Painful periods accompanied with heavy blood flow occur in one in four women. A period is considered heavy if a woman loses more than 80 mL of blood during a single period. As stated by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, you have heavy periods if:
- They last longer than a week
- You have to change tampons or pads because of the leak that happens within an hour of changing, few times consecutively
- You have to “secure” your tampon with a pad
- You need more than one pad
- You often get up in the middle of the night to freshen up
- You often notice lumps of blood on the pad
If you have what's considered “flooding” or “clotting” during your periods, make sure to visit your doctor. There are exams that can find the root of these problems. Some possible reasons for heavy bleeding are:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Endometrial cancer
- Problems with coagulation
- Various infections
- Uterine fibroids
- Hormonal imbalances (estrogen dominance, low progesterone)
- Side-effects of certain medications
Your underactive thyroid gland can also be a cause for increased menstrual bleeding. Hypothyroidism can affect your periods in more than one way. If the production of the thyroid hormone is decreased:
- It can make ovaries unable to produce progesterone much needed to control the blood flow.
- The proteins within blood known as coagulation factors will fail to control bleeding.
- You won't produce enough sex hormone binding globulin, so you're stuck with too much estrogen.
Obgyn shouldn't miss the pelvic examination because it can show various malformations, infectious diseases, inflammations, as well as various tumors, polyps, and abscesses. Doctors will often include a pregnancy test, as well as a Pap test to eliminate as many causes for heavy periods as possible.
1. Hormone replacement therapy
The underactive thyroid gland is a common cause for painful menstrual cycles, and it's important that you have a well-trained physician who knows how to manage hypothyroidism and all the other issues that accompany the condition. Most patients see improvements in their cycle as soon as they receive the right therapy for their underactive thyroid — bleeding becomes lighter and the pain decreases as well.
2. Hormonal contraceptives
If "flooding" during your periods affects the quality of your life and your self-confidence, you can consult your physician about hormonal methods of birth control. Preventing unwanted pregnancies isn't the only task of hormonal birth control — it's been useful in regulating heavy menstrual flow in recent years as well.
Birth control can be purchased in a form of oral contraceptive pills, vaginal rings, and skin patches. Hormonal methods of contraception — especially pills — have the power to thin the inner layer of the uterus, so the blood flow and accompanying pain decrease significantly. Physicians most commonly prescribe the following medications:
- Aygestin (norethindrone) — a form of progesterone, used for birth control, as well as abnormal vaginal bleeding and other menstrual disorders. It's recommended to take 5 mg twice a day, starting from the 5th day to 26th day of the cycle.
- Lysteda (tranexamic acid) — commonly used to treat cyclic heavy bleeding during periods. It works by preventing enzymes from the body to breakdown blood clots.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists are a group of medications used for two decades in the treatment of endometriosis. They can reduce menstrual bleeding short-term, and you shouldn't rely on them in the long run because they often come with after effects such as insomnia, headaches, mood swings, decreased libido, increase or decrease of the breasts, and hot flashes.
3. Over-the-counter pain killers
Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen can ease the pain, but also decrease bleeding that women often experience during the menstrual cycle. They can't do if effectively like hormonal birth control, but they're commonly used in combination with more powerful medications.
This form of therapy is done under doctors' supervision because OTC pain killers often have some side effects, and many people can be allergic to them.
4. Drink plenty of water
Losing a lot of blood has to be compensated or the overall amount of blood could decrease significantly. This can be prevented by drinking five or six more glasses of water. To prevent diluting sodium and electrolytes with the extra water, make sure to increase consumption of salt and electrolyte-enriched drinks.
5. Increase the consumption of iron and vitamin C
A few studies have shown that decreased iron can be a cause for your irregular periods. Make sure to include some iron-rich foods to your diet such as chicken, turkey, oysters, lean beef, tofu, beans, and spinach.
Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron, which is the key to anemia prevention. This important nutrient can decrease your blood flow. It is present in abundant amounts in the following fruits and vegetables:
- Brussels sprouts
6. Don't forget other minerals
Research has found that potassium can be useful when it comes to pain and heavy flow during the menstrual cycle. Experts suggest taking 360 mg for three days, starting one day before the expected period. Some good food sources of potassium include:
- Dried fruits such as prunes or raisins
Magnesium is another powerful mineral that aids to female health. It is commonly used in pregnancy to treat eclampsia caused by high blood pressure. Taking between 200 to 400 mg of magnesium glycinate each night can decrease even severe menstrual cramps.
7. Certain foods can worsen your bleeding
If you've been struggling with painful periods and increased bleeding, there are foods that you should avoid because of their ability to aggravate these symptoms. These foods include:
- Spinach juice
These are considered bad for women with heavy menstrual bleeding, which implies that women with irregular periods might benefit from their consumption.