Photo by Monika Kozub on Unsplash

Let’s be honest: you’ve definitely looked down on say day 2 or 3 of your shark week and thought, Damn. How am I still alive? While your shining-elevator-of-a-vagina wreaks havoc on your clothing, your bedsheets and your life. Many of us women have been there, but how heavy is too heavy? When should we start to be concerned?

Periods fluctuate from cycle to cycle, and certain months will be lighter or heavier. Periods are natural and all, but when you suffer with a heavy flow it can really start to impact your day to day life. That’s your first clue that there might be something else going on. 

Your Schedule

Recognizing that something might be amiss about your period’s timing is a good thing. That means you have a rough idea what a normal period for you actually looks like! A lot of women’s schedules are so irregular they are unsure what normal is and if they’ve ever experienced it. So if you are saying: “my period is being a bit funny…” you are one step ahead in identifying that there may be an issue. However, the typical period lasts 28 days. Cycles that last longer or shorter than this, ranging from 21 to 40 days, are still typically normal. Of course you know your body and your cycle best – trust your gut if you feel something if off. 

What’s Irregular Bleeding Really?

Since many of you reading this are probably here because you have concerns, you may already know a lot of these answers. Irregular periods come in all shapes and sizes, just like a normal period, everyone is going to have a different experience. But these are typically signs of a period with irregular bleeding. 

  • Bleeding for more than a week
  • Having to get up in the middle of the night to change your pad or tampon
  • Changing your sanitary items every hour or so during the day
  • More than one day of passing blood clots
  • Experiencing anaemic symptoms (tiredness, shortness of breath, fatigue)
  • Because of your flow, you’re having difficulty sticking to a regular schedule.

The average volume of blood lost over a period of four to six days is less than 80 milliliters. Of course that is combined with other things that comprise a woman’s uterine lining. 

Picture from CottonBros

What Medical Conditions Cause Heavy Periods?

There are many different causes for heavy periods which is why I think it is so hard to pin it down from case to case for doctors. Even down to just stress from life can be a reason but lets cover some of the ones to consider. 

  • Menorrhagia  
  • Fibroids
  • Polyps
  • PCOS
  • Medication Interference 

Looking some of these up can be a great way to be prepared when speaking with your specialist. Medical gaslighting can be a challenge for many women so knowing your symptoms, taking notes and preparing questions in advance can help be your own advocate. Stay calm, repeat yourself clearly and don’t back down if you know something is wrong. You can always insist on a new referral. 

Signs you should make a doctor’s appointment

  • You have had more than 3 periods “skip” 
  • Breakthrough bleeding
  • Pain
  • Irregular or increased bleeding

If you are in any amount of discomfort, you should contact your gynecologist. A heavy period is typically an indication of something untreated, such as some of the factors mentioned above, and your gynecologist will be able to help you find out how to best manage it.

There are a variety of things that might disrupt your menstrual cycle, but knowing what’s causing problems will give you peace of mind and make it easier to update your doctor — whether it’s during your next annual or if you schedule a check-in.

Do you ever feel like your period is *excessively* heavy? How have you dealt with erratic flows in the past? Please share in the comments.