When is menstrual flow considered too heavy?

When it comes to menstrual bleeding, what’s “normal”? What’s too much or not enough?


Sonia Chartier

02 August 2016

While some women can’t go for more than a couple of hours without rushing to the bathroom to avoid a “code red” incident, others can go hours without risking anything more than a slightly stained panty liner.

What’s “normal” and is it possible to control the flow?

When it comes to feminine hygiene product expenditures, whoever said life was fair? Every woman’s menstrual cycle differs in length, regularity, flow and duration. The cycle ranges from 21 to 45 days, with the average being 28, while the bleeding ranges from two to seven days, with the heaviest flow occurring in the first three days. Generally speaking, adolescents and women over 40 have the most erratic cycle lengths and bleeding intensity.

How is the heaviness of menstrual bleeding categorized?

If you were conducting scientific research, you would need to measure your monthly menstrual flow in millilitres, which is no easy task. The simplest way is to count the number of sanitary napkins or tampons you use and how often you change them:

  • Minimal bleeding: spotting or just a few drops
  • Mild bleeding: less than one saturated napkin or tampon in three or more hours
  • Moderate bleeding: more than one saturated napkin or tampon in under three hours
  • Heavy bleeding: more than one or two saturated napkins or tampons in one or two hours; this rhythm is normal for some women, but uncommon

If your flow is long-lasting and heavy (say, more than six maxi pads a day), and that’s not typical for you, you should consult a doctor.


Menorrhagia is the term used to describe menstrual flow that is abnormally long or heavy and often accompanied by cramps. When it occurs, you just can’t go about your day-to-day business, and you dread having your next period. The symptoms are:

  • Using up one or more pads or tampons every hour for several hours in a row
  • Having to double-up your pads
  • Having to wake up at night to change your pad
  • Expelling clots for several days in a row
  • Bleeding for more than a week
  • Adjusting your activities because of your menstrual flow
  • Showing signs of anemia: fatigue and shortness of breath

All kinds of health problems can cause menorrhagia: a uterine fibroma, a cycle in which ovulation doesn’t occur, polyps, intrauterine devices (except the Mirena, which has the opposite effect), medications, cancer, etc. It’s best to consult your doctor to get to the root of the problem. Most often, it’s caused by hormones. If it happens, try to uncover the origin of the imbalance, for example:

  • Puberty – hormone levels aren’t yet stabilized
  • You’ve changed contraceptive methods: going off the Pill, a new IUD, etc.
  • You’re over 40 and perimenopause is approaching

Don’t fret!

You might be surprised to learn that, in addition to looking for sales on pads and tampons, you can also influence your menstrual flow to improve your quality of life, while saving some money too!

A healthy diet can have a significant impact on cramps and bloating, and in some women, on the flow itself. For one, avoid white flour, sugar and processed foods, not just during your period, but throughout your cycle. Also try to choose foods rich in potassium, like bananas, papaya, potatoes (with the peel), sweet potatoes, lentils, salmon, soy milk and plain yogurt.

Keeping active also has an impact on the regularity and volume of menstrual flow, not to mention on health in general. Try to exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, five or six times a week. High-level athletes and women who engage in intense sports like running marathons often have very light to no menstrual flow.

Vitex is the go-to plant for re-establishing your hormonal balance. If you feel that your heavy menstrual flow is linked to a hormonal imbalance, give Vitex a try!

To avoid fatigue and the possibility of becoming anemic because of an overly heavy menstrual flow, consider Bio-Strath. It’s an excellent choice because it’s rich not only in iron, but also in B-complex vitamins, which are recognized for their beneficial effects on period-related problems.

If cramps prevent you from enjoying your favourite activities, make sure to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet; they’re available in fatty fishes, flax seeds, soy and nuts, as well as in supplement form.

There’s no reason to let hormones get in the way of enjoying life. You don’t have to resign yourself to spending weeks doubling-up your pads, loitering near the bathroom and worrying about leaks. Try to get those hormones balanced by eating better and getting active. You’ll spend a little less on feminine hygiene products and more importantly, you’ll feel better.



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