Problems with menstrual cycles can impact greatly upon a woman’s life.So knowing when to seek medical help is important in alleviating any distress, pain or concern as soon as possible. This is especially so if you are experiencing heavy periods.
Most women begin their periods at around 12 years old, with cycles generally every 21 to 35 days. These then stop during the menopause, which is on average around 51 years old.
It is important to know what your normal pattern and periods are like. Every woman is different and so understanding your own body is crucial in being able to spot changes.
An abnormal period is one that deviates from the normal pattern for that individual. To some, periods could become heavy where the blood loss is more than normal. Losing more than 80mls of blood during a cycle is classed as a heavy period. However, measuring is difficult, so indicators to watch for include:
- Needing to use more than one pad or tampon at any one time or using both;
- Frequent staining of clothing despite the use of sanitary pads or tampons;
- Needing to take time off work because of a period;
- It affecting general health,ie, feeling tired and a lack of concentration.
The causes of heavy periods are varied and can be difficult to pinpoint due to hormonal changes. Below are a few potential causes:
- Fibroids of the uterus – theseare often found in women of child-bearing age and can be diagnosed using an ultrasound scan. Treatment can be tablets through to radiological and surgery treatments.
- Coagulation disorders of the blood, such as a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) – a simple blood test will be used to diagnose this condition.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause heavy periods and could result in irregular periods.
- No obvious cause – which could be due to hormonal imbalance.
It is often difficult to know how long to wait before seeking medical or specialist advice. I recommend that women keep a menstrual calendar, helping them to identify their regular pattern and also noting any irregularities. This will give an objective idea where things are deviating from the norm. In the majority of circumstances, changes are not serious and can be managed. Seeing your GP will help in clarifying whether you need to seek specialist treatment.
Help is available – specialist gynaecologists, such as myself, are on hand to advise you so there is no need to put up with problem periods.
Mr Raj Saha is a consultant gynaecologist at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull.
To find out more call 0121 704 5530.
The content of this article isprovided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.