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Ask Our Physicians: Heavy Periods

Posted on July 14, 2017
Brooke Foulk, MD
Brooke Foulk, MD


I am 16 years old and have awful, heavy periods. They’re so bad that I’m nervous about leaving the house because of bleeding through a pad or tampon. And the pain is sometimes unbearable. Is there anything I can do to help with this?

The first thing you need to know is that you are normal! This is a common concern among young ladies, and many women have experienced similar menstrual symptoms.

Many women dread that “time of the month,” but periods are an essential part of life and is actually a sign your body is working correctly.

Menstrual Cycle

Each month, your ovaries recruit several eggs and make little cysts, or follicles. Once the follicles are formed, ovulation begins when one of the eggs becomes the dominant follicle for the month, grows, and then ruptures in the middle of the cycle. A “cyst rupturing” is a normal monthly process, and most of the time you don’t even notice any symptoms. When you don’t get pregnant in a cycle, the uterus sheds the lining it’s built up.

The normal length of time from the onset of one menstrual cycle until the next cycle is 21-35 days, with bleeding varying from 3-7 days. An important fact to remember is that all periods are not the same, even month-to-month for a woman. They can be light or heavy, painful or not. But, if you have irregular cycles or bothersome symptoms that affect your daily life, you should see a gynecologist to discuss what options might bring you relief.

Gynecology Exam for Heavy Periods

During your visit, your gynecologist may perform an ultrasound or basic testing to make sure you don’t have a medical problem causing abnormal bleeding, like an infection, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or a bleeding disorder. But usually, since heavy bleeding and cramping is very common, basic therapies like medication are often first recommended to control symptoms before any extensive treatments are performed.

Medication management can be as basic as trying NSAIDs (Motrin, Ibuprofen, Midol, etc.). If a stronger treatment is needed, we often recommend hormonal suppression through oral contraceptive pills or patches, a vaginal ring, injections, implants, or an IUD. Your gynecologist will discuss the benefits and risks of each of these treatments to determine if they’ll work for you.

Most teenagers can get by with one of these basic therapies and an understanding of a normal menstrual cycle; but sometimes, there are more concerning conditions that require stronger treatment for heavy periods.

It’s important to remember you can always talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have about your period or women’s health.

About Dr. Foulk:

For more information about Dr. Foulk, please click here to see her profile. She is accepting new adolescent and adult patients, and you can make an appointment by calling (865) 331-1122.

Disclaimer: please note that this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you have a specific medical question or issue, we encourage you to call our office at (865) 331-1122 and schedule an appointment.

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