What is a normal period for one woman may not be normal for you—your period may last longer, or your flow may be heavier. Here are some general guidelines on normal versus heavy periods:
- Blood lost: 2-3 tablespoons1
- Bleeding occurs about every 21-35 days2
- Bleeding lasts 3-5 days for most women2
- Bleeding lasts longer than 7 days1
- You may need additional protection (a tampon and a pad)
- Your period affects your daily activities
- Your tampon or pad needs to be changed frequently
- You pass clots the size of a quarter or larger1
Studies show that heavy periods can mean much more than heavy bleeding. They can affect you in a number of ways:
- Feeling tired and nauseated
- Bad cramps
- Missing social or athletic events3
- Avoiding sex4
- Missing work3
- Depression or moodiness4
- Feeling anxious3
- A lack of confidence during your period3
Heavy menstrual bleeding can be much more than an inconvenience. You may have severe abdominal pain when you get your period, which may be painful enough to require medication or surgery.
The blood loss of heavy bleeding can also cause iron-deficiency anemia, which means the iron levels in the body are low. Low iron can reduce the levels of hemoglobin, a substance in the blood that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of mild anemia; more severe anemia can also cause shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, lightheadedness and headaches.
While what characterizes a “normal” period can vary, experts agree: If you think your period is a problem, you should talk with a doctor about evaluation and treatment.
What are possible complications?Next
- Centers for Disease Control. Blood disorders in women: Heavy menstrual bleeding. www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html. Accessed June 12, 2016.
- Womenshealth.gov. Menstruation and the menstrual cycle fact sheet. https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menstruation.html. Accessed June 12, 2016.
- Cooper J, et al. A randomized, multicenter trial of safety and efficacy of the NovaSure system in the treatment of menorrhagia. J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc. 2002; 9:418-428
- National Women’s Health Resource Center. Survey of women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding. Data on file; 2005.