What to Do About Heavy Periods

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Signs That Menstrual Bleeding is Too Heavy 

  • Soaking through one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour for several consecutive hours.
  • Needing to use double-sanitary protection to control your menstrual flow.
  • Bleeding for a week or longer.
  • Passing large blood clots.
  • Symptoms of anemia, such as tiredness, fatigue or shortness of breath.

Signs You Should See Your Gynecologist 

  • Vaginal bleeding so heavy it soaks at least one pad or tampon an hour for more than a few hours.
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding.
  • Any vaginal bleeding after menopause.

What Causes Heavy Periods?

  • Many problems can cause heavy bleeding. Common ones include:
  • Uterine fibroids. Other problems may be causing the bleeding even if fibroids are present.
  • Low thyroid (even with normal tests).
  • Low iron.
  • DUB (Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding) is another common cause of heavy bleeding, especially around menopause.
  • IUDs or medications (e.g., Ibuprofen) which delay clotting.

In my patients who have been recommended to have a hysterectomy because of fibroids and bleeding, treating these areas often eliminated the need for surgery.

Supplements for Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

Just as heavy bleeding can cause low iron, low iron can cause heavy bleeding—creating a nasty spiral. I give iron until the ferritin blood test is over 60 ng /ml. The doctor will say it is normal if over 12, but this has been shown to miss over 80% of cases of severe iron deficiency. Get the ferritin up over 60, and ignore the test’s normal range.

Iron

Take 50 milligrams of iron a day (containing at least 50 mg of vitamin C to help absorption). Iron supplements will normally turn the stool black. Do not take iron within 6 hours of thyroid meds, or it will botch the thyroid's absorption.

Thyroid Hormone

If symptoms of low thyroid are present, or a test called the "Anti-TPO Antibody" is positive, consider supplementing with a low dose of thyroid hormone, even if the thyroid tests are normal.

Vitamin A

Clinical experience suggests that vitamin A 50,000 units a day for 3 months may help (along with the other 2 above — I use all 3 together) in cases of dysfunctional uterine bleeding that occurs around menopause. This is a high dose of vitamin A and will cause birth defects, so people need to be sure to not get pregnant while on it and for six months after they've stopped taking it, and to not take the vitamin A if they have liver disease (may worsen the hepatitis). I mostly try this as an alternative to hysterectomy for chronic heavy bleeding.

Contributor: 

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is a board certified internist and author of the popular free iPhone application “Cures A-Z,” which was ranked in the top 10 of all health/wellness downloads on iTunes. Dr. Teitelbaum is the author of the perennial bestseller From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin), which has sold over half a million copies; Pain Free 1-2-3 (McGraw-Hill); Three Steps to Happiness: Healing Through Joy (Deva Press); the Beat Sugar Addiction Now! series (Fair Winds Press);  Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale Press); The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution (Penguin/Avery); and his latest, The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction (Fair Winds Press, 2015).