What is heavy bleeding or menorrhagia?
Menorrhagia is the medical term for heavy periods and is when women have unusually long (over 7 days) or heavy periods (over 80mL or 5-6 tablespoons) (“Menstrual Disorders”, 2019). To put into perspective, the average woman loses 35mL or 2 tablespoons of blood during her period. And as most of us can’t measure the exact mL of our bleeds, generally you’ll know you have heavy bleeds if you find yourself
- Changing pads or tampons more than once per hour
- Soaking or flooding your pads during the night or day
- Finding large blood clots (bigger than a 50-cent coin) in your menstrual bleed
- Having your day-to-day activities affected due to your heavy periods e.g., working or studying from home because it’s closer to a bathroom
- Feeling extremely exhausted or ‘drained’ after your period
- Experiencing iron-deficiency anaemia signs and symptoms such as fatigue, pallor, and shortness of breath
Why are my periods heavy?
There are several reasons that can cause menorrhagia or heavy periods, and these can be due to the reasons listed below.
Too much estrogen and not enough progesterone
Estrogen thickens the uterine lining and our other sex hormone progesterone thins the uterine lining. If there’s an excess of estrogen to progesterone, this causes the uterine lining to become thick and during our period it sheds off resulting in heavy menstrual bleeds.
Underlying medical conditions
Heavy periods can potentially indicate uterine fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or a miscarriage. If you do experience heavy bleeding, pay attention to the following signs and symptoms for these conditions.
Individuals affected by PCOS will often present with male pattern baldness or hair growth, acne, and irregular and/or missing periods. Individuals affected with endometriosis will often suffer from extremely painful periods, pain during sex and/or pain around ovulation. Individuals with uterine fibroids may experience constipation, backache, frequent urination and/or pelvic pain. A miscarriage can occur suddenly and can present with lower abdominal cramping, back pain and vaginal bleeding. It’s important to speak to your healthcare practitioner to assess these and investigate further if indicated.
Your age or life stage
During the menopausal transition, many women will report experiencing heavy periods. This is because during perimenopause the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone levels increase estrogen production. More estrogen means a thicker uterine lining and heavier bleeds.
Young adolescents or teenagers who have recently got their first periods are also more likely to suffer from heavy periods as their brain-ovary communication is still developing. Some individuals will find that their periods lighten and become more regular with age (although unfortunately this may not be the case for everyone!).
As a side effect, certain medications can increase menstrual bleeding and these include blood-thinning drugs (e.g., warfarin), pain killers (e.g., aspirin), thyroid medications and drugs used in chemotherapy (“Medicines That Can Cause Changes in Menstrual Bleeding”, 2021). It also may be related to your choice of birth control as some methods such as non-hormonal IUDs can cause heavier periods.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Transmitting an STD can lead to a pelvic inflammatory disease which often presents with heavy bleeding. We recommend safe sex practices to prevent future STD’s using barrier methods such as Jonny’s condoms (our favourite, toxin-free brand of condoms) and getting regular STD testing, especially after unprotected sexual intercourse.
What do large blood clots mean?
During the heavy days of your menstrual period, you may notice viscous (or ‘jelly-like’) clumps of blood, this is known as a blood clot. Blood clots are formed when our period flow is too heavy and there’s insufficient time for our anticoagulants (anti-clotting enzymes) to thin the blood.
It’s normal to occasionally see a few blood clots or clumps especially during the first few days of a menstrual bleed. However, having many, large-sized clots (bigger than a 50-cent coin) isn’t normal, and we recommend investigating this with your trusted health care practitioner (HCP) (“Heavy periods”, 2021).
What is the treatment for heavy periods?
There are several pharmaceutical options to assist with heavy periods (depending on the cause of the heavy bleeding) and these include gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist medication, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) (“Heavy periods”, 2021).
When you take GnRH agonist medications, you’re temporarily induced into a menopausal state, and you’ll stop having periods. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are another option, and they can reduce blood flow by half. Finally, the OCP is often prescribed for menorrhagia and shuts down ovulation to stop the heavy bleeding.
However, these medications are often associated with potential side effects including thrombosis (blood clot formation), reduced bone density, weight gain and headaches. Additionally, these medications don’t address the root cause and once individuals stop using these medications, they’ll find that their menorrhagia returns. Other treatment options include surgery such as endometrial ablation and hysterectomy, but these are more invasive procedures.
How to fix heavy periods without birth control?
If you’ve ever experienced heavy periods- you’ll be aware of how negatively it can affect your day-to-day activities and quality of life. We’re often told birth control is the only answer but it’s not! Menorrhagia is a sign from our body that there’s an underlying issue and here at Moonbox we want to support you in making holistic, dietary, lifestyle and environmental changes to help you address the root cause of your heavy periods. Read on for our holistic, evidence-based solutions!
Eat “real food”
Eating a real food diet high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants does wonders in reducing inflammation and balancing your hormones. Eat minimally packaged foods that are close to how they are found in nature such as fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Boost your antioxidant intake
Turmeric is one of the best, anti-inflammatory spices and helps to lower estrogen by supporting its clearance from the body and reducing its effects in the body (Zhang, Cao, Yu, Peng & Zhang, 2013). Ginger is another spice that has been traditionally used to assist with inflammation and menorrhagia. Luckily for you, we’ve created Luna’s Gold Adaptogen Elixir, a delicious elixir that contains both turmeric and ginger. We recommend enjoying a cup of Luna’s Gold in your diet every day and increasing your dosage during your period (yum!).
Don’t forget the iron!
Due to the heavy bleeds and blood clots, individuals with menorrhagia will likely be low in iron. If you eat meat, we recommend increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as grass-fed beef, kangaroo, and organic, free range chicken. Vegan/vegetarian-friendly foods sources include lentils, iron-fortified cereals, and legumes.
Reduce alcohol intake
You may not want to hear this, but alcohol raises estrogen levels which then contribute to heavy bleeds. However, there are so many alcohol-free options for you to enjoy and not experience FOMO. The great people from Edenvale and Seedlip have non-alcoholic rose and spirits. Otherwise, you can choose to even drink a delicious, gut-friendly kombucha.
Vitamin D is incredibly important for hormonal balance, women who have lower concentrations of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to suffer from menstrual disorders compared to women with higher levels (Łagowska, 2018). In addition, vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for uterine fibroids (Ciebiera et al., 2018). Spend up to 15 minutes each day getting some (safe!) sun exposure to top up your vitamin D stores.
Exogenous estrogen (‘xenoestrogens’) can be found everywhere in our external environment and too much exposure to these can contribute to hormonal imbalance.
Reduce your exposure to exogenous sources of estrogen by making these simple swaps:
- Instead of using a plastic-lined takeaway cup, bring your own reusable cup (such as a Frank Green or Sol Cup)
- Wrapping food with beeswax wrap instead of plastic to store foods
- Switching to natural beauty products without the hormone-disrupting chemicals. Check out our Skincare Bundle with 100% natural, organic products that won’t mess with your hormones.
- Drinking a cup of our Full Moon Tea every day to support estrogen clearance
Supplements for heavy periods?
Some beneficial supplements for heavy periods can include:
Iron: to replenish your levels if they are very low
Vitamin C: to increase your body’s absorption of iron
Vitamin D: may be required during the cooler months when we’re likely to be rugged up and hermit-ing at home to stay warm
Omega-3 fatty acids: increasing ‘good fats’ such as omega-3 fatty acids help the body to produce anti-inflammatory cells and reduce excessive bleeding. You can also find omega-3 fatty acids in our Earth Seeds designed to make eating for healthy hormones easy, delicious, and convenient.
Finally, if you’re looking for more guidance on balancing your hormones naturally, check out our Healthy Hormones, Happy Periods Ebook bundle. This Ebook bundle is designed to provide you with guidance and educate you on how to balance your hormones naturally.
If you suffer from heavy bleeding, please know you are not alone. Studies have shown up to 1 in 20 women aged between 30-49 years complain of heavy periods to their general practitioners. We hope this blog helps you learn more about menorrhagia. We think it’s incredibly empowering to educate and take on balancing our hormones using holistic methods and invite you to do the same!
Ciebiera, M., Włodarczyk, M., Ciebiera, M., Zaręba, K., Łukaszuk, K., & Jakiel, G. (2018). Vitamin D and Uterine Fibroids—Review of the Literature and Novel Concepts. International Journal Of Molecular Sciences, 19(7), 2051. doi: 10.3390/ijms19072051
Heavy periods. (2021). Retrieved 24 June 2021, from https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/periods/heavy-periods
Łagowska, K. (2018). The Relationship between Vitamin D Status and the Menstrual Cycle in Young Women: A Preliminary Study. Nutrients, 10(11), 1729. doi: 10.3390/nu10111729
Medicines That Can Cause Changes in Menstrual Bleeding. (2021). Retrieved 24 June 2021, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tv7209#:~:text=Nonsteroidal%20anti%2Dinflammatory%20drugs%20(NSAIDs,the%20levonorgestrel%20IUD%20(Mirena).
Menstrual disorders. (2019). Retrieved 28 August 2019, from http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=10&pid=10&gid=000100
Zhang, Y., Cao, H., Yu, Z., Peng, H., & Zhang, C. (2013). Curcumin inhibits endometriosis endometrial cells by reducing estradiol production. Iranian Journal Of Reproductive Medicine, 11(5), 415-422.