By Elite Reporter
Wait, how long is your period supposed to last; you may ask! Let’s not be timid here: Bleeding every single month is already kind of a pain, so when your period decides to extend its visit a little longer than usual, it can be downright infuriating and concerning, to be honest.
However, there’s a pretty big range of normal when it comes to your period’s length in to say a typical one can last between two to seven days.
So if your period lasts 10 days or more, or suddenly changes significantly in length for three or more cycles in a row, that warrants a call to your gynaecologist, says Dr. Alex Ateenyi at KIU hospital.
However, there’s no need to panic, most causes of prolonged menstrual bleeding mentioned below aren’t a big deal and can be fixed or improved with the help of your doctor.
You have an IUD
One of the most common causes of long periods in younger women are intrauterine devices (IUDs), a type of birth control placed directly into your cervix. There are two main types: a non-hormonal, copper-based IUD, and a hormonal, progestin-based IUD.
“It turns out that both can cause abnormally long bleeding, especially right after insertion,” Ateenyi says.
Longer, heavier periods are a known side effect of the copper IUD. The progestin IUD, however, is often marketed to women as a way to reduce or even eliminate their periods.
And while it typically does have that effect over time, the first few cycles may have more or longer bleeding than usual, he says. With either IUD, if the prolonged periods don’t settle down after three cycles, it’s time to go back to your doctor, as it’s possible the IUD moved out of position or simply doesn’t play nice with your body.
“Menstruation is your body’s way of getting rid of the extra blood and tissue it saved up in case your egg got fertilized and there’s a baby, but sometimes the hormonal signals get crossed and you can bleed when you release the egg too”, Says Linnet Mirembe, a medical assistant at St. Catherine Clinic, Seeta.
It’s called intermenstrual bleeding, and it occurs when the slight dip in oestrogen that happens around ovulation causes some spotting. If the bleeding lasts a few days or happens close to the end of your last cycle, it may seem like your period is continuing forever. It’s not normally something to worry about, but if it changes suddenly or if you have serious pain, it’s time to see your doctor.
You may wondering; isn’t the tell-tale sign of pregnancy no periods? Yes, but not all the time. A common cause for abnormal menses, including longer bleeding, is pregnancy, that typical symptoms of pregnancy, like nausea, may be absent. Any time a woman has unusual bleeding, it’s always best to eliminate possibility of pregnancy with a blood test for pregnancy for reassurance.
Hormonal birth control
Anything that manipulates your hormones has the potential to make your periods longer, says experts. This includes all types of hormonal birth control like the pill, patches, rings, shots, and implants.
The good news is that there are lots of options with varying levels and types of hormones, so if your body doesn’t respond well to one type or dosage, there’s a good chance you can find a different one that will work. The length of your period is just one factor your doctor will use to help you determine which type of birth control works best for you.
Early miscarriages are much more common than you may realize. Up to half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, often before the woman even realizes she was pregnant, according to the March of Dimes.
The only sign is an extra-heavy or long period. Your menstrual cycle length should return to normal within one to two cycles but if it stays abnormally long after three cycles, it will be better if you go to the doctor.
One in eight women will suffer from low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, at some point in their lives, according to research. Your thyroid is a little butterfly-shaped gland that controls the hormones that regulate many systems in your body, including how fast you burn calories, how fast your heart beats, and yes, menstruation.
Having too little thyroid hormone can cause your period to be super long and heavy, they explain. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, and hair loss, so if you’re experiencing any of those, along with longer than normal periods, bring it up to your doctor.
Underlying blood disorder
It’s rare, but it’s possible that extra-long periods are a sign of an underlying illness, like a hematologic (blood) disease. Some of these, like haemophilia, are genetic, so if you have this you likely already know about it.
Still, if your periods are lasting a super-long time, and you’ve already been cleared for other conditions, it’s worth checking in with your doctor about tests to rule out a blood disorder that you might not be aware of.
Uterine polyps or fibroids
Uterine abnormalities, such as polyps or fibroids, can cause prolonged periods because they distort the endometrial cavity which can lead to increased blood flow, Dr. Ateenyi explains. Basically, your body senses something in your uterus that isn’t supposed to be there, and tries extra hard to get rid of it.
You have undiagnosed cervical cancer
Abnormal vaginal bleeding such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding and spotting between periods can be a sign of cervical cancer. If you notice something strange going on with your period rush to your doctor. Because cervical abnormalities can be detected through Pap and HPV tests, make sure you stay on top of those, and always tell your doctor about your family history of female cancers.
Your body’s gearing up for menopause
Oh yes, simply getting older can mess with your period. Menopause, which technically means you’ve gone 12 or more months without a period, hits women around age 50. However, your body starts the natural decline in hormones that leads up to menopause a.k.a. perimenopause as early as 35, says Linnet. When this happens, you may notice your periods getting longer or shorter, your cycle becoming more random, and other slight changes in your menstruation.
So if you’ve ruled out everything else, and you’re in your mid to late thirties, your prolonged periods might simply be due to the natural process of aging.
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