Yesterday Lena Dunham posted a photo of herself on Instagram looking utterly disinterested as she walked by paparazzi taking her photo (go Lena). She cited multiple reasons for her blasé vibe, but one was that she has had her period for a whopping 13 days. Oof. Reading that caption reminded of my own periods (pre-hormonal IUD) when I would get sporadic periods that couldn’t manage any consistency. Not only would my period pop up at different times during the month, but they were famously known around my house (famous because I wouldn’t stop talking about it) for staying anywhere from 10-15 days. These days were not only pre-IUD, but pre-THINX, so I spent multiple (!) weeks with damp and stained undies, thick pads and a tampon always within reach. So why were Lena and myself graced with a stubborn period? It could be a series of factors, but there are several conditions that you may want to ask your doctor about:
Extra long periods isn’t always just a symptom-- you may have menorrhagia, or a period with extended or heavy bleeding longer than 7 days. The blood loss, along with cramping, may be so painful that you cannot go forth with your day to day activities. Menorrhagia is on the more severe side-- one of the symptoms being that you soak through a pad or tampon every hour, and often need to get up during the night to change your pad. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue. If you think you may have menorrhagia, make an appointment with your doctor, because it is treatable! Hormonal IUD’s and iron supplements are just several of the treatment options, and you can ask a medical professional which one is right for you.
Polymenorrhea is irregular menstruation, often when you have a period for more than 8 days, and is found to be more common than menorrhagia. This can be brought on by simple factors, including stress, medications, or excessive exercise. More serious reasons can be because of dysfunctional uterine bleeding or having a short luteal phase. While there is technically no treatment for polymenorrhea itself, you can create the underlying conditions that are causing it, including the proper medication, stress management and a new diet.
DYSFUNCTIONAL UTERINE BLEEDING (DUB)
DUB is often shown through heavy, lengthy periods, and most often affects women over the age of 40 (also, menopause can be a cause of long periods)! DUB is often a sign of hormone dysfunction, so doctors will often treat it with hormones, including progesterone and estrogen. DUB can be classified as ovulatory or anovulatory, and depends on whether you are currently ovulating. The type of birth hormonal birth control used can affect the uterine lining and manage hormones so your period is more predictable and lighter. Speak with a doctor to talk about your cycle and what method of treatment would be best for you. Be mindful that while this is commonly a menstrual disorder, it could be a symptom to an issue that doesn’t involve menstruation.
Now, what should we all take away from all of this (hint: not to be so overwhelmed by this info that you call your doctor immediately in a panic! Unless you want to! We’re not here to judge/scare you!)? Remember that every menstrual cycle is different, and therefore, the length and recurrence of your period will often differ from your friends. If your period lasts longer than a week, or experienced extremely heavy bleeding, or perhaps experienced menstrual pain so bad you can’t get out of bed, talking to your doctor should be the best way to give yourself a piece of mind and the right treatment for your unique body (periods are like snowflakes--right? You get it, I’ll stop.)