heavy periods are affecting your quality of life, it’s crucial to seek medical advice. With the right diagnosis and treatment, managing heavy periods effectively is possible. 

For more detailed information, consult your healthcare provider or visit reliable medical websites.