Heavy periods

Heavy periods (also known as menorrhagia) are defined as prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding which can be painful. They can affect your quality of life and be a sign of an underlying medical condition that can be treated.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021


Heavy periods are the most common reason for women to visit a gynaecologist.

Symptoms of heavy periods include:

  • Periods that last more than seven days
  • Needing to replace your sanitary protection every couple of hours, or needing to use more than one type of sanitary product at the same time
  • Flooding the sheets at night time
  • Blood clots
  • Period cramps
  • Feeling tired during your period – caused by iron deficiency anaemia
  • Symptoms continuing for several monthly cycles

Causes of heavy periods

Heavy periods are often associated with menopause, but other conditions that cause them include:

  • Fibroids – non-cancerous growths in and around your womb
  • Endometriosis – the lining of your womb starts to grow in other places, such as your fallopian tubes
  • Adenomyosis – the lining of your womb grows through the walls of your womb
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease – infection of the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Underactive thyroid gland (known as hypothyroidism)

Rarely, it could also be:

  • Cancer of the womb
  • Von Willebrand disease (a blood clotting disorder)

Certain medical treatments that can also cause heavy periods include:

  • Intrauterine contraceptive device (the coil)
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
  • Some types of chemotherapy
  • Herbal supplements, such as ginseng, ginkgo and soya

You may notice a change in your periods at any time.

There may be no underlying cause for heavy periods, but your doctor can still offer treatments to alleviate symptoms of heavy periods.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

Book an appointment with a Spire GP today

Getting a diagnosis for heavy periods

Talk to your GP if heavy bleeding is causing you problems.

They'll ask you about:

  • Your periods (duration, pain, how often you need to change sanitary products) are they irregular or do you have bleeding in between
  • Any other conditions, treatments or medications that might affect your periods
  • The effect on your everyday life

Your doctor will perform a pelvic examination to look for:

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Signs of an underlying condition, such as fibroids or endometriosis

They may also conduct a full blood test to see if you're suffering from anaemia (iron deficiency).

Other tests to diagnose the cause of heavy bleeding are:

  • An ultrasound scan
  • An endometrial biopsy to remove a small section of the womb lining to examine under microscope
  • A hysteroscopy to look inside the womb (uterus) for fibroids or polyps

Treatments for heavy periods

Heavy periods can be treated in many ways, depending on the underlying cause.

Non-surgical treatments

  • A device releasing the hormone progesterone is inserted in the womb (uterus)
  • Non-hormone and hormone medicines such as tranexamic acid

Your doctor may also prescribe iron tablets if you have anaemia, or recommend a diet rich in iron.

Surgical treatments

  • Endometrial ablation – removing the lining of the womb
  • Myomectomy – removing fibroids from inside the womb
  • Uterine artery embolism – shrinking fibroids
  • Hysterectomy

Your doctor will decide which treatment is best considering your overall health and your preferences.

Get in touch


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