‘For over three decades, I suffered from heavy periods. I didn’t know it was a condition.’

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It came early. It was heavy. Most of us have been there, at least once. 

It leaked through the pad. It gushed through the tampon. And if you’re in the privacy of home, crisis averted. 

But at school? In the workplace? At a social gathering? 

The feeling of dread.

49-year-old Melbourne woman Yvonne has suffered from heavy menstrual bleeding since she first got her period at the age of 13.

Affecting 25 per cent of Australian women of reproductive age, the condition is defined as excessive menstrual blood loss, interfering with a woman’s physical, social or emotional quality of life.

"Once in art class, I got up from my seat, and I had flooded everywhere. I had to pretend that I had stabbed myself with a ruler!" Yvonne tells Mamamia.

A jumper tied around the waist would sometimes be a temporary fix, but even then she would still bleed through; it was incessant. 

Some mornings Yvonne would awake in a pool of blood. Swimming carnivals were received with dread — "and playing cricket in all white was fantastic," she adds wryly. 

The condition followed her into the workplace too. 

As the manager of a customer service team, Yvonne recounts an incident where she found herself perched on the edge of a coworker’s desk, mid-explanation, to then be struck with the realisation:

Oh God. I can’t stand up!

"I ended up getting them to print something, only to have them retrieve it from the printer, just so I could create some distance. You get creative with distractions."


According to Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, a period is considered heavy if you are passing lumps or clots of blood larger than a 50 cent coin; need to change you pad/tampon every hour; require a towel in your bed; or use large maternity pads when you sleep. 

For over 30 years, Yvonne needed to wear a tampon – and two pads at once. 

Despite this, she needed to run to the bathroom to change between every class at school. At work, she would dread raising from her seat at the end of a long meeting.

"The amount of underwear I’ve had to throw out in my life…"

Another symptom noted by the Royal Women’s Hospital is bleeding that lasts for more than eight days. 

"When you’re having these heavy periods for seven to nine days every month, it’s a long time. You do miss out on quite a few things," Yvonne reflects. "You tend to keep away or to yourself to make sure you’re all good and safeguarded."

Usually bubbly and outgoing, Yvonne’s inwardness became obvious to those around her.

"When you lose that amount of blood, you get lethargic too."

"I was definitely not my usual self,” she says, adding she experienced mood swings and headaches too. "It does knock your confidence a bit. I probably wasn’t active in certain things that I would’ve liked to have been."

But she was determined not to let the condition hold her back. 


"I would still push forward with what I could do. You just hope!"

As Yvonne got older and entered into the world of relationships, she says she would often feel embarrassed. "An accident would happen here or there. It’s not the most comfortable thing."

But married at 22, Yvonne found support and understanding from her husband. 

"We spoke about it and it was just accepted. There were times it was inconvenient, but I remember days where he would help me clean the mattress."

Transitioning into motherhood with two children, Yvonne found optimism in her pregnancy experience.

"I loved being pregnant, I’ll tell you that!"

Despite her hope that pregnancy and childbirth might alleviate the condition, she soon discovered that it hadn't.

While Yvonne had consulted with various GPs and specialists over the years, much of the treatments offered had little to no effectiveness for her or presented side effects. Only after she and her husband decided not have any more children did more treatment options become available to her.

"I had accepted it as just the card I’ve been dealt, and so you just put up with it."

With stigma and silence, it took until 2015 before Yvonne learned that her suffering wasn’t just her experience; heavy menstrual bleeding is a condition.

"Sometimes I feel silly that I didn’t do something about it more actively before waiting a long time," she says. "It prolonged how long I had the problem. If it was more spoken about, it could be more easily identified as a condition."


In fact, a recent survey of 5,000 Australian women aged 35-52 commissioned by Hologic found 46 per cent of women who always experience heavy periods have not undergone treatment; an astonishing number when 76 per cent of women have experienced heavy periods with 28 per cent experiencing it often or always.

Further, a staggering 92 per cent of women want more conversations around treating heavy periods.

"Education is just one of these wonderful things. I'd encourage everybody to actually go and talk to people that know something about it. And seek alternative opinions too," says Yvonne.

"There is a real power in talking about it."

If you experience heavy periods, visit your GP and find more information about treatment options from Live Comfortably.

Individual patients’ symptoms of heavy menstrual bleeding may vary. This article contains statements and descriptions unique to an individual and may not be representative of every patient's experience of heavy menstrual bleeding.

This information is general in nature and does not replace the advice of a healthcare professional. As with any medical condition, always seek health advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram, @rebeccadavis___

Feature Image: Supplied/Getty.

Live Comfortably
If you or a loved one are living with heavy periods and would like to "live comfortably", visit your GP without delay. You can find more information on treatment options at