How much blood is too much?

Have you ever wondered just how much menstrual blood you lose per period? What about over a lifetime? If your worried that you’re losing too much blood when it comes to your period, then it might surprise you to know that you aren’t losing as much as you might think (although it sure does feel like it!).

The average woman will lose between 30 - 40 ml of period blood per cycle (about 3 tablespoons), lasting for 4-6 days. See, not that much! The color of your period blood will also vary, but that's normal. Generally, you’ll see brown blood at the beginning and end of your period, and brighter blood during the middle of your period. If your period tends to go longer than 6 days, then that’s okay. Some women bleed up to 10 days!

How do you determine how much period blood you’re losing each period? Well, blood loss during menstruation can vary among different women depending on a number of certain factors, like women who are taller, have had children, and are in perimenopause have the heaviest flow. (Perimenopause occurs shortly before the stage of menopause, and during this time approximately 25% of women will have at least one heavy period).

So, you know you aren’t literally going to bleed to death, but let's dive a little deeper into your period and why a lot of women are worried they are losing too much period blood.

What does it mean if I have a heavy period?

We always make a point to say that everyone's period is different, and it’s true. Maybe you’re used to having a heavy flow, or this is a once in a blue moon experience. So, how do you know if you’re losing to much period blood?

Well, you should never feel overly week or unable to go about your daily routine because of your period. If you have very heavy bleeding, period clots, soaking through a pad or tampon hourly, or feeling very faint due to blood loss, you may have a condition called Menorrhagia.  This is when your period flow is more than 80ml per period.

What causes it? It’s not always easy to determine what causes a woman to have a heavy period, but Menorrhagia is most common in teens and in women who are experiencing perimenopause. That’s not to say that women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s won’t experience a heavy period. Again, you can thank your hormones for this. It means that the estrogen levels in your body tend to be higher and your progesterone levels lower.

In order to help determine if you have heavy menstrual bleeding, you can use the following as a guideline:

  1. One soaked, normal-sized pad or tampon holds about 5 ml of blood.
  2. Grab a diary and keep it handy during your period.
  3. Write down how many period products you go through a day.

Generally, a very heavy menstrual bleeding means soaking 12 or more pads or tampons in one period. If you find that you are going through more than 12 period products per period, then it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor as it may be the cause of something more serious like fibroids, endometriosis, polyps, or cancer. Keep in mind that using 12 tampons a cycle is very different than soaking through 12 products. Regardless of if your pad or tampon is full, you should still be changing it every few hours!

What should I do?

If you experience a heavy flow then there are some simple steps you can take to ease the effects of symptoms you might experience while on your period.

Increase your iron intake from foods

When you lose a large amount of blood, your iron levels can drop, making you feel fatigued and sluggish. Some examples of high iron foods are: red meat, liver, egg yolks, deep green vegetables and dried fruits like raisins and prunes. These types of foods can help increase your iron intake!

Increase salty fluids and drink more liquids

If blood volume is low in your body you may feel dizzy or light headed. To help get rid of that feeling, drink more liquids and increase the salty fluids you drink such as tomato or other vegetable juices or salty broths.  

Take an ibuprofen

Ibuprofen can help decrease your period flow by 25-30% and will also help you alleviate some of the pain of period cramps. You can take an ibuprofen every 4-6 hours during your period.

Speak to your doctor

If you are experiencing a heavy period and it’s interfering with your regular schedule, it might be worth making an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist. Your doctor can run any relevant tests and rule out any serious conditions. They’ll also be able to help you find different options that work best for you to help manage your period!

So, it’s not exactly a walk in the park but it’s also good to know that you're not alone. If you are experiencing heavy periods and they are starting to worry you, or you feel as though you are losing too much blood, check in with your doctor or follow some of the tips above!