In the lead-up to menopause, a phenomenon known as perimenopause, many women experience changes in their normal menstrual cycle, including unusually heavy bleeding, a symptom usually accompanied by irregular periods. Women may go for several months without a period and then experience particularly heavy bleeding, or they may find that their periods are frequent and abundant.
Aside from the obvious inconvenience this can entail, heavy bleeding may also lead to other health problems, such as anemia, a condition that can be caused by insufficient levels of iron in the body, the symptoms of which include extreme exhaustion and weakness.
While it’s common for women approaching menopause to suffer from heavy periods, it’s important to remember that prolonged bleeding is something you should have checked by your doctor. Bleeding for longer than a week each month is not healthy.
Your natural menstrual cycle is driven by your hormones. Menopause is the time when your hormone levels fall significantly and you no longer experience menstrual periods. In the lead up to menopause, your hormone levels may fluctuate erratically, causing changes to your menstrual cycle, including heavy periods.
During a normal menstrual cycle, the hormone estrogen is produced to stimulate the thickening of the lining of the womb. When the egg is released from the ovaries, they produce the hormone progesterone.
The interplay of these two hormones helps regulate your periods, making them just right—not too heavy, not too light. However, as you approach menopause, the ovaries sometimes don’t release an egg, but estrogen is produced nonetheless. As a result, there isn’t enough progesterone to balance the effects of estrogen, leading to heavy periods.
During perimenopause, you may encounter other factors which could result in heavy periods, ranging from stress to the side effects of medication. If you suspect that your heavy periods have a different underlying cause, talk to your doctor about it.
It’s important to remember that while heavy periods are unpleasant, they’re often a normal part of perimenopause and one of its symptoms, which will eventually subside. However, to make this particular symptom more bearable, some home remedies may help.
Controlling stress can go a long way toward easing your heavy periods, because stress causes changes in hormone production. During menopause, further hormone changes are the last thing you need, as they may trigger heavier-than-normal periods.
Improving your diet may help as well. A diet featuring the right nutrients and vitamins will contribute to your overall health and wellbeing, while a diet full of caffeine and refined sugar will make you more susceptible to symptoms such as heavy periods.
It’s important to keep your iron levels high if you’re experiencing heavy periods, otherwise you could develop anemia. Iron is found in foods such as dark leafy vegetables and meat. Many women find it necessary to take an iron supplement at this stage of their life.
Heavy periods in early menopause can be treated using Agnus castus, a herb with the ability to stablize your hormones, particularly if you also suffer from irregular periods.
While Agnus castus is best known for treating PMS symptoms in younger women, it can also be useful for helping to balance hormones during the early stages of menopause, especially if symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating or irritability are present.
If you’ve been experiencing heavy and prolonged periods for some time, and if you’re beginning to feel fatigued and weak, it’s important to consult your doctor.
Your doctor will discuss treatment options that may work for you, including a contraceptive pill or HRT, which influence your hormones to regulate your periods. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects of these treatments. Your doctor may also give you medication to stop your menstrual flow quickly, particularly if your periods are very heavy or prolonged.
If you’re worried that your heavy periods are caused by an underlying health issue or are causing anemia, then it’s also important to visit your doctor. Heavy periods are not something to be ignored, as blood loss can be detrimental to your health.