Ways to manage or stop heavy periods
The medical name for a heavy menstrual flow is menorrhagia. A person with menorrhagia may need to change their pads or tampons every hour for many hours in a row. Blood clots the size of a quarter or larger may regularly appear in the menstrual flow.
Heavy periods can interrupt a person's life and take a toll on the body. A person may feel very tired and experience continual pain and cramping. In some people, heavy periods lead to too much blood loss and cause anemia.
Anyone with menorrhagia should talk to a doctor to identify any underlying cause.
In addition to working with a doctor, some home remedies and supportive tools can help reduce symptoms and make a heavy period easier to manage.
Use a menstrual cup
A person using a menstrual cup may need to change it less than a pad or tampon.
Menstrual cups are small silicone cups that sit inside the vagina and catch period blood in the vaginal canal. While using a menstrual cup will not reduce the flow, it may help keep trips to the bathroom to a minimum.
Menstrual cups typically catch more blood than tampons or pads, so a person may need to empty their cup less often than they would need to change a pad or tampon.
Menstrual cups are available to purchase online.
Try a heating pad
Heating pads can help reduce common period symptoms, such as pain and cramping. This is because the warmth of the heating pad can relax the muscles involved.
Heating pads are also available to purchase online.
Wear period panties to bed
Absorbent underpants, called period panties, catch blood like a pad.
Sleeping in these panties may be more comfortable than sleeping with a pad, and a person may wake up less often during the night.
Period panties are available to purchase online.
Get plenty of rest
The body needs energy to restore the blood that it loses during a heavy menstrual flow. Taking time to rest whenever possible is important, and it can help prevent fatigue.
Diet and supplements
No research has shown that dietary changes alone can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding or related symptoms, according to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.
However, staying hydrated and ensuring that there are enough of the following nutrients in the diet may help manage symptoms of a heavy period, especially when a person is also using other remedies and treatments.
An iron supplement may help a person to have enough red blood cells in the body.
A person with a heavy period is losing a lot of blood, and with it, a lot of iron. The body uses iron to create new blood cells.
Taking an iron supplement can help ensure that there are enough red blood cells in the body. This can help prevent anemia, a condition that involves a lack of red blood cells.
It can also help to eat more iron-rich foods, including meats, legumes, and dark leafy vegetables.
The body does not absorb iron easily, but vitamin C can help.
Taking vitamin C supplements or eating foods rich in vitamin C — such as citrus fruits — along with an iron supplement can help prevent an iron deficiency.
A heavy period causes the body to lose a lot of water, as well as blood and iron. Replenishing this water by staying hydrated can support overall health and energy levels.
Some early evidence suggests that certain herbal remedies may help with heavy menstrual bleeding.
A review in Phytotherapy Research explored the effects of traditional herbal remedies on menorrhagia and noted that some showed promise.
The following may reduce the duration of a period and heavy blood loss:
- ginger capsules
- myrtle fruit syrup
- pomegranate flower capsules
However, more medical evidence is necessary, and the researchers called for further trials to confirm their findings.
Doctors recommend medication for many people with heavy menstrual bleeding. Several options can help with pain, cramping, and heavy blood flow:
- Ibuprofen (Advil) can reduce pain and sensations of cramping and may also slow bleeding.
- Birth control pills can help make periods more regular.
- An intrauterine device (IUD) is implanted in the uterus to help control bleeding and prevent pregnancy by releasing medication.
- Hormone therapies, including estrogen or progesterone, can help reduce bleeding and regulate menstruation.
- Desmopressin nasal spray releases a clotting protein to help prevent blood clots from breaking down, which may reduce bleeding.
- Antifibrinolytic medicines, such as tranexamic acid, may also help reduce bleeding by keeping clots from breaking down.
Some surgical procedures can help treat heavy periods. A doctor may be more likely to recommend them if there are growths or polyps in the uterus.
These procedures include:
- Operative hysteroscopy: This minimally invasive procedure removes polyps and other growths to help reduce a heavy flow.
- Dilation and curettage: This involves removing some of the lining of the uterus to limit the bleeding. A person may need to undergo the procedure more than once.
- Endometrial ablation or resection: These procedures remove most or all of the uterine lining. As a result, periods may stop, and conceiving becomes very unlikely.
- Hysterectomy: This involves a complete removal of the uterus. It stops periods and means that a woman cannot become pregnant.
Possible reasons for heavy periods
Various factors can cause heavy periods.
When one period is particularly heavy, it may be because sudden fluctuations in hormone levels have caused changes in the reproductive system.
When periods are regularly heavy, the cause may involve:
- hormones or the glands that produce them
- birth control, such as an IUD
- some drugs, such as aspirin
- uterine fibroids or polyps
- ectopic pregnancy
- recent pregnancy loss
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- platelet function disorder
- von Willebrand's disease
- cancerous growths in the uterus or cervix
Disorders affecting the liver, kidney, or thyroid can also lead to heavy bleeding.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that a heavy menstrual flow is one of the most common issues that women report to their doctors. Healthcare providers are unable to find a cause for heavy periods in half of all cases.
When to see a doctor
An iron supplement may help ensure that the body has enough red blood cells.
Anyone who has menorrhagia — heavy menstrual bleeding — should see a doctor. This definition includes periods that last longer than 7 days and periods that completely soak a pad or tampon every hour for several hours in a row.
The doctor will ask questions about general and menstrual health, and they may order additional tests to diagnose any underlying issue.
When a health issue is responsible for heavy periods, several treatments are available.
A heavy period is very common, and various techniques can help with managing it.
Lifestyle strategies, products such as menstrual cups, supplements, and over-the-counter medications can all help with symptoms while a person works with their doctor to determine the best approach. For some people, doctors recommend additional medication or surgery.
Even when a person can manage their heavy flow, it is still best to consult a doctor, who will want to investigate and identify any underlying issues. This can help reduce the intensity and duration of the flow.