Heavy periods

Overview

Another name for this is menorrhagia. Typically women may menstruate (bleed) for 2-5 days, and lose around 30-40ml of blood.

Abnormally heavy bleeding is when:

  • your periods last longer than 7 days
  • the volume is more than 80ml
  • there is flooding or clotting
  • you are anaemic

Possible causes

There are many causes, including fibroids, uterine polyps, hyperplasia or cancer of the uterus, polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid disease, genital tract infection, endometriosis and bleeding disorders.

What to do

If you have troublesome heavy bleeding, you should see your GP. First steps may include an ultrasound of the uterus, an examination, and treatment using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, oral hormones and anti-clotting agents.

A specialist in gynaecology has a number of options available to them to aid in treatment. These include a mirena, ablation of the uterine lining, and hysterectomy.

How we can help

If you are experiencing heavy periods and would like to talk to us about how we can help, please feel free to contact us. You can also request an appointment online.

Further information

Conditions

Adenomyosis

Adenomyosis is similar to endometriosis. It occurs when the inside lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found within the muscular wall of the uterus. This may cause the uterus to become enlarged. Adenomyosis may be patchy, or severe, causing a severely enlarged uterus. Find out more

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common disorder that affects many women in New Zealand. It occurs when endometrial tissue, which should only be found in the uterus, also grows outside the uterus, such as on ovaries or the bowel. This can be very painful and is why women with endometriosis usually have pain around the same time as their period. Find out more

Fibroids

Fibroids are common benign tumours of the wall of the uterus. Fibroids may cause symptoms if they grow to more than 5cm. They may put pressure on structures around the uterus such as the bladder or bowel, causing frequent urination or constipation. Occasionally they cause pain. Find out more

Hyperplasia and uterine cancer

Endometrial hyperplasia occurs when the inside lining of the uterus (the endometrium) starts to behave abnormally. Whilst not cancer, endometrial hyperplasia is a potential 'pre-cancer'. Risk factors include being over 35, obesity, cigarette smoking and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Find out more

Infection

An infection is the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not normally present within the body. An infection is a cause that is always considered in women with abnormal bleeding. Find out more

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a very common disorder in women. Symptoms vary, and can include irregular or absent periods, excess hair, weight gain or difficulty falling pregnant. Find out more

Polyps

Polyps are common benign growths in the uterus, cervix or vagina. Endometrial (uterine) polyps can cause heavy periods. Find out more

Procedures

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is when a woman's uterus is removed. This may be because methods to stop heavy bleeding are not successful, side effects of medications are intolerable, fibroids are problematic or endometriosis is severe enough that a more permanent solution is required. Find out more

Mirena

A mirena is a small plastic device placed inside the uterus with small strings extending out through the cervix. In addition to being used for contraception, mirena can be used to treat adenomyosis. Find out more

Endometriosis resection

This entails keyhole surgery, where a camera is placed through the bellybutton to view the pelvis. The abdomen and pelvis are carefully explored, and abnormal tissue removed. Cysts may also be removed from the ovaries. Find out more

Fibroid removal

Many fibroids do not require treatment. When treatment is required, the fibroids may be removed through the cervix or through small incisions on the abdomen. Find out more

Hysteroscopy

A hysteroscopy is a common gynaecological procedure, placing a thin camera through the cervix to evaluate the inside of the uterus (the endometrial cavity). This may be as an investigation or a treatment. Find out more

Treatment for infections

If an infection is the cause, treatment with antibiotics is required. This is generally given orally, but if an infection is severe, antibiotics given intravenously may be required.

Treatment for PCOS

Treatment of PCOS depends on what symptoms are causing problems. Women with PCOS may need treatment for issues such as sub fertility, diabetes and heart disease.

Endometrial ablation

A treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding that involves a general anaesthetic and a controlled cauterisation of the endometrium (the area that is shed during menstruation). It may be a suitable alternative to hysterectomy, but has higher rates of recurrence. Find out more