15 Things that Could be Causing Longer Periods

| Women's Health

heavy menstrual bleeding
(Photo: The Health Site)

We all dread those 4 to 7 days of cramping, bloating, and feelings of general discomfort, but some women are suffering on a whole different level. If you are experiencing irregular or heavy bleeding lasting longer than one week, you may actually have a more severe problem occurring in your body. We've compiled a list of the most common causes of heavy bleeding, and why suffering from some of these may warrant a trip to your gynecologist ASAP!

Menorrhagia: If you are soaking through your pad or tampon every couple hours, and have to get up several times in the night to switch them out, this may be a sign that you suffer from menorrhagia. Menorrhagia is the most common form of abnormal bleeding from the uterus, and is mostly caused by hormonal imbalances. (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

New stressors: Changes in your every day life like a new diet, illness, exercise regime or even a shift in your weight, can introduce stress into your life. Remember that everything in moderation is okay, but if you overload yourself with anxiety and worrying, that shift in stress levels could take its toll on your menstrual cycle. (via Everyday Health)

Hormone-based birth control: The combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin found in birth control pills have the ability to tinker with your body, even after you've stopped taking them. It's not abnormal to have extended periods, or even no periods at all, during the first 6 months after you discontinue your pill. (via Cleveland Clinic)

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Pregnancy complications: Miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies (a pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb) are commonly associated with abnormally long periods. In fact, it is believed that long menstrual cycles increase the rate of miscarriage by 130%. (via journal on Epidemiology)

Dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB): DUB typically occurs in women over the age of 40, and refers to dysfunctional hormones, which leads to the deterioration of the uterine lining. This can result in irregular bleeding or spotting and prolonged periods. (via National Institutes of Health)

Uterine fibroids: These are common, non-cancerous growths that develop in the wall of the uterus. While they can be the size of a gum ball, they can also get as large as a melon, so it is important to treat them as soon as you develop symptoms. The most recurrent symptom is prolonged and painful menstrual cycles. (via Society of Interventional Radiology)

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Endometrial hyperplasia: This refers to the abnormal thickening of the uterine wall due to a hormone imbalance, which leads to a heavy, prolonged periods. While it is not a serious condition in its initial phases, it could eventually morph into uterine cancer, so it is important to get it treated by your doctor right away. (via The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

Uterine polyps: This common abnormality of the uterine lining develops after a period, when new lining is growing back. Polyps are areas that grow too much, and these fan-like appearances can cause heavy menstrual cycles or off-cycle spotting and bleeding. (via OBGYN.net)

Ovarian cysts: Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the ovaries. Polycystic ovaries are a variation which are most commonly associated with irregular and heavy bleeding. These cysts occur when eggs within the sacs are not released during menstruation, and the sacs continue to grown until many cysts are created. (via Office on Women's Health)

Bleeding disorder or problems with clotting: Bleeding disorders, where the blood does not clot properly, affect 1 out of every 100 people in the United States. Women in particular are able to recognize this issue, as one of the primary symptoms a heavy, persistent period. (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Infection: Infections in the uterus, like pelvic inflammatory disease, occur when bacteria from the vagina travels into the womb, tubes, or ovaries. One of the most prevalent symptoms of infection is an extended menstruation, or spotting in between periods. Luckily, these infections are treatable by prescribed antibiotics. (via The New York Times: Health Guide)

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Glandular issues: Adrenal gland problems are the result of the production of too many hormones. Women who suffer from the genetic disorder Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) are at risk for heavy cycles because of the rapid release of hormones into the reproductive system. (via National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)

Thyroid functioning: Longer, more painful menstrual cycles can be a sign that you have hypothyroidism, and your thyroid hormones are in short supply. Without your thyroid to regulate your body, your periods will be heavier and there's a good chance those cramps are going to hit pretty hard. (via Fox News: Health)

Polymenorrhea: This is a condition where the menstrual cycle is not as long as it should be, or around 21 days or less instead of 28 days. This causes short and irregular burst of ovulation that can disrupt a woman's entire life, and even cause infertility. If you believe that you may be suffering from polymenorrhea, you should consult with your doctor right away. (via Women's Health)

Cancer: Research has shown that women who have prolonged periods have more than double the risk of ovarian cancer. If you are constantly suffering from irregular periods, it may be time to get yourself screened for cancer. (via WebMD)

If you believe that you are at risk for any of these conditions, you should consult your physician right away. Receiving the proper diagnosis and treatment could lead you to the shorter, lighter periods that you've always wanted!