Every woman is different, which means the amount of blood lost during a period differs from woman to woman. A large loss of blood can affect women physically and emotionally, and can be a very distressing time.
If you bleed after you have been through menopause, it’s important to see your doctor.
Heavy periods (or menorrhagia) are hard to define, but if you feel you are using more tampons or sanitary towels than usual, or blood is leaking through to your clothes and bedding, this usually means your period is heavy. Heavy periods can also mean you need to change a pad overnight, you’re passing clots larger than a 50 cent piece, or you bleed for more than 7 to 8 days.
Heavy bleeding is sometimes caused by problems with the lining of your uterus (womb) or a hormonal disorder. Sometimes it can be due to your medications, or a medical illness. But in half of all women with heavy bleeding, no cause is ever found.
You should visit your doctor if heavy periods are disrupting your everyday life. Your doctor may want to investigate the possible causes of heavy bleeding to rule out any other health conditions which may be causing it. Conditions may be treated by medications, fitting an IUD or, in some cases, by surgery.
Blood is full of iron, which helps red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Heavy blood loss month after month can lead to a loss of iron resulting in iron deficiency or, if the iron deficiency is prolonged or severe, iron deficiency anaemia (low haemoglobin).
The most common symptoms of anaemia include:
- shortness of breath
- palpitations (an awareness of your heart beat)
Some people also experience:
If you are concerned about this, you should visit your doctor.
Looking after yourself
Here is some self-care advice for coping with heavy periods:
- Make sure you change your tampon or sanitary towel at regular intervals. The recommended time frame is every 4 to 8 hours for a tampon, and every 4 to 5 hours for a sanitary towel.
- You can use a heat pack or pain relief medication if you are in pain.
- You may need to use more tampons or towels on the heavier days of your period. However, if you are changing your towel every 1 to 2 hours due to heavy blood loss, you should visit your doctor for advice.
Hygiene is very important when changing sanitary products.
Always wash your hands before using a new tampon or sanitary towel, and always wash your hands well afterwards too.
You can sleep with a tampon or sanitary towel in place; but it should be changed immediately before bedtime and first thing in the morning. Keeping a tampon in place for longer than the recommended time frame increases your risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). You can get more advice about toxic shock syndrome by visiting healthdirect.
Get some rest
Getting plenty of rest may help ease any discomfort caused by your heavy period.
Drink plenty of clear fluid a day (water is best) unless you have an existing medical condition which means this is not possible.
If you are in pain, get advice on medicines you can take.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your heavy periods, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: November 2019