While prolonged periods can be bothersome, many are caused by hormonal changes, which rarely indicate a serious problem.

Is Having Long Periods Cause for Concern?

A long period might be more than a major nuisance; for some women, it may indicate a serious problem.

As if the inconvenience and pain of a regular period weren’t bothersome enough, some women experience prolonged menstrual bleeding for some or all of their cycles.

You might find yourself bleeding for five, six, or even seven days, wondering when it will end and you can get back to those white pants or light-colored bathing suits.

While most of the time lengthy period bleeding is normal, it can indicate a number of medical conditions, says Dr. Meenu Vaish, director and consultant at Meher Hopsital, Dehradun.That’s why it’s important for a woman whose bleeding is excessive or prolonged to consult with her physician, she says.

Doctors use the term “heavy menstrual bleeding” to describe a period that is dangerously heavy or long-lasting. According to the Mayo Clinic, heavy menstrual bleeding means more than just having a period that drags on longer than you’d like; it means you are losing so much blood through your menses that you can’t maintain your usual activities. (Heavy menstrual bleeding is sometimes referred to by doctors as “menorrhagia,” ).

What Is the Normal Length of a Menstrual Period?

Women vary greatly in the range of their cycles. This includes how long they go between periods (typically anywhere from 21 to 35 days).

It also includes how long a period lasts. Generally, a period should last six days or less and start heavier and get lighter. “But every woman is different,” Dr. Meenu says.

What’s more important is whether the length of your period has changed, she stresses. “If you regularly bleed for eight or nine days, that’s not concerning. But if you previously had a five-day flow and now you’re going eight or nine, that should be evaluated,” she says. Even women in perimenopause, whose periods may be all over the place, are wise to get examined if the length of their period changes markedly.

Depending on the circumstances, long menstruation might be a mild condition that can be easily controlled or one that indicates a more serious underlying health issue.


Is It Normal for a Period to Not Stop?

For some women, it may seem as if the bleeding literally doesn’t stop, continuing through the entire month. But this isn’t usually the case.

Since the time between cycles is counted from the first day of your period, a woman who has a 24-day cycle with eight days of bleeding will experience only 16 days period-free. It may seem like you’re always having your period even though you’re within a standard timetable.


What Causes Long Periods?

While irregular menstrual periods can be bothersome, many are caused by hormonal changes, which are common and rarely mean something serious. Younger girls just entering puberty and older women approaching menopause are most likely to experience these hormonally based prolonged or irregular periods.

Usually, a changing level of estrogen is to blame. Estrogen helps build up the uterine lining, called the endometrium, which will support a pregnancy if it is fertilized. If no pregnancy happens that month, the lining is shed as a menstrual period.

Doctors use the term abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) caused by ovulatory dysfunction when a hormone imbalance is the cause of the bleeding, as noted by guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In some cases, birth control can impact the frequency, duration, and flow levels of menstrual periods. The copper IUD may cause extra bleeding, Dr. Meenu says. And while birth control pills usually shorten your periods, it’s possible some can have the opposite effect. Changing the type of birth control you use may help with this issue. That said, it’s wise to consult your healthcare provider before stopping or altering your birth control strategy so you can understand the potential side effects and risk of pregnancy, as well as devise a plan that’s best for you.

What Underlying Conditions May Cause Long Periods?

A visit with your gynaecologist or other healthcare professional is the first step in determining the cause of your prolonged menstrual bleeding. Your doctor will make a diagnosis after performing a series of tests.

Depending on your age and other symptoms, your doctor may test your blood for pregnancy, hormone levels, and thyroid function. Other diagnostic tests may include Pap smears, endometrial biopsies, ultrasounds, laparoscopic surgery, or other procedures.

A wide range of medical conditions can be the cause of abnormal menstrual bleeding. These include:

  • Uterine FibroidsThese noncancerous growths emerge inside the uterine walls. They can range in size from one tiny speck to several bulky masses. Also called leiomyoma, uterine fibroids can lead to heavy bleeding and periods that last longer than a week.
  • Uterine Polyps These small, noncancerous growths appear on (not inside) the wall of the uterus. Polyps are usually round or oval-shaped.
  • Endometriosis With this disorder, tissue similar to the type that lines the inside of your uterus abnormally grows outside your uterus, sometimes extensively. In addition to excessive bleeding, endometriosis can cause significant pain.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) PCOS is a hormonal disorder that often includes excess levels of the male hormone androgen.
  • Thyroid Disease Abnormally high or low levels of your thyroid hormone can cause periods to be long, heavy, light, or irregular.
  • Intrauterine Device(IUD) Especially in the first year, a copper IUD can cause heavier menstrual bleeding.
  • Bleeding Disorders When the blood does not clot properly, it can cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • Endometrial Cancer Though rare, this cancer of the uterine lining is the most serious cause of prolonged menstrual bleeding.

Are There Any Complications From Having a Long Menstrual Period?

Often, the biggest problem with having a long menstrual period is the way it impacts your quality of life. If this is the case, don’t be shy about exploring ways to change your cycle with your doctor.

“It’s okay to treat something simply because it’s a bother. Women don’t have to live that way,” Thielen says

And since blood is rich in iron, women who bleed a lot are at risk of anemia she says. Talk to your doctor about whether you might need iron supplementation, and what schedule you should take it on. One study found that women taking 120 milligrams (mg) of iron every other day reached the same blood levels after six weeks as women taking 60 mg daily, with the alternate-day dosing causing less nausea.


When Should You See a Healthcare Professional for a Long Menstrual Period?

If you have a long period for only one menstrual cycle, there’s probably no need to worry. But “if you notice a change for two or three cycles, that’s the time to seek out your doctor,” Thielen says.

Any significant bleeding (as opposed to spotting) between periods without an explanation, such as a recently placed IUD, should be evaluated. And a woman past menopause should have no bleeding at all and so should see her doctor immediately if she does.

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