Period Blood Clots: What It Is and When You Should Be Worried
A lot of us are used to seeing blood clots during that time of the month. Most of us even expect it, especially during the heaviest day.
During your period, your uterus sheds its lining, and some of this might come out in quarter-sized clumps, which is fine, so long as it doesn’t happen often.
Heavy bleeding that comes in the form of large period blood clots, does have its effects, one of which is anemia.
When is Period Blood Clots or Heavy Bleeding Considered Normal
So what’s normal and what’s not?
Naturally, after childbirth, you will experience some bleeding. This bleeding is called lochia and is heaviest the first day to a few days after your baby arrives.
Your body is trying to get rid of all that “bad” blood that remained after your baby got born.
It comes in a bright red colour and might also come in clots.
This is one of those times when experts agree period blood clots are usually not a cause for concern, you might want to check with your doctor if it bothers you.
You should definitely call your doctor if this heavy bleeding doesn’t reduce after a few days. Continuous heavy bleeding after childbirth is called postpartum hemorrhage and affects 5% of women.
Another time when heavy bleeding should also not make any alarm bells go off is when you have your first period after childbirth.
This bleeding will be heavier than your regular periods and you may also notice some blood clots during this time as well.
You might also notice some other changes like your next period coming a little early or later than usual as it takes a little while for your menstrual cycle to get back to the at it was.
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When You Should Be Worried About Period Blood Clots
Not all cases of period blood clots are innocent, and some are your body’s way of telling you all is not quite well inside you. When there is an underlying health issue, this heavy bleeding or blood clots are usually one of the symptoms that point to this.
Here are seven of such health issues that can cause unusually heavy bleeding or produce period blood clots:
1) You Have Uterine Fibroids
Having uterine fibroids is another reason women experience heavy bleeding and likely period blood clots.
Fibroids, also called uterine leiomyomas or myomas, are non-cancerous tumours that could either grow inside or around the uterus.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroid
Besides heavy bleeding and moderate to large period blood clots, other symptoms you might have fibroids are:
- Irregular periods
- Prolonged periods (lasting over a week)
- Severe cramps
- Pressure n your lower abdomen
- Pain during intercourse
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Low energy levels
- Possible infertility
What Causes Uterine Fibroids
Fibroids are more common during your reproductive years 30 – 40 and are caused by a few factors including a change or imbalance in your primary reproductive hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and genetics.
Who is at Risk of Uterine Fibroids
Every woman of childbearing age has some risk of developing fibroids as 40 -80% of women of childbearing age will before they turn 50. However, you are slightly at an increased risk if you are a woman of African-American descent, have a family history of fibroids, have no kids, started your periods quite early, or are obese.
How is Fibroid Treated
Upon diagnosis, your doctor will typically lay out the best treatment option for you.
The severity of these symptoms is determined by where it appears and how large they are. Luckily, fibroids can be managed or treated through a range of treatment options including hormonal birth control, surgery, endometrial ablation, myomectomy, hysterectomy, and via a more non-invasive procedure, uterine fibroid embolization.
2) You Have Thyroid Issues
Having overactive or underactive thyroid glands is another possible reason for the occurrence of period blood clots.
Your thyroid glands, located at the fro
nt of your neck, are responsible for a few functions including metabolism, temperature regulation, and development.
An underactive thyroid gland affects how well your ovaries produce progesterone, leading to a decrease in your period flow and the inability to coagulate.
Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid disorder include frequent periods, a flow with large blood clots, infrequent periods, or none at all.
Treatment for hypothyroidism includes the use of antithyroid medications that help correct this disorder or via radioactive iodine therapy.
3) You Are on Birth Control Pills
There is some risk of having period blood clots when you use birth control pills, however, this risk is reportedly low as only one in 3,000 women on birth control pills go on to develop blood clots.
Birth control pills affect your period by causing a change in your menstrual bleeding patterns, especially when you just get on them.
You may experience some other life-impacting symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty speaking, a rapid heartbeat, and swellings in your calf region.
You should call your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms present, or again if you pass out blood clots larger than a quarter.
4) You Are Having an Early Miscarriage
A miscarriage is another reason that could cause blood clots during your period. A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss that occurs before 20 weeks and is quite common as an estimated 15% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage.
Also, most miscarriages occur before you are even aware you are pregnant. Most women just chalk the blood flow to their regular periods, unless this blood flows for an extended period and produces too many large blood clots.
I had a miscarriage over two years ago and also didn’t know while it happened. However, my suspicion arose when the flow refused to cease after five days and was coming out more as large blood clots that left me dizzy and weak.
A visit to my doctor and a test later confirmed my suspicions. By this time I had bled for over three weeks and was advised to undergo an evacuation.
Like pregnancy, a miscarriage differs from one woman to the other. While I bled for over three weeks, most times passing out large tissues, some women just experience severe cramps and bleed a few hours. However, the one thing that never changes in all cases of miscarriages is that you will pass out large period blood clots as your body tries to expel the tissue.
5) You Are on Certain Medications
Using certain medications will also produce this same effect, especially when you use them over an extended period.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, hormonal medications like progestins and estrogen, and anticoagulants are some medications that could cause clots during your period.
6) Hormonal Imbalance
The hormones regulate almost every activity in the body and an imbalance in one or more will disrupt the natural state of things.
There is a balance between the primary female hormones estrogen and progesterone that has to exist for you to have a regular period, among other things. When this balance is off, there will be a likely buildup of the lining of the uterus. This lining is shed during your period, leading to overly heavy bleeding or skipped periods.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is yet another cause of hormone imbalances that also promote heavy bleeding. PCOS is characterized by high levels of androgens, the male hormone that disrupts your regular female hormone levels and consequently produces irregular periods.
7) You Have a Blood Disorder
You could also have a protein in your blood called the von Willebrand factor that’s responsible for that excessive bleeding. The disorder is called the Von Willebrand disease (VWD) and is characterized by unusually heavy and long bleeding that could lead to other health complications for you.
Complications of Heavy Bleeding and Prolonged Blood Clots
Heavy bleeding, also called menorrhagia, leads to anemia when not properly treated or managed. Treatment for it starts with the right diagnosis after which your doctor places you on the right treatment plan to manage the situation.
How to Stop Heavy Periods with Blood Clots
Before finding the best treatment plan for you, some immediate remedies to manage this situation include
- Changing your pads or tampons regularly to keep from getting stained. In my case, I took to using newborn-sized diapers, and yes, it wasn’t as comfortable as the other options, but I stayed home throughout the miscarriage, seeing as I was working from home, so this worked just fine for me.
- Drinking some extra fluids so you don’t become dehydrated. It is recommended you take in 3 -4 extra glasses of water to replenish the amount you are losing.
If it helps, you could start with one or two glasses early in the morning and set a few reminders throughout the day.