The cause of heavy, painful periods has been discovered.


My period starts of normally with a medium flow and cramps however by day two I am bleeding to death and just when I think my body has nothing left to give I enter day three when I’m afraid to sneeze just in case my tampon comes flying out.

On days two and three of my menstrual cycle I have to wear a tampon AND a pad AND stay close to a toilet. I’ve been suffering like this for the past 24 years.

“Heavy menstrual bleeding is one of the most common reasons for referral to a gynaecologist,” Jackie Maybin of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, UK told New Scientist magazine. “It can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life.”

Heavy periods are not normal.

The shedding of the lining of our menstrual walls isn’t meant to resemble a blood bath similar to the prom scene in Stephen King’s Carrie.

How to avoid using the word “period”. Article continues after this video.


Thankfully science has now discovered that an overly heavy period is the result of a missing protein. That means we are one step closer to a cure, one that doesn’t involve having to go on the pill just so we can have a normal life during our heaviest days.

Sometimes heavy periods are because of fibroids or endometriosis. Other times it’s due to the absence of a protein called HIF1 which “activates other genes when oxygen levels drop” which happens to the uterus during a period.

This protein also repairs the uterus lining and the gut.

To confirm their finding researchers induced some poor little mice (carrying little hot water bottles) to have their periods and then gave them a dose of oestrogen and progesterone so they’d experience the hormonal fluctuations women suffer through during that time of the month.

"Heavy periods aren't normal after all." Image via iStock. 

After observing all the now incredibly grumpy rodents who were eating more than usually, they identified the role of HIF1 in repairing the uterus lining and stopping menstrual blood loss.

Those will less HIF1 can experience heavier periods as well as longer periods.

The results were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Helsinki, Finland, this week so hopefully one of the main science brains in the room can now come up with an easy way to increase HIF1 levels in women who are sick of not being able to leave the house during the heaviest of their menstrual flows.

Researchers say it may come in the form of a pill or coil. Let's hope the development of this treatment is given the attention and urgency it deserves.


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