Reasons Why Your Period Won't Stop
Unending periods can be a woman’s worst nightmare! The underlying cause could range from something as complex as cancer or polyps to simply being perimenopausal. Common triggers include hidden platelet/bleeding disorder, a hormonal imbalance, miscarriage, or an intrauterine device. Your best bet lies in consulting your gynecologist and getting screened.
Are you struggling with periods that seem to last forever? Periods can be a fickle thing for some women, even painful and annoying. And if they last longer than the typical 3 to 4 days, you might be wondering what’s going on. So, take some time to learn about the possible reasons. It’ll help you zero in on the cause, letting you regain control of your cycle – and your life!
What Is A Normal Cycle Or Flow?
While there is no universal norm, a typical cycle runs for an average of 28 days.1 The bleeding “period” lasts between 3 to 5 days. Some women have cycles as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days. Periods may last anywhere from 2 to 7 days. All of these are considered within the “normal” range. If it sounds like your usual pattern, there is no need to worry. But if you normally have a long cycle and it suddenly shortens, don’t ignore it. The same goes if your period is usually short and it suddenly lasts longer.2
Causes Of Heavy Or Continuous Flow
Menorrhagia or heavy menstrual bleeding is marked by a period that continues for more than 7 days at a time.3 So, why are your periods suddenly heavy? There is most likely an underlying problem that’s making them last longer. Here are the possibilities.
1. Intrauterine Devices
Sometimes, an intrauterine device (IUD) can cause abnormal heavy or continuous bleeding. If this is the case, you may need to have your gynecologist check the device to see if it has shifted or needs to be replaced. Keep in mind that heavy and prolonged bleeding is normal in the first 3 to 6 months after getting a copper IUD. And while periods may not be heavier with hormonal IUDs, they’re usually longer during the first 3 to 6 months. So, if you’ve just started using either of these methods, you probably don’t need to worry.4
Uterine fibroids, or growths made of fibrous tissue and muscle, can cause heavy bleeding during periods. The good news is that they’re noncancerous. They also go away on their own, especially after menopause. However, pay attention if symptoms like long or heavy periods, constipation, and abdominal or lower back pain become unmanageable. The fibroids may need to be surgically removed or shrunken with medication.5
Polyps, or noncancerous growths on the endometrium (uterus lining) or cervix, can cause bleeding between your periods. They can also cause heavy menstrual bleeding.6 And since polyps have a 5 percent chance of being cancerous or precancerous, you’ll probably need to have them removed.7
4. Endometrial Hyperplasia
If you have prolonged menstrual bleeding without big blood clots, it’s most likely from endometrial hyperplasia. Women with the condition have a thickened endometrium. This is thicker than the usual buildup of tissue before and after a normal period.8 Basically, when your estrogen levels are higher than your progesterone levels, you don’t ovulate. As a result, the body doesn’t get the signal to stop growing the uterine lining, leading to the thickening seen in hyperplasia.
Hyperplasia can be caused by the following:9
- The external intake of hormones could disrupt the balance of estrogen and progesterone, leading to hyperplasia, especially if estrogen is taken without progesterone.
- Simply being perimenopausal can cause hyperplasia, as ovulation doesn’t happen regularly anymore.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause irregular periods.
- Being overweight is another cause. Excess estrogen is stored in fatty tissue, after all. So if you’re carrying extra fat, that’s a prime place for estrogen to settle.
5. Birth Control Pills
If you use the pill, you may run the risk of developing adenomyosis. This is a condition where the endometrial glands begin to grow into the uterine muscle. It results in heavy periods, causing similar symptoms to that of fibroids.10 Ironically, for some women, birth control pills may actually help as they normalize cycles.11
6. Bleeding Or Platelet Function Disorders
If you have a platelet function disorder or have von Willebrand disease (VWD), you may find that bleeding lasts much longer than it should.12 VWD affects 1 percent of the American population, making it the most common bleeding-related disorder. Women with the problem have abnormal or heavy bleeding during their period and after childbirth.13
In some cases, cancer could be the cause of abnormal bleeding. For example, endometrial cancer tends to strike women after menopause, but it can also develop in younger women. So, it doesn’t hurt to have a check-up just in case.14 Ovarian, cervical, or uterine cancer can also cause excessive bleeding.15
Some anti-inflammatory medications and anticoagulants can make bleeding heavier. An example is the popular aspirin.16
9. Childbirth Or A Miscarriage
If you just had a baby, it’s perfectly normal to have heavy or prolonged bleeding lasting anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. For bleeding related to childbirth, the blood is bright red at first. It may have small clots of blood. Over time, the color becomes pink and watery.17
Miscarriages can also result in bleeding. This is marked by blood that is brown or bright red, along with pinkish white mucus and tissue with clots. There’s also back pain that is much worse than a normal period cramp.18 Many women have shared that it’s possible to have bleeding a couple of weeks after a miscarriage, much like a prolonged or second period.
10. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS can also lead to heavy or prolonged periods and trigger endometrial hyperplasia. For some women, losing weight, exercising, eating healthy, or taking the pill can help regularize periods as well.19
11. Other Disorders
If you have diabetes, pelvic inflammatory disorder, thyroid disorders, or cirrhosis, you might have menstrual problems and heavy bleeding. To understand if one of these issues is the culprit, you will need to check for symptoms and get tested.20
How Often Does This Happen?
If you normally experience heavy or prolonged bleeding during your period, you may have a bleeding or platelet disorder.21 And if it happens often but not every time? It could be fibroids, polyps, or endometrial hyperplasia. While fibroids cause large blood clots, endometrial hyperplasia does not.22
If you’re trying to treat your menstrual problem, rule out the other disorders first. Watch for symptoms of these conditions and consult a doctor. This way, you can be tested if you suspect something like diabetes or an underactive thyroid. Once you get treatment for these problems, your periods should go back to normal.
When To Visit A Gynecologist
If you have bleeding for more than 7 days or if your period is suddenly prolonged, you may need to check with your doctor.23
After childbirth, it’s important to see a doctor if the bleeding smells bad or comes with fever or chills. You should also be concerned if the blood is bright red after a week or you have lower abdominal pain.24
If you have a high risk of cancer from menopause, family history, or your own medical history, getting screened is super important.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Menstrual Cycle. NHS.|
|2, 23.||↑||Menstruation and the menstrual cycle fact sheet. Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.|
|3, 11, 12.||↑||Heavy Menstrual Bleeding. CDC.|
|4.||↑||Intra Uterine Device IUD. New Zealand Family Planning.|
|6, 10, 14.||↑||What causes heavy periods?. The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria Australia.|
|7.||↑||Endometrial polyps. US National Library of Medicine.|
|8, 22.||↑||Endometrial Hyperplasia. Hers Foundation.|
|9.||↑||Endometrial Hyperplasia. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.|
|13.||↑||Von Willebrand Disease (VWD). CDC.|
|15, 16, 20.||↑||Menstrual disorders. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|17, 24.||↑||Heavy periods. NHS.|
|18.||↑||Miscarriage. American Pregnancy Association.|
|19.||↑||Polycystic ovary syndrome. NHS.|
|21.||↑||Platelet function disorders. Canadian Hemophilia Society.|