Experience heavy periods? Your complete coping guide, ft. advice from 3 menstrual experts

67% of you said you had - let these tips ease you through your TOTM.

Heavy periods: Some sanitary pads on a red background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

67% of you said you had - let these tips ease you through your TOTM.

Did you know? New research from Active Iron found that 43% of women have stopped exercise at some point in their lives due to fatigue from heavy periods.

67% of the women surveyed said they'd experienced heavy periods, and a further 84% have accepted disruptive menstrual cycle symptoms, like exhaustion and fatigue.

If that's you - don't worry, you're not alone. They're actually pretty common, and a bit like thrush symptoms and bacterial vaginosis symptoms, can be easier to manage with a few simple tips and tricks.

Read our guides to vaginal care tips, how to use a tampon and the link between menstrual changes and the Covid vaccine, while you're here, and don't miss our explainer on irregular period reasons, either. For your complete guide to heavy periods - keep scrolling.

Heavy periods: your complete coping guide 

What classifies as a heavy period?

In other words, how do you know if you have one? "A ‘heavy' period is defined medically as anything more than 80ml per cycle - that's 30 to 40ml for regular periods," explains Evie Plumb, an ACET-qualified sex educator and Here We Flo’s digital and creative strategist.

That being said, it's obviously difficult for you to measure the amount of blood you're bleeding, so she recommends looking out for other symptoms, too. Like?

  • Having to double up on period products.
  • Soaking through your pads and tampons every hour for a few hours in a row.
  • Having to change products in the night.
  • Collecting more than 30ml in your menstrual cup.
  • Fully soaking 6+ regular/3+ super tampons or pads.
  • Bleeding through your pants.

Plus, as if you're a woman who can’t get through a training session without changing her tampon or pad, you're likely experiencing a heavy flow, or so says doctor Bella Smith, co-founder of The Well.

Heavy periods: Young woman on bed with hot water bottle on tummy

How many women suffer from heavy periods?

According to Bupa figures, one in three people who menstruate suffer from heavy periods, otherwise known as menorrhagia. "Many people don't realise this it's actually a medical condition," shares Plumb.

Interestingly, research done at the 2016 London Marathon showed that 50% of recreational runners and over 30% of elite runners had experienced heavy menstrual bleeding at some point in their lives. "From this cohort of marathoners, only 22% had sought medical advice," adds also co-founder of The Well and fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science, Emma Ross.

6 causes of heavy periods

Heavy periods can be caused by many things, share all three experts."Sadly, around half of the people suffering from heavy periods don't find a cause," explains Plumb.

Common causes for heavy bleeding are:

Note this: while every woman is different and the amount of blood lost from month to month will be different for each individual, Smith.

It’s important to know your normal, shares Plumb."Do go to the doctor if you have any new heavy bleeding as this can be a sign of gynaecological cancer, like womb or cervical cancer," the expert stresses.

Heavy periods: Young Woman Suffering Stomach At Home

6 treatments for heavy periods

In other words, do the experts have any simple tricks for coping with a heavier flow or any game-changing products to recommend?

Short answer: yes. "When it comes to heavy menstrual bleeding, there are a few things which have been shown to help," explains Plumb.

1. Ibuprofen

Painkillers like Ibuprofen - or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like naproxen, mefenamic acid or high-dose aspirin, as per the NHS website - have been shown to reduce menstrual flow by half if you take them regularly throughout your bleeding days, shares Plumb.

2. The coil

"The Mirena coil has also been shown to reduce flow by 90%, and in some women remove bleeding altogether after the first few months of being inserted, explains the expert.

Read up on the types of contraception and IUD types, while you're here, to help work out which may be best suited to you.

3. Balanced hormones

You'll have seen from our recently launched Hormone channel that balanced female hormones are pretty important - they more balanced your hormone levels are, the more optimally your body can function.

"Make sure you're eating a balanced diet, getting seven to eight hours sleep, managing chronic stress and optimism good gut bacteria to optimise your hormone levels and give yourself the best chance of lighter periods," shares Plumb.

4. The pill

Other treatments that can help include oral contraception, such as the pill or oral progesterone, she continues.

5. Tranexamic acid

Not so keen on taking the pill? One medication the reduces bleeding is called tranexamic acid. "It can help reduce the amount of blood loss with each period," Plumb explains.

6. Up your iron

While iron can't directly ease period pains, many people with heavy menstrual flows suffer from anaemia. "Eating foods high in iron can help alleviate it," explains Smith. She advises making sure you're eating lots of the following:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Legumes
  • Dried apricots
  • Dried prunes
  • Red meat.

While the aim of this article is to advise, do know that nothing can replace personalised medical advice from a qualified doctor. "The first thing to do, if you're experiencing heavier-than-usual periods, is go and see your GP," recommends Ross.

"Push for them to investigate - they can help find the cause and advise the appropriate treatment to help with the flow," she shares.

Heavy periods: Group Of Tampons Seen From A High Angle View On A Pink Background With Space For Copy

How to make heavy periods more manageable: 5 top tips

None of the above treatments quite cutting it for you? The below tips may help ease you through your TOTM. Ah, to be a woman.

1. Hone in on your nutrition

We know, we know - sometimes, being in your first menstrual cycle phase (aka, the phase where you get your monthly bleed) can make you want to order Deliveroo and binge watch friends. We've been there.

But utilising your nutrition and loading up on veggies, slow release carbs, protein and healthy fats 'gives you the best chance of lightening your periods', explains Smith.

2. Try period underwear

Ever tried period pants? If you haven't, it's about time you did, share the experts. "It can be game changing for managing your periods," shares Smith. "You may want to double up so that you wear a tampon and period underwear, too. This will prevent anxiety over leaking."

3. Try a menstrual cup

Next up: period cups. "These have a greater volume than a tampon or pad," shares Ross. "If you can get along with the insertion and removal techniques, they can be a great option for heavier bleeders," she continues. Fun fact: they'll make your period more sustainable, too.

4. Talk to your friends

One thing's for sure - most women will experience heavy periods at some point in their lives, so you are not alone.

"Talk to someone - don’t just accept this is your lot," advises Ross. "Seek help from a GP, and don’t assume that because your mother or grandmother put up with heavy periods, you have to, too."

5. Get moving

This one isn't for everyone, but if you are an active woman who finds exercise sometimes actually helps when you've got your TOTM, don't let it deter you.

"Don’t stop moving just because you have heavy periods, but if you aren’t feeling it, also give yourself permission to back off training," shares Ross.

"Periods shouldn't stop women moving their body, exercising or training," she continues. Try this: adidas have a legging that can catch leaks and modibodi have a period underwear swimming costume.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.