Heavy periods, also known as menorrhagia, can be addressed by Naturopathic Medicine. Heavy periods can occur as a result of a number of different causes. They can be very stressful to a woman, causing embarrassment, fear of going out in public in case there is no washroom available, and the loss of large amounts of blood.
Moderately heavy periods can happen to many women, and can cause a good amount of fatigue and blood loss. A more serious form of this, menorrhagia (or heavy menstrual periods), is not quite as common. Menorrhagia is the loss of a significant amount of blood each month. The amount of blood lost is much so that the overall health of the woman is negatively impacted to the degree that she may find it difficult to function during her period. Some women always have heavy periods, right from the first time their period starts as a young woman. However, other women have normal periods and heavy periods can begin at a later time in life. In face, perimenopause is one of the most likely times that heavy periods will onset. This is related to the specific hormonal imbalances that occur during the years surrounding the menopausal change.
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding or Menorrhagia is Defined
As when a woman….
- Loses 80ml+ of blood per cycle over several menstrual cycles in a row
- Soaking through one or more pads every hour for several hours
- Have long menstrual periods (lasting 7+ days)
- Need to wake up at night to change pads
- Passing of large clots frequently throughout the menses
Causes of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding that your Naturopath Might Investigate
- Estrogen Dominance – a relative excess of estrogen when compared to progesterone
- Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Clotting Disorders
- Uterine Fibroids
- Pituitary Dysfunction
- Liver Conditions
- Adrenal Fatigue
Tests that your Naturopath Might Recommend for Heavy Periods
- CBC to check for low hemoglobin, platelets and red blood cell counts (anemia is a common outcome of heavy periods)
- Ferritin to check for low stored iron levels
- Estrogen/Progesterone ratio to determine if there is a condition of estrogen dominance
- TSH , Free T3, Free T3, Anti thyroid antibodies (the thyroid can create a hormonal imbalance that can lead to heavy periods)
- Clotting disorder testing including PTT and others
- FSH and LH to check the pituitary function
- Salivary cortisol testing to rule out adrenal fatigue, which can imbalance the hormones
- Physical exam of the uterus to determine if it is enlarged or bulky
- CA-125 to screen for a marker of endometriosis
- Comprehensive hormonal screening through blood and saliva may be recommended to view all of the hormones
An ultrasound is also often recommended to rule out uterine fibroids, particularly if the uterus is bulky on examination. This cannot be ordered by a naturopathic doctor and must be ordered by an MD.
Treatments that your Naturopath Might Recommend for Heavy Periods
Naturopathic treatment for heavy periods is variable and depends on the underlying cause of the heavy bleeding.
In women with hormonal imbalances, herbal medicines can be used that can rebalance the hormones. We often focus on improving progesterone levels, and clearing excessive estrogen. In women who have thyroid disorders, it is often important to consider supplementation with key thyroid nutrients and enhancement of the thyroid function with herbal medicines.
Iron and blood building nutrients, including injected vitamins are often beneficial for women who have lost significant stores of blood and are experiencing fatigue. Diet changes may be quite helpful for both fibroids and endometriosis in particular, but often improving the diet will help most women who are suffering with heavy menses. In addition, there are a variety of nutraceutical supplements that benefit many women with both endometriosis and fibroids, lowering inflammation and overgrowth of the problematic tissues.
Overall, we look to find the underlying cause of the bleeding, and to address it. At the same time, we actively replace any deficiencies that the heavy bleeding might have caused. This approach helps to restore balance to the body by replenishing deficiencies, and repairing the underlying imbalances that are the cause of the bleeding.