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Heavy Periods

Although heavy periods are common, in most cases no cause will be found. In some cases the cause is a medical condition such as endometriosis or fibroids. For the majority of patients, treatment is effective through medication to reduce bleeding, or surgery.

How do you know if you have heavy periods?

It can be difficult to know if your periods are normal or heavy compared with other women. A heavy period is generally blood loss of 60-80 ml or more, but it is difficult to measure how much blood you lose during a period.

Your period could be defined as heavy if you:

  • Pass large blood clots
  • Require frequent changes of tampons or sanitary towels
  • Require double sanitary protection (tampons and sanitary towels)
  • Bleed through to clothes or bedding

Heavy periods that recur each month, and interfere with your quality of life, are known as menorrhagia. Menorrhagia accounts for 30% of all Gynaecological outpatient attendances. 25% of women feel that their menstrual loss is excessive and up to 10% take time off work.

What causes heavy periods?

In 40-60% of cases the cause of heavy bleeding is not known. This is called dysfunctional uterine bleeding. With dysfunctional uterine bleeding, the womb and ovaries are normal, it is not a hormonal problem, and periods may be regular. This condition is more common in patients approaching the menopause or who have only started their periods recently (in these cases periods are likely to be irregular in addition to being heavy).

Other, less common causes of heavy bleeding include:

  • Fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumours that grow in the muscle of the uterus
  • Endometriosis, where cells from the uterus lining grow in other parts of the body
  • Pelvic infection (e.g. STIs)
  • Polyps, masses in the inner lining of the uterus
  • Endometrial cancer (very rare cause)
  • Hormonal problems
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Anticoagulant medication such as warfarin

Diagnosis

To diagnose the cause of heavy periods, tests may include vaginal examination of the cervix (neck of the womb) and examination of the size and shape of the uterus (womb). If the vaginal examination is normal and the patient is under 40 year old, the diagnosis is generally dysfunctional uterine bleeding. If the uterus is found to be large or abnormal, and/or they are over 45 years old, further diagnostic tests may be required. Further tests will also be required if other symptoms, such as irregular bleeding or pain during sex, are also present. These may include:

  • Ultrasound, which can detect fibroids, polyps or structural changes in the uterus
  • Internal swabs to check for infection
  • Hysteroscopy (a thin telescope is passed into the uterus)
  • Endometrial sampling (biopsy of the uterine lining) to check for abnormalities

Most patients are given a blood test to check for anaemia, due to the heavy blood loss. Approximately 60% of women with menorrhagia (recurrent heavy periods) will develop anaemia.

Contact us

For an expert opinion on heavy periods we recommend contacting us for a consultation. Our leading team of gynecologists offer same day appointments and with years of experience are able to provide you with world-class treatment. If you have any further questions you can contact us 020 7806 4098 or by emailing london.wellwomanclinic@hje.org.uk

Wellwoman Clinic

The Wellwoman Clinic is a specialist centre offering assessment and treatment of gynaecological conditions. We treat women of all ages, prioritising patient needs and comfort throughout their treatment.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 7806 4098.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

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