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Irregular Periods and Heavy Bleeding during Perimenopause

When a woman reaches perimenopause, she often begins to experience irregular menstruation. These irregularities can range in the amount of bleeding and be characterized by watery discharge, spotting between cycles, and unpredictable menstruation. The more problematic symptoms, such as heavy bleeding, may cause tampons or sanitary pads to be soaked through in under an hour.

Read on to find out what causes heavy bleeding and how you can treat it.

Your cycle may become more irregular due to hormonal imbalance

What Causes Irregular Periods?

The typical menstrual cycle has 25 - 31 days between periods. During perimenopause, your cycle may become more irregular due to hormonal imbalance, making it difficult to predict when you'll have your period. If your irregularities also include abnormally heavy bleeding, then you may want to consider exploring ways to stop or prevent it.

What Causes Heavy Bleeding?

A woman's reproductive system operates according to the interaction between estrogen and progesterone. These hormones trigger the thickening of the uterus lining in preparation for a fertilized egg. If fertilization doesn't happen during the woman's cycle, a drop in the levels of these hormones initiates the process of expelling that lining from the uterus. When these two hormones are thrown into an imbalance due to perimenopause, shedding of the lining becomes irregular. This can lead to a greater buildup of the lining, which results in heavy bleeding when periods do occur.

How Can I Prevent Heavy Bleeding?

There is a number of ways to prevent heavy bleeding. Try the following common ones.

Natural methods

The first resort to treating a heavy menstrual flow can be natural remedies, such as taking B-complex vitamins and vitamins A and C, which can help regulate the body. Herbs like black cohosh can also be used to treat heavy bleeding and other menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and anxiety.

When taking black cohosh, be aware that there can be side effects, including vomiting and diarrhea. Some studies also indicate this herb may have a weak link to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Birth control pills

Oral contraception can regulate development of the uterine lining so that periods don't become too heavy, but some pills can actually produce heavy bleeding. Research on the long-term effects of birth control is inconclusive, showing links to decreased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer, but increased risk of acne, severe mood swings, or weight gain - which depend on the specific dosage and composition. Talk with your gynecologist to see if your heavy bleeding is a cause for concern and what the best treatment route is in your case.

More Information

If you have irregular periods, you may also experience bleeding after sex, spotting, excess hair growth around the face and neck, and shorter intervals between periods. This combination of symptoms could indicate an underlying condition, in which case it is imperative to see your physician. Click on the following link for more information about the available treatments for irregular periods.

Missed Menstrual Cycles

If you are in your late 40's, your missed periods may be a result of menopause. Click on to learn more about irregular periods treatments.

Vaginal Bleeding during Postmenopause

Postmenopausal women may experience vaginal bleeding, which can have several causes. Click here for more info on vaginal bleeding after menopause.

Q&A: I Have Irregular Periods, What Should I Do?

Irregular periods are usually frequent or infrequent. Keep reading below to answer all your questions about irregular periods.

  • Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
  • Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
  • BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007