Heavy bleeding really sucks. The constant worry of it seeping through your clothes, that weird hot flood of blood when you stand up, the extreme lethargy! Many women end up too scared to leave the house as a result. But how much is too much? I have a medical reference book that says “if periods are reported as unacceptably heavy, then they are”!
I love this definition. No more ambiguous measurements that no one (except menstrual cup users) can actually measure. No more ‘’how many pads do you get through in a day?’’ Whatever you find unacceptable is too much. End of.
If someone tells me they have to get up in the night numerous times to change their sanitary product, that raises red flags for me. I feel the same if a patient says they wear multiple products at once e.g. a tampon and a pad or a pad on top of another pad.
The fancy term for heavy periods is Menorrhagia. If you are ever diagnosed with this, don’t be fooled, it’s just the latin word for heavy periods. It doesn’t mean they know anything much about what the cause is. In fact, in 50-60% of women, they never do find a cause and this gets called dysfunctional uterine bleeding, or DUB for short (Collins et.al., 2013). It’s a diagnosis of exclusion. Once they know nothing else is happening you are awarded the DUB prize!
WHAT TO DO
Firstly, make sure it isn’t being caused by any disorders such as the ones below. Once you’ve had it confirmed to be ‘normal’ for you, you can get on with treating it. If it were caused by a reproductive disorder the most effective way to treat it is to treat those things. But, as in many cases, where the menorrhagia is happening with no known reason you can get straight on with taking herbs and supplements to help.
some POSSIBLE REPRODUCTIVE CAUSES
‘Functional’ aka DUB
Uterine or endometrial polyps
some OTHER CAUSES
Abnormal prostaglandin ratios
NORMAL LIFE EVENTS AS CAUSE
Menarche (first year of periods can be erratic and different from what they will become)
Relaxants: lime blossom (Tilia cordata), or rose (Rosa damascena). To reduce stress which may lead to a hormone imbalance.
Liver support: marigold (Calendula officinalis) or dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis rad.) to clear excess hormones faster.
Anti-haemorrhage: raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus), shepherd’s purse (Capsella) or lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) to stop heavy blood flow.
Phytooestrogens: marigold (Calendula officinalis) to balance oestrogen in the body.
Blood tonics: alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and nettle leaf (Urtica dioica fol.) to replenish the body after blood loss.
Womb tonics: lady’s mantle (Alchemila vulgaris) and raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) to support womb health.
Losing blood also means you’re losing iron and having less iron means you’ll bleed more! So get on with having some iron supplements. Nettle is rich in iron but you may need something stronger like Floradix or Spatone (that are two more different natural options for iron supplement which don’t constipate). Vitamin A helps with endometrial growth and Vitamin K for increased blood clotting.
To treat heavy blood flow it’s important to consider the many ways this may have occurred. In an average period the blood flow is the result of the endometrial lining sloughing off. The endometrial lining began to grow in response to an oestrogenic surge and continued to grow because of progesterone.
This is why we use phyto-oestrogens. Don’t worry, they don’t increase oestrogen, they are actually 10 times less potent than the oestrogen you produce (Trickey, 2003). But what they do is take up the same receptor space and therefore give a little hint of an oestrogenic effect without the full-whammy. The oestrogen your body produced can’t find a space and ends up being excreted by the liver.
Another technique is to use progestogenic herbs or drugs. These maintain the endometrial lining for longer. Ironically this could make the heavy bleeding worse, but if you have a very short cycle and a heavy bleed, progestogens could be just the thing for you. I’d recommend working with a herbalist before dabbling in progestogenic herbs though as you could make things worse. This can happen with phytoestrogens but because of the way they work it’s far less likely.