For many women, their menstrual period is short and sweet, in other words, uneventful. However that’s not the case for some women who have very heavy bleeding. Very heavy menstrual bleeding or a flow that lasts more than 7 days is called menorrhagia, and affects as many as one in five women. What’s considered heavy is somewhat subjective, but your flow is considered heavy if you soak through your pad or tampon in less than two hours. Also considered heavy bleeding is if you’re passing clots that are larger than an inch in diameter.
There are a number of possible reasons that your periods are so heavy. Among them:
- Benign uterine fibroids or polyps
- Uterine or cervical carcinomas
- Miscarriage or tubal (ectopic) pregnancy
- Intrauterine devices (IUD’s) used for contraception
- Hormonal imbalances. This is especially common as women approach menopause
- Bleeding disorders
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Systemic disorders, such as a thyroid imbalance, kidney problems, or liver disease
- Certain medications, including aspirin
Heavy menstrual periods can be an underlying cause of anemia, which is a deficiency of iron, red cells or hemoglobin in your blood. Anemia can leave you feeling fatigued and weak. In addition, heavy or long menstrual periods can interfere with your life and regular activities.
Natural Treatments for Heavy Menstrual Periods
If you believe that your menstrual flow is extraordinarily heavy or prolonged, getting checked out by your health care provider is a good place to start. They can rule out anything serious and help determine why it’s happening. In some cases, medical intervention may be necessary. In many cases however, your menorrhagia may be treated more naturally, using acupuncture, Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine, and nutrition.
If you choose to treat your heavy periods with acupuncture, you may interested to know that there are a number of underlying patterns in Chinese medicine that can cause excessive bleeding. There are also a number of acupuncture points and combinations of points that can be effective in reducing heavy menstrual flow. Scientists have found that acupuncture can normalize your menstrual cycles because it helps balance the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis in your brain, the main system that regulates your body’s hormones.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine may be used to treat your heavy menstrual periods. Just like the wide variety of acupuncture points that help to control excessive bleeding, there are a number of individual herbs and herbal formulas that help to slow bleeding, regulate your menstrual cycles, and address the underlying source of your bleeding.
Naturopathic medicine is also a good option in treating heavy menstrual flow. That’s because a naturopath is focused on finding the source of your symptoms. For women who are experiencing heavy periods, a naturopath can provide primary care and is able to order blood work, lab tests, and other assessments to uncover any possible hormonal imbalances. They may prescribe herbs, vitamins, and other supplements to address the bleeding, anemia, or other nutritional deficiencies that may be affecting your health. A naturopathic practitioner is also able to prescribe hormonal supplements and some medications, when necessary.
Simply put, you don’t have to let heavy menstrual periods control your life. In most cases menorrhagia is very treatable. Whether you seek medical care or more natural options, it’s important to get help in order to understand the underlying cause or your heavy periods and to get the right treatment for you.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.