Menstrual Disorders Menorrhagia

Different women experience different effects before and during their periods. Some women have frequent menstrual spotting, while others find that heavy bleeding is normal. It is not uncommon for women to have heavy bleeding during the first few years and last few years of menstruation. These are the years when a hormone imbalance is most likely. Heavy menstrual bleeding is called menorrhagia or hypermenorrhea.

Between 15 and 20 percent of healthy women experience debilitating menorrhagia that interferes with their normal activities. Bleeding heavily and/or if periods last more than seven days is considered excessively heavy menstruation.

Doctors generally define menorrhagia as menstrual bleeding that lasts more than eight to ten days or a blood loss of over 80 milliliters (about 1/3 cup). This would be considered dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB), and could lead to an iron deficiency or anemia if not attended to promptly. Iron deficiency and anemia can result in fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and in severe cases angina.

DUB Variations

Other types of dysfunctional uterine bleeding include metrorrhagia (bleeding in between periods or menstrual spotting) and polymenorrhea (having a period more often than every 21 days).

How do you measure how much you are bleeding? A little blood can seem like much more than it actually is. One way to gauge your bleeding is to see if you are soaking through enough sanitary protection roducts to require changing more than every one to two hours.

Blood clots are normal during menstruation. Remember in addition to blood loss, the lining of the uterus is also being shed.

Causes of Menorrhagia

Among the more commonly known causes of the condition are:

  • hormone imbalance
  • approaching menopause
  • fibroid tumors
  • using an IUD
  • cervical or endometrial polyps
  • lupus
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • cervical cancer
  • endometrial cancer.

What Are Fibroids?

Sometimes tissue grows and attaches itself to the walls of the uterus. These growths are called fibroids. They are often referred to as tumors but are not cancerous. About two of every ten menstruating women have fibroids.

Fibroids may go unnoticed, or they may cause pain, excessive bleeding, and difficulties in pregnancy, labor or delivery.

A doctor can examine the pelvic and abdominal area to determine if uterine fibroids are present. If fibroids are present, the doctor will determine if they should be surgically removed or otherwise treated.


Cornfield, T. (2002). Abnormal uterine bleeding. Retrieved August 17, 2002, from

Thomson Corporation. (2001). Dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Retrieved September 2, 2002, from