health

Is my period normal? An expert answers your questions.

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While menstruation can be quick and painless for some, it can be agonising for many others. As every woman’s period is different, we need to ask the question: is what I’m experiencing normal?

1. What does it mean if my period lasts longer than seven days? I’m 17 years old.

Honey, that is not normal. I suspect you have ‘menorrhagia’ or heavy periods. This means you are probably losing way too much iron so you might be feeling exhausted, cold, and have headaches. The most common reason at your age for heavy periods is not ovulating and the most common culprit is polycystic ovaries or if you have always had these long periods you could have a bleeding problem. Either way you need to see a doctor to treat the iron loss and get a diagnosis.

2. My periods are so heavy I am bleeding through my tampon and pad and need to change them every one to two hours. What should I do? I’m 42 with two young kids and this is making my life hell.

Oh, that sounds TERRIBLE. You need to head straight to the doctor. This bleeding is way too heavy. For a start we need to check your iron levels. Next, you need a diagnosis. Your doctor can order some tests to check out whether you’re ovulating, or whether you have a benign problem like a polyp or fibroid. In the majority of cases we don’t find a problem.

Regardless you can’t go on like this. Treatment doesn’t necessarily mean a hysterectomy or having hormone treatment. There are simple solutions like an IUD or having a 5 minute procedure called endometrial ablation that can fix the problem.

A regular period should last between 5-7 days. No longer. Image: iStock.

3. I have had heavy periods for over a year now – I’m 28 years old. I feel weak at times and I’m very low in iron. I have seen my doctor several times and they always give me tablets to increase my iron intake and have put me on birth control for three months but nothing changed. What else can I do?

Not good enough! You need a diagnosis. At 28 this is really really unusual. I think you need to be checked for a pelvic infection. Alternately you might have stopped ovulating although we'd need to find out why. Thyroid problems and the late development of polycystic ovaries can do this.

Either way you need treatment. The treatment you need depends on the cause and also whether or not you plan to get pregnant. Chat to your doctor about this and if necessary push for a referral to a gynaecologist.

4. I’m 36 and have had my period for three weeks now – with very heavy clots. This has happened a number of times before. I feel tired all the time and can’t have sex anymore with my husband. He is so confused why this is happening to me. Please help, I don’t want to bleed anymore. 

Um hello!? You need a stat GP visit. Heavy periods are a nightmare that can interfere with your ability to go to work, to socialise and do exercise. We need to get to the bottom of why this is happening.

Don't freak out too much, but it's not unheard of for 36 year olds to get some of the problems that affect women with perimenopause. So once we get a diagnosis (& often we don't get a reason, it just is...) we can move on with treatment. Your options will change depending on whether there's a specific issue to treat and whether or not you want a future pregnancy.

A cycle of heavy periods can leave you highly fatigued, see your GP if this occurs. Image: iStock.

5. At 51, I still have regular periods, however the first 3 days are super heavy. I have become anaemic and have had two iron transfusions. The gynaecologist prescribed tranexamic acid but I think the tablets made the bleeding worse, with clots. I need to reduce the bleeding to stop the anaemia. I’m a full-time primary school teacher and sometimes I can’t get to the bathroom for 2 hours. This causes me so much anxiety due to the worry of flooding. I have grown up children but do not want a hysterectomy.

This is terrible. You poor thing. You do need a diagnosis but I'm guessing at 51 you've been investigated already anyway. At your age you're not ovulating any more and this is often the culprit. Regardless there are great treatments still avoiding a hysterectomy. For a start you could try an IUD containing the hormone progesterone which can work well. But at 51 you'd be a perfect candidate for something like endometrial ablation. This 5 minute day-only procedure fixes the problem altogether in 9 out of 10 women. It's super well tolerated and you'll be back at work within a couple of days. Chat to your doctor as his could solve the problem altogether!

What are some  questions about your period you want answered?

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