04 February 2015

When menstrual periods go on and on

Most women experience heavy menstrual bleeding at some time in their lives. It’s often just a temporary inconvenience, but you need to know when and why it becomes a cause for concern.


There are two types of abnormal bleeding – the first is prolonged bleeding (for more than six months) and the second is sudden and severe bleeding.

During a normal period, a woman passes about 40ml of blood. When it gets to 80ml, it’s considered to be “heavy bleeding”. A normal period is usually over in four to seven days. In young girls, or in women approaching menopause, irregular periods are not unusual and are often caused by changes in hormone levels, especially oestrogen. But if periods regularly exceed ten days, it’s wise to have it checked out.

It must be remembered that there are many things that could cause prolonged bleeding – from something as simple as stress, to serious conditions such as cancer. This isn’t something which should be ignored by anyone.

Read: 12 quick PMS tips

A visit to the doctor or gynaecologist is definitely called for, as prolonged bleeding might be your body’s way of telling you that there’s something seriously wrong.

Here are some of the things that can cause prolonged menstrual bleeding:

Changing the type or brand of birth control you’re using. Birth control pills regulate hormone production and consist of oestrogen, progesterone or a combination of the two. A change in brand might take a while for your body to adjust to.

Uterine fibroids. These are benign tumours that develop inside the uterus. These can be very small, or they can form a firm, rubbery mass. They don’t increase the risk for uterine cancer. The presence of fibroids can cause pain in the pelvis and lead to heavy menstrual bleeding.

Hormonal disorders. Conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism can lead to prolonged menstrual bleeding.

Intrauterine device. If you have had an IUD inserted into your uterus, it could lead to heavy menstrual bleeding in some women.

Read: Menstruation affects shopping patterns

An abortion/miscarriage.
When a foetus becomes dislodged from the uterus, heavy bleeding can be the result. It’s often the first obvious sign of a miscarriage.

Cancer. Uterine cancers can develop in the lining of the uterus. This can lead to abnormal uterine bleeding, or to pain in the pelvic area, or pain during sex.

An ectopic pregnancy. If a fertilised egg is lodged in the fallopian tube instead of the uterine lining, it could lead to abnormal bleeding.

Infections. There are several infections that could cause heavy bleeding, most notably chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID).

Hormonal contraceptives, such as the synthetic progesterone injection and the oral contraceptive pill. In time, though, these contraceptives tend to regulate periods, so the abnormal bleeding is usually temporary.

Read: Banana waste to sanitary pads under spotlight

Endometriosis. This condition causes the cells lining the uterus to travel and attach themselves to other parts of the body outside the uterus. This is a complicated condition to treat.

Hormone replacement therapy. Prolonged bleeding can be caused by this treatment aimed at relieving menopausal symptoms.

Read More:

Your diet and PMS
Endometriosis: disease of the modern woman
Natural PMS busters

Image: Menstruation pain of woman indoors from Shutterstock



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