It’s always worth noting how wonderfully unique women's bodies are. Our boobs come in different sizes, our vaginas are totally individual, and of course our periods vary too. But if the way we bleed differs from womb to womb, how are we supposed to know when periods become too heavy?
How much blood should I be losing?
If you’ve always bled heavily, you may think your flow is normal – after all, you’ve had nothing to compare it with – but that may not be the case. According to the NHS, the 'normal' amount of blood you lose during a period ranges from 30 to 40ml (about five to six teaspoons). If you're experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, you'll be losing 60ml or more in each cycle – and that's called menorrhagia.
Hang on, how can I tell how many ml I'm bleeding?
Let's face it, no one is going to measure the amount of blood they are losing by sitting on the loo with a teaspoon. But it's super handy to know that a regular tampon holds up to 5ml of blood so we'll leave the maths up to you guys. Jks, your whole period should fully soak between six to eight tampons. 60ml or more is considered heavy – that's about 12 soaked-through tampons or pads. So if that sounds like your tampon allowance, or you're doubling up on protection (using a tampon and a pad together) and flooding onto your clothes or bedding you, chances are you're bleeding too much.
Are there any other symptoms?
As well as sh*t loads of blood loss, you'll likely be bleeding for longer than a week, passing blood clots for more than a day, suffering from anaemia (tiredness, shortness of breath, fatigue) and struggling to stick to your routine because your flow is affecting your everyday life.
What causes heavy periods?
Sometimes it's nothing and can be managed with meds, but sometimes it can be linked to a number of health conditions. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths on and around the womb and are often present with heavy periods. Endometriosis can result in painful and heavy periods as the condition causes endometrial tissue to grow outside the uterus. With polycystic ovaries, periods can be less frequent but heavier. Thyroid problems can cause heavy and irregular periods too, as can polyps, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), perimenopausal changes, hormone imbalances, endometrial hyperplasia and cancer.
How is it diagnosed?
The NHS says your doctor will carry out a pelvic examination. They can arrange an ultrasound scan and blood tests to check haemoglobin, thyroid function tests and iron levels too. The main thing to remember? There are treatments out there that can ease your bleeding so if you're suffering it's always best to see a GP.