What's It Like To Have An Abortion? 4 Women Share Their Stories
4 Women on What It’s Like To Have Heavy Periods—And How They Handle It
Chances are, you know a woman who has extremely heavy periods on the regular. Though what defines a "heavy period" varies from person to person, generally women with heavy periods two to three tablespoonsin a cycle, often having to change her tampon or pad every one or two hours. If that sounds like you, it's worth bringing up with your doc. Heavy bleeding, periods that last longer than seven days, or cramps and exhaustion that disrupt your day-to-day life can all indicate (AUB, the medical term for very heavy periods), which may or may not be caused by other issues like fibroids or endometriosis. Many women have found their own ways to deal (did you know your gyno can offer effective treatment options for heavy bleeding?)—here, four women with varyingly heavy periods explain what their menstrual cycle is like, and how they manage the symptoms as best as they possibly can.
1. “I wear period underwear as backup.”
"I’ve always had heavy periods, but they got even worse when I got my copper IUD inserted three years ago, when I was 26. Now, I go through a super tampon in one hour consistently for four days straight. It gives me a lot of anxiety, because sometimes I’ll find myself in situations where I can’t get to the bathroom in time, and it gets bad.
I was recently in a meeting, and I could tell I was starting to bleed through my tampon. I’d changed it just before, but the meeting was more than an hour, so I just stood up because otherwise I’d leave blood on the chair. My black leggings (worn on purpose) were soaked with blood by the time I got to the bathroom. I started crying, and had to call my roommate to bring me fresh pants to work. I was like, ‘I’m 29 years old—how am I still dealing with this?’ But my gyno told me there is nothing wrong with me; the IUD just gives me even heavier periods than I already had, so I have to handle it accordingly.
"I ride motorcycles with a bunch of guys, so understandably, ‘Hey guys, can we stop so I can change my tampon’ isn’t my favorite thing to say."
I keep tampons in my handbag and in my pocket at all times, and I also wear Thinx period underwear as backup with my tampon. I’m a motorcycle rider, and I ride with a bunch of guys, so understandably, ‘Hey guys, can we stop so I can change my tampon’ isn’t my favorite thing to say. The period underwear takes away a lot of anxiety for me. I've also taken the time to get informed about my body. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where we didn’t have much sexual education, so I read a lot of books now to help me understand my body. My favorite isTaking Charge of Your Fertility; I’ve mailed it to a lot of my friends.
Being open with my friends and finding a doctor who really listens have both helped me find peace of mind. A lot of women’s period pain is discredited, so if you can talk to other women about how they’re feeling, it helps to inform you about your own body. My doctor has helped me dissect my symptoms to figure out what’s normal forme, too, which is crucial. It’s really helped me understand how I can manage my symptoms on my own."—Emily, 29
2. “I got a procedure at my gyno to reduce bleeding.”
"When I first got my period, I was in the sixth grade at dance class. I felt so sick and angry, but didn’t know why. All I wanted to do was go home and take a shower, and when I did, there was blood everywhere. I called my mom in, and even she said it was a lot. I threw up that night, and from that moment, it's been just as bad. I could never sleep during my period, because I sleep on my stomach, and the cramps were too bad. I would make a diaper with three or four pads, and sleep with towels underneath me, and I’d still bleed through everything.
I had my first child at 18, and it was so nice to not have my period while I was pregnant—but it came back full-fledged. I planned my life around my periods, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do anything when they came. During college, I skipped class. When I was 22, I had my second child, and then my periods got even worse. I had two surgeries for removing cysts and cleaning damaged tissue from endometriosis, and they left me with hernias. Everything always went back to my period, and I was angry.
"I would sleep with three or four pads and towels underneath me, and I’d still bleed through everything."
I got a job as teacher, partly because I knew I would get the summers and weekends off—which would help when I was too sick to move. Every time I got my period, I called in sick for at least two days, or I'd say I had to bring my kids to an appointment. I never told my bosses what was actually going on, because my school had male principals, and I didn’t feel comfortable.
When I was in my early thirties, my gynecologist told me about the procedure, a five-minute procedure that removes the uterine lining—the part that causes heavy bleeding. It can reduce bleeding or eliminate your period entirely. It's for women who are finished childbearing, so I wasn’t ready to do it then because I'd just met my wife and we were talking about having kids together. She also had heavy periods, and as time went on, we realized something had to change—we were both out for the count for one week each month. We couldn’t have two weeks out of every month where one of us felt like we were dying. In August 2019, I decided to get the NovaSure procedure done. My wife wasn’t a good candidate because she had scar tissue, and she had a partial hysterectomy instead.
The NovaSure procedure eliminated my period completely. I can finally do whatever I want, whenever I want. I'm not an angry person anymore. I even accepted a summer teaching position that involves travel, which I would’ve never done otherwise, because I hated being on planes, knowing that I could get my period. It absolutely changed my life.”—Janelle, 38
3. “I set an alarm for 4 a.m. to change my cup.”
“My periods have been heavy since the beginning. I get really bad cramps that sometimes make me throw up. And I used to put in two super tampons at once, which I still had to change every two hours. One time in high school, I forgot to change my tampon after two hours, and I was standing in the courtyard wearing white pants...and you can imagine what happened. My best friend ran over to me and practically shoved me into the bathroom. She let me borrow her extra track pants, which were too big, but I went to biology class anyway and cried in class. It was awful.
"I used to put in two super tampons at once, which I still had to change every two hours."
Exercise helps me too. If I work out six or seven days a week in the week leading up to my period, my cramps are a lot less intense. I want to cure my body naturally. But even with exercise, my cramps are still bad, so I sleep with my heating pad. They'll keep me up all night if I don’t."—Elizabeth, 22
4. “I take hot baths and get massages.”
"After I had my four kids—all C-sections—I had my tubes tied, and my periods have gotten much worse since then. They were always bad, with heavy blood flow and bad cramping, but now they are the heaviest they’ve ever been. I’ve had it checked out, and my doctors say everything is normal, so it’s on me to deal with accordingly. It’s a lot, though: I bleed through one super plus tampon every hour. My kids always know when I have my period, because they know the signs. I always crave chocolate right before I get it, and my ten-year-old daughter will see me eating it and ask me, ‘Mommy, are you about to get your period?’ When my mood is spiked or more reactive, they’ll tell me to take a time out. And they also see me changing our blood-stained sheets all the time, because I bleed through my tampons at night—and I refuse to wear pads. They’re probably a little traumatized.
“My kids see me changing our blood-stained sheets all the time.”
For me, the best way to handle my heavy periods is to be incredibly mindful of my cycle, and make time for self-care. I love taking super hot baths with epsom salts, and I always get a massage the week before I’m about to get my period. I’m so achy and crampy and my headaches are so bad, and the massages really help—especially because my masseuse massages my abdomen. It feels so good. Also, while I’m normally a cardio person, I switch up my routine to include more yoga and mindfulness meditation the week before my period. It helps me feel more grounded. And I always use a heating pad when I come from work, because my lower back hurts and my cramps are so bad. That’s another way my family knows my period is here. They’ll say, ‘Oh, the heating pad is out—watch out!’"—Kelly, 39
Heavy periods don't have to rule your life. Head to to get more info about AUB and the NovaSure procedure, and to find a way of managing your period that works best for you and your lifestyle.
This article is presented in partnership with Hologic.
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