What You Should Know About Heavy Periods

If your monthly flows are heavy or long, there may be an underlying issue.

Woman sitting on a couch holding her stomach bent over in pain

Heavy or prolonged periods can be uncomfortable, but for some women they may be downright disabling, making it difficult to do everyday activities. In fact, one-third of women experience heavy periods and seek treatment for them. 

If you experience prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding, you may have wondered what could be causing it. Here’s what you should know, plus how to ease pesky or uncomfortable symptoms.  

What is heavy menstruation? 

Healthcare providers used to use the term “menorrhagia” to describe heavy menstrual bleeding or periods that last an unusually long time. Now, you’ll likely hear the term “heavy menstruation” instead. 

It’s normal to lose about two to three tablespoons of blood during your period. And the average woman's period lasts four to seven days. But losing twice as much blood as normal or having a period that lasts longer than seven days may be a sign of heavy menstruation. 

What are the symptoms of heavy menstruation? 

Women with prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding may experience one or all of these symptoms: 

  • Blood clots in menstrual flow 
  • The need to change tampons or pads every hour for several hours 
  • The need to get up at night to change tampons or pads 
  • The need to double up on products (e.g., wear a tampon and a pad at the same time) 
  • Fatigue from anemia due to excess blood loss 

What causes heavy periods? 

Heavy menstrual bleeding can be caused by a variety of factors, many of which aren't serious, and can include: 

  • Hormone imbalances 
  • Implantable birth control devices 
  • Disorders of the reproductive system, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, endometriosis 
  • Pelvic infections or tumors 
  • Liver or kidney problems 
  • Pregnancy complications 
  • Thyroid disease 
  • Bleeding disorders (rare) 

Are there any other risk factors for heavy menstruation? 

Any woman who menstruates can experience heavy periods, but the condition is most common in women who have an imbalance in the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. These hormone imbalances are most common in very young women who have just started menstruating and in women over 40 who may be in perimenopause. Smoking or having relatives who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding also raises the risk. 

Fortunately, there are treatments that can reduce or eliminate menstrual bleeding. You and your healthcare provider can discuss the options that may be right for you, including hormone therapy, certain medications or even surgery.

Featured Content


5 Ways Endometriosis Pain Differs from Normal Period Pain

Learn what endometriosis pain feels like and why those painful periods may not be so “normal” after all.

8 Key Facts to Know About Endometriosis

This ‘invisible’ condition affects 1 out of 10 people who menstruate.


What Actually Happens During Your Menstrual Cycle?

It’s about a lot more than a few days of bleeding.

What You Should Know About Uterine Fibroids

Learn about the symptoms, potential causes, and treatments—plus, when to see a healthcare provider.

Severe Period Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Bleeding and cramping are typical, but these signs may mean it's time to see a provider.