According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heavy menstrual bleeding, frequently accompanied by severe pain, is one of the most common issues women report to doctors. Yet many women, especially teens and young women, don’t seek treatment from their doctors for these issues.
Whether young women believe their experience is normal or they are embarrassed, doctors encourage women who have heavy periods and pain to seek treatment, especially because some of these cases could be inherited bleeding disorders. And while such bleeding disorders may account for only about 20% of these women, doctors have found that of the others experiencing heavy bleeding during their periods, many can lose enough blood to leave them dizzy and even anemic, both of which can be serious and should be treated.
A heavy period—the medical name is menorrhagia—is defined as one in which bleeding is extensive or lasts for more than 7 days. The woman may need to change pads or tampons every hour for several consecutive hours and may notice clots the size of a quarter. Teens frequently report missing classes and sports activities due to heavy flow and/or pain.
In many cases, teens who experience such periods early on will find that the condition rights itself over time. Bleeding decreases and cramping becomes more manageable. Nonetheless, doctors encourage treatment in the meantime to control those situations that make typical teen and young adult activities difficult.
Many effective and safe treatments
Ranging from oral pain killers to contraceptives, treatment for painful, heavy periods can bring significant relief. Doctors recommend getting checked to determine how they can best help with your specific condition.
Ibuprofen treats your pain while also lessening cramping and possibly slowing blood flow.
Contraceptives regulate your period by supplementing the hormones your body is already producing. Birth control pills, intrauterine devices, patches and other forms of contraceptives regulate your cycle and reduce bleeding.
Other hormone therapies may include supplements of estrogen or progesterone depending on your specific needs.
Tranexamic acid or other antifibrinolytics provide a nonhormone-based treatment that reduces heavy bleeding by breaking up clots.
Your doctor can recommend treatments that are safe and appropriate for your needs, and will likely encourage additional steps you can take to bring relief, including increased hydration, using a heating pad or taking vitamin supplements, including iron and vitamin C. Exercise, especially yoga, has been known to help with pain and stress as well.
Surgery for extreme cases only
When excessive bleeding is caused by growths, including polyps or fibroids, or conditions such as endometriosis, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the problem. Some of these procedures are minimally invasive while others may be more extensive. A through exam and discussion with your doctor will determine the best option for you based upon your condition.