Cramps that keep you confined to bed. Blood loss that has you sprinting to the bathroom and destroying towels, sheets, and clothes. A fear of leaks that leaves you unable to work or spend time with your family.
If your period looks more like a horror movie and less like a typical tampon commercial (who ARE those chipper women turning cartwheels on the beach or doing yoga in nude leotards?! And how do we hurt them? JK, JK!), then chances are you know the pain of heavy periods, also known as heavy menstrual bleeding or menorrhagia.
One in five Canadian women live with heavy bleeding, exhaustion, and pain during their periods. But more than half of those with heavy periods are unaware that it's a treatable medical condition, and haven't seen a doctor because they believe it's "just part of being a woman, don't think it's worth the visit, or aren't sure how a doctor can help," according to new research conducted by Hologic, Inc. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding Research for the campaign HeavyPeriodTalk.ca.
The online survey of more than 1,000 women who experience heavy periods also found that 90 per cent have bled through their clothes and 82 per cent have bled through their bedding. More than half have missed work during their period, 43 per cent have missed time with their partner, and 30 per cent have missed a family gathering.
"There's nothing worse than having to deny your children a game of tag or day at the beach because you fear a leak," one woman wrote in a testimonial on HeavyPeriodTalk.ca.
"I usually wear both a tampon and pad during my time of the month to avoid leakage," another wrote.
As part of the campaign, women also shared their experiences with heavy periods on Twitter.
Heavy periods don't just affect those who experience them physically. More than 75 per cent in the survey said they experience anxiety while menstruating, 67 per cent experience depression, and 74 per experience a lack of confidence.
While 69 per cent of those with heavy periods report feeling nauseous, almost half experience anemia (a blood condition that can make you feel tired and weak), and 90 per cent experience extreme tiredness, 68 per cent of the respondents were not aware that it's a medical condition.
Menorrhagia is treatable
Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB), clinically known as menorrhagia, is a period that lasts more than seven days, can soak through "one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row," can cause you to have to wear more than one pad at a time to contain the flow, can result in having to change a pad or tampon overnight, and can include blood clots as big as or bigger than a quarter, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC).
"Fortunately, there are many treatments available for the wide variety of conditions that cause HMB. If you are struggling to cope with the amount of bleeding you are experiencing, see your doctor," the SOGC said on its website YourPeriod.ca.
Causes of HMB can include hormonal problems (including polycystic ovarian syndrome and even stress), bleeding disorders, structural changes such as endometriosis and fibroids, and taking certain medications including some anti-depressants, the SOGC said.
Treatments can include medication, minimally-invasive surgery, major surgery, oral contraceptives, and the hormone-releasing intrauterine device (or IUD), according to HeavyPeriodTalk.ca.
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