How to cope with heavy periods during perimenopause
2 December 2022
Do periods get heavier with age?
Yes, periods can definitely get heavier with age which is usually due to perimenopause. The symptoms of Perimenopausal periods can have a major disruptive impact on women's lives. The fluctuation and decrease in hormone levels including oestrogen as we reach menopause and the end of our fertility can trigger this heavier flow.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a transitional stage just prior to menopause when your reproductive organs are slowing down and hormones are fluctuating. It can last a few months to a few years, and just like puberty it ranges in the age of onset.
Perimenopause announces its arrival with a long list of perimenopausal symptoms - some are more common than others - bladder issues, mood swings, anxiety, depression, brain fog, sore boobs, heavy menstrual bleeding and irregular periods.
Other common symptoms and signs of perimenopause include changes to your taste, smell, hair, nails, body odour, weight gain, trouble sleeping, loss of libido and with it self esteem and confidence, vaginal dryness, dry eyes, mouth, hot flushes, palpitations, night sweats, trouble concentrating.
It sounds like something we should be taught about and prepared for, symptoms that should be listened to and acted upon. However even though menopause will happen to half of the human race we, and our doctors, seem to be ill prepared and unaware.
One of the problems that I hear about time and time again working at cheeky wipes and answering our period advice questionnaire is changes to periods leading to extra heavy period flow, unpredictable menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding with flooding and clotting. Some customers report that they set alarms to change their disposable protection in the night.
How heavy is a heavy period?
A heavy period is classed as heavy if a change of protection is required hourly for more than two hours.
After ten years of reusable pads I wore some disposable pads this month. I was changing '10hr pads' every two hours and was still leaking. I am definitely into the perimenopausal hormone swing!
Heavy periods lead to flooding, it is no fun trying to function normally whilst gushing blood. My GP went so far as to offer me a D&C!
How to cope with extra heavy periods during perimenopause:
1. Keep supplies handy!
2. Use reusable pants and pads
3. Backup cups with washable pants and pads
4. Bulk up on iron
5. Track your periods
6. Blood stain tips and tricks
If your periods have become unpredictable and can arrive unannounced or can get suddenly heavier, stashing mini wetbags with emergency pants or pads or tampons in your car, handbag, work drawer, locker, gym bag can help you to feel more confident.
Wearing disposable pads for extended long, heavy periods or 'just incase' as you never know when to expect your cycle to start can lead to irritation as well as wasting money and adding to landfill unnecessarily. Reusable sanitary pads and period pants last longer and are more absorbent so you can rely on them more. As you can wash them and reuse them you will never run out. Have a read of how to care for reusable pants and pads here.
Make sure to buy for heavy flow and change when needed.
Reusable sanitary pads and period pants work perfectly if you use tampons or a cup and find you are leaking when you have a sudden perimenopausal flood.
Bleeding heavily can result in iron deficiency. Lots of breakfast cereals and breads are fortified with iron so along with iron rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, milk, apples, steak you can try to stave off the tiredness and fatigue that comes with excessive bleeding. If you feel you might be anemic your doctor can prescribe iron tablets.
Your menstrual periods may be more unpredictable than you think. My cycle has changed from 28 days to a pretty regular 24 days with the odd 18 day cycle thrown in when I assume I don't ovulate. By downloading one of the many apps to track your periods you can feel more in control of your cycle.
Getting blood out of clothes can be easy as long as you know how! You need to keep it cold.
Heating up blood causes it to set as a stain. Stick to a cold rinse, maybe give a scrub with a soap bar (any will do but I keep a vanish soap bar next to my laundry room sink).
You can soak period underwear and pads in cold water with some salt - age old blood remover - some washing detergent or stain remover. Wash cold at max 30 degrees and line dry. This goes for anything you may have leaked onto - jeans, bedding, towels etc.
For larger items like your work chair, mattress or sofa cold scrub with a bit of soap or salt!
Can HRT help with the symptoms of perimenopause?
Yes! HRT can help with the symptoms of perimenopause. Keep a track of your symptoms and have a chat with your GP. Davina Mcall in partnership with Dr Naomi Potter has helped to make great strides in treatment options and has empowered women to go and seek help early on.
Hormone replacement therapy is thought to decrease the risk of suffering from alzheimers and parkinsons alongside helping with the syptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
Some previous studies linked HRT to an increased risk of breast cancer in some people so GPs became reluctant to prescribe it. Oestrogen only HRT has no increased risk and the combined HRT has a small increased risk.
When should I be concerned about perimenopausal bleeding?
You should be concerned about perimenopausal bleeding and get checked out if you have sudden changes or your menstrual flow and bleeding is getting in the way of life.
Your GP may recommend blood tests to rule anything out such as uterine fibroids, refer you on if needed or recommend something to reduce the flow -
- mirena coil
- hormone therapy (HRT)
- The contraceptive pill
- tranexamic acid
- mefanemic acid
- endometrial ablation
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As always, if you're unsure of what you need to make the switch to reusable sanitary products and period pads, please do drop the team a line or use the online chat function. The team all use the products themselves and just LOVE to chat pee poo and periods, all day long, nothing is TMI and we all love to overshare based on our own experiences...
About the Author: Kirstin Scriven is part of the Customer Experience team at Cheeky Wipes, which since 2008 has been selling the original reusable wipes kit. She is mum to 3 and loves the forest, the sea and the hills!
Along with the rest of our crack team, she spends most days talking about poo, pee and periods and loves a chance to overshare. The business was recognised with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2021, celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.