Why Is My Period So Heavy? Postpartum Period Changes
Maybe you've always had an easy period. No cramps, no PMS. It never felt like it changed or interfered with your daily routine. Then kids came along. Though you really didn't miss it, eventually your period comes back...with a vengeance!
If any of that resonates with you, you might be a little like me. I had always had easy periods. After having my second child I got a light-hormone IUD because we were pretty sure we were done having kids. My period was non-existent for about two to three years. We were finally certain we weren't adding any more to the family and I decided was done shouldering the responsibility of that. I also didn't want to have more hormones influencing my body. I had my IUD removed and my period finally came back on a mission to make up for lost time. I swear, it was like the end of Carrie. I was totally unprepared for it. I expected to return to my "normal period" pre-kids. Yeah, that didn't happen.
I spent about 3-5 days each month feeling like everything revolved around my period: where I went, what I did or didn't do, what I felt comfortable wearing or not, whether I added a towel to the bed at night “just in case”. Never before in my life had I soaked through sheets. And this was at a hotel. I felt so bad. I tried my best to rinse the sheets out in the bathtub and apologized to the housekeeping staff. I was afraid they would think it was a crime scene if I didn’t mention it.
Before we get into why periods can get heavy let’s make sure we know what a heavy period looks like.
The range of “normal” blood loss is wide. In general, the average woman loses between 30 and 40 milliliters (1), or two to three tablespoons, of blood during menstruation. But some research (2) suggests that this figure may actually be closer to 60 milliliters, or about 4 tablespoons. Some people may have periods that are lighter or heavier than what’s considered average. More often than not, if you aren’t experiencing severe cramping, nausea, or other side effects, your individual amount of blood loss is likely normal.
How can you tell how much blood you’re losing? There are three things to consider:
what product you’re using and its size
how often you have to change it
how full it is when you change it
For example, a regular tampon holds about 5 ml of blood. If you use 6-10 over the course of your period that would be about 30-50 ml. Super tampons hold about 10 ml. Ultra absorbency tampons hold 15-18 ml. A menstrual cup may have mililiter markings on the side, making it easy to determine how much you’re losing. You may find that your entire period loss is greater than 60 milliliters. That’s because tissue, mucus, and uterine lining add volume to your flow.
So, what is considered heavy menstrual bleeding?
When your blood loss is greater than 80 mL, that’s a heavy period. That’s approximately 16 fully soaked, regular tampons or 8 fully soaked super tampons spread over the duration of your period. If you need to change your tampon or pad after less than 2 hours, or you pass clots the size of a quarter or larger, that is heavy bleeding. Pay attention to clots, including size, shape, and consistency. When your bleeding is prolonged, say a flow more than 7 days, that’s also heavy bleeding. This can be associated with an anovulatory cycle, a menstrual cycle with no ovulation. This means an egg cell isn't released by the ovaries. This more typically occurs with PCOS.
Why does your period change post partum?
There are a few different factors that can cause changes to your period after having a baby. At the beginning of the postpartum your period can be different due to the physical changes your body experiences during pregnancy and childbirth. Remember, the uterus grows during pregnancy, shrinks after delivery, but can still remain slightly larger. Periods might be absent, painful, irregular, heavy.
Other causes of heavy periods include:
Hormonal Imbalance (one or a combo of estrogen excess and low progesterone)
Adenomyosis - fibroids or polyps
Natural Treatment for Heavy Periods
There are a few options to treat heavy periods and help you get your life back. The important first step is to identify the pattern your period is following. This means the length of your cycle from start to finish, the length of your period, the approximate amount of blood you’re losing, and any clots, PMS, or other period symptoms that come along for the ride. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the pattern to suggest herbs and acupuncture points that can help to break the pattern and reduce the heaviness.
A healthy gut with plenty of good bacteria is also important and helps regulate hormones by excreting estrogens out of the body. If you are prone to constipation especially prior to your period, consider adding ground flax meal and magnesium. These two easy solutions can improve constipation so you can properly rid of toxins and aid in proper excretion of estrogens.
You might want to consider having your hormone levels checked. Progesterone lightens periods by thinning the uterine lining. Heavy periods can be an indication of estrogen dominance. If your heavy period is caused by hormonal imbalance then Calcium d-glucarate can help. Glucarate makes periods lighter by promoting estrogen metabolism. PMS, fibroids, polyps and endometriosis also indicate or are caused by estrogen excess.
Another great natural treatment is turmeric. It has an active ingredient curcumin, which reduces inflammation and prostaglandins. Turmeric also lowers estrogen by blocking an enzyme called aromatase. You can take turmeric every day of your cycle and increase the dose during your period. Turmeric is also great for relieving period cramps because it's a blood invigorating herb.
Often, heavy periods can leave you feeling tired, which can be a sign of low iron or anemia. Adding iron to your diet corrects the iron deficiency caused by heavy periods, AND it can lighten periods by increasing blood viscosity. If you’re deficient in iron, take 15 to 50 mg of a gentle supplement such as Floradix Iron + Herbs. The best food sources are red meat and eggs. Be sure to take it at a different meal from turmeric because turmeric can prevent the absorption of iron.
If you are experiencing heavy periods, or think you might be, book an appointment today!