Is It PMS?
If heavy or prolonged periods are something you or someone you know is going through, this information is for you.
It can be life changing!
This is the second in a series of posts all about menstrual symptoms (read the first post here – Symptoms of Menstruation | More Than Period Cramps), more commonly known as PMS symptoms.
PMS symptoms are specifically defined as those experienced before bleeding, in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
So while PMS is a common term, it doesn’t necessarily mean what we want it to mean.
This distinction is important because if you are going to your healthcare provider for help with menstrual issues, you want to be able to clearly tell them when in your cycle the symptoms occur and what they are.
PMS is simply too broad to be useful in that context.
What Is A Normal Period?
To know what is abnormal, in this case heavy or prolonged bleeding, it is good to define normal.
What does a normal period look like both in amount of blood and in length?
A regular menstrual cycle, from day 1 of bleeding until the day before your next day 1, is anywhere from 21 to 35 days.
Normal lengths for periods last anywhere from 2 to 7 days.
As for blood flow, it is harder to define because it is not like we measure the amount we bleed.
I will just say here that it is normal to change tampons or pads about every 4 hours with no leaking.
This of course varies so the list of ways to know if the bleeding during your period may be heavy listed below may be easier to see.
If you think you are bleeding heavy but do not have any other menstrual symptoms, this amount is consistent for you, and you have no symptoms of anemia, this amount of period blood may be totally normal for you.
It is always good to take these parameters as just a guideline. It is good to compare these to what is normal and consistent for your body.
It can also help you to look at the pattern of a typical period. For example, it could start off light, work up to heavy, and then taper off again.
Or it can start off heavy and slowly get lighter as you near the end of your period.
What Is An Abnormal Period?
When compared to the numbers above, a period longer than 7 days can be considered prolonged.
If you need to change your tampon or pad every one to two hours because it is totally soaked through and you are fully leaking, and this has been happening for several hours straight, this is considered heavy bleeding.
The pattern could then be heavy throughout rather than the natural ebb and flow of a period.
Where do you fit on this spectrum?
Are you concerned with a heavy or prolonged period?
Other Symptoms of a Heavy or Prolonged Period
As you may have guessed, when you are losing more blood than normal during your period, you will be losing more iron.
You may then notice signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anemia:
- General fatigue and/or weakness
- Lightheadedness, dizziness
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
If you are noticing any of the above symptoms, it would be a good idea to seek professional help.
Check out 10 Of The Best Plant-Based, Iron-Containing Foods for exactly that AND how to increase absorption of iron in your body.
Iron is a tricky nutrient. It needs a lot of things to be right for proper absorption.
Possible Reasons For Heavy/Prolonged Periods
There can be many reasons for this and more than one may sound like it fits.
With this section, you can always look further into the reasons that sound like they are a fit for you and your symptoms.
I want to note here, I am just laying out information.
This should not be taken as a diagnosis of anything.
I have included this section simply to give you more information.
You can go to your healthcare provider with questions and, if necessary, they can do further testing and analysis for you.
Here are some causes of heavy/prolonged bleeding:
- Luteal Phase Deficiency
This is when the time from when you ovulate until the first day of bleeding is too short.
This typically means less than 10 days. You would need to chart your cycles to know this.
This means recording your basal body temperature as soon as you wake up, cervical fluid, and to a lesser extent, cervical position.
A short luteal phase points to low levels of progesterone.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
You may want to look further into PCOS if your cycles are long (35 days +) and you have prolonged or heavy bleeding at irregular intervals.
You may also notice weight gain around the waist and/or hirsutism (hair growth on the face, chest, or back) due to excess testosterone.
Comes from the word endometrium, which is the tissue of the uterine lining.
This is the tissue that builds up and sheds during the menstrual cycle.
Endometriosis is when tissue that acts like the endometrium is found in areas outside of the uterus.
This tissue reacts to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle the same way as the uterine lining.
This means that it will build up and break down in the same way we see with the endometrium which leads to inflammation and scarring of the surrounding tissue, and with this is pain.
This is not always associated with heavy periods though.
If you do have heavy periods and a great deal of pain with your period, this might be something you want to talk to your healthcare provider about.
It can take a long time to get a diagnosis of endometriosis, so be persistent, and make sure you’re getting the testing you need.
- Fibroid tumors
Can mess with the healing of the endometrium, and this can lead to heavy bleeding.
- Low thyroid function
This can also be shown on a chart.
If your basal body temps before ovulation are lower than 36.2°C/97.2°F consistenly, cycle after cycle.
You may also notice other symptoms of low thyroid.
- Coming off the pill
Constituents of the pill can make the ‘periods’ you have while on it lighter and shorter.
When you then come off of it, you may be surprised by heavier and/or longer periods.
What You Can Start Doing Today!
Luckily for all of us, nutritional intervention has been shown to significantly reduce heavyand prolonged periods and quite consistently.
While there are things I could give you as recommendations specifically for your personal grouping of symptoms, there are also very general, basic, and easy things you can add into your diet today!
Here are some foods to increase in your diet to help with heavy and prolonged periods:
- Orange and yellow vegetables – butternut squash, bell peppers, carrots, sweet potato
- A variety of whole grains – millet, buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat
- Citrus fruits with rind and some pith
- Raw pumpkin and flax seeds
- Dark leafy greens – kale, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard
- Sesame seeds
Whole foods carry with them a beautiful mix of very healthy nutrients that all work together to increase each one’s effectiveness!
Add these foods to your diet for at least 3 months and notice if you see any changes.
Consistency is key!
It is always a good idea to work on cutting out foods to which you may be sensitive.
This is to help the body work more efficiently on things that will truly benefit it.
Extra work and energy used on overactive immune function, for example, uses up resources for vital functions like all those necessary for regular menstrual cycles.
While the list of foods I gave you may seem small and trivial, over time, these nutrient-packed foods really support the body and specifically normal blood clotting.
Heavy periods react very positively to nutritional intervention – lucky for us!
But if you think that any of the above causes also sound like what your body is experiencing, please see a healthcare provider.
Ask questions. Make sure they are listening. Get the right tests and get a diagnosis.
The more you know about what is going on in your body, the better!
These menstrual symptoms are a sign that something is off in your body, so the sooner you can pinpoint and start taking action, the sooner you will see the results.
If you feel like you want personalized guidance from Carly…
Book a FREE Hormone Clarity Assessment by clicking on the button below!
Yours in plant love,