Heavy periods (also called menorrhagia) are common and may just be normal for you. Treatment can help if they're affecting your daily life.
Check if you have heavy periods
You may have heavy periods if you:
- need to change your pad or tampon every 1 to 2 hours, or empty your menstrual cup more often than is recommended
- need to use 2 types of sanitary product together, such as a pad and a tampon
- have periods lasting more than 7 days
- pass blood clots larger than about 2.5cm (the size of a 10p coin)
- bleed through to your clothes or bedding
- avoid daily activities, like exercise, or take time off work because of your periods
- feel tired or short of breath a lot
Causes of heavy periods
It can be normal to have heavy periods.
They can sometimes be heavy at different times, like when you first start your periods, after pregnancy or during menopause.
Sometimes, they can be caused by:
- conditions affecting your womb, ovaries or hormones, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, fibroids, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease
- some medicines and treatments, including some anticoagulant medicines and chemotherapy medicines
- stress and depression
Rarely, heavy periods can be a sign of womb cancer.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- heavy periods are affecting your life
- you've had heavy periods for some time
- you have severe pain during your periods
- you bleed between periods or after sex
- you have heavy periods and other symptoms such as pain when peeing, pooing or having sex
What we mean by severe pain
- Severe pain:
- always there and so bad it's hard to think or talk
- you cannot sleep
- it's very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
- Moderate pain:
- always there
- makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
- you can manage to get up, wash or dress
- Mild pain:
- comes and goes
- is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities
Treatment for heavy periods
Heavy periods do not always need to be treated. But there are treatments that can help if they’re affecting your daily life.
Treatments from a GP include:
- some types of contraception, such as an intrauterine system (IUS) or the combined contraceptive pill
- medicine to help reduce the bleeding, such as tranexamic acid
- prescription-only anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as mefenamic acid or naproxen
You should have a blood test to check if you have iron deficiency anaemia.
If these treatments do not work or a GP thinks a condition may be causing your heavy periods, they’ll usually refer you for tests or to see a specialist.
Page last reviewed: 3 November 2021
Next review due: 3 November 2024