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Heavy Menstrual Periods - Topic Overview

If you bleed a lot during your menstrual cycle camera.gif, you're not alone. Many women do. For some women, having heavy menstrual periods (also called menorrhagia) means passing large blood clots and changing sanitary pads and tampons often.

Several things can cause heavy periods. These may include:

  • A change in hormones. Normally one of your ovaries releases an egg during your menstrual cycle. This is called ovulation. When you don't ovulate, your hormone levels can get out of balance. When this happens, it can affect the lining in your uterus and may cause heavy bleeding.
  • An irritation in the uterus. Certain things can cause this to happen, such as using a copper intrauterine device (IUD).
  • A growth in the uterus, such as a polyp or fibroid.
  • A condition called adenomyosis. This occurs when the cells that normally line the uterus grow into the muscular tissue of the uterine wall.
  • Some bleeding disorders that prevent blood from clotting properly.
  • Certain medicines, such as anticoagulants.

Sometimes a cause for your bleeding can't be found.

In most cases, having heavy periods isn't serious. But it can affect your daily activities. In rare cases, heavy periods may mean that you have a more serious problem, such as an infection, an unknown pregnancy, or cancer.

When you have heavy periods, you may pass large blood clots and soak through your usual pads or tampons. You may also have periods that last longer than 7 days.

When you lose a lot of blood during your period, your iron levels can drop. This can cause anemia. Anemia can make you feel tired, weak, and short of breath.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and menstrual periods. You'll have a pelvic exam. To get a closer look, your doctor may also do an ultrasound or another type of test that shows the lining of your uterus. Sometimes a tiny sample (biopsy) of tissue is taken from your uterus to look for infection and abnormal cell changes.

Your doctor may also do blood tests to check for anemia or other problems.

Your doctor may recommend medicine or hormone treatments to slow or stop your periods. If these treatments don't help, you may need surgery to help control your menstrual bleeding.

If a growth, such as a polyp or fibroid, is causing your heavy periods, your doctor may recommend surgery or other treatments to remove the growth. This can help reduce or stop heavy bleeding.

Because blood loss from heavy periods can make you feel very tired and weak (anemic), your doctor may recommend that you take extra iron.

Learning about heavy menstrual periods:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 20, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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