Passing blood clots during your menstrual cycle is often a normal occurrence during the heaviest days of your period. In fact, most women experience clots at some point in their lives; however, heavy bleeding and passing large clots can sometimes be a cause for concern.
Are huge blood clots normal during your period? What other symptoms can you look out for to ensure that more worrisome health conditions aren’t occurring?
Menorrhagia is defined as menstrual bleeding that can be heavier than usual. If you’re changing your tampon every two hours or sooner, or are passing blood clots the size of a quarter or larger, you may be suffering from heavy periods. This is uncomfortable and often painful, and many women suffer from the debilitating symptoms that come from heavy periods.
There are numerous potential reasons that your period is getting heavier and you’re passing abnormal period clots, and the good news is that many of the conditions and reasons for these symptoms are both common and treatable.
Here are seven reasons why you may be passing big blood clots and experiencing heavier-than-normal periods:
1. Thyroid Conditions
Your thyroid is the gland in your neck responsible for hormone production and distribution. If it’s not functioning properly, it can wreak havoc on your cycle. Conditions like hypothyroid (producing too little thyroid hormone) or hyperthyroid (producing too much thyroid hormone) can impact the flow and severity of your menstrual cycle. In order to properly diagnose a thyroid condition, your doctor should run a thyroid panel, often called a TSH panel, to assess your thyroid’s health. Doctors can also test to see your levels of T3 and T4 hormone and run anti-thyroid antibody panels to see if you have an underlying autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Grave’s disease.
2. Polyps and Fibroids
Growths like polyps and fibroids can settle in the uterus and its lining and can cause your period to become heavier and longer than usual. There are many types of benign fibroids, but submucosal fibroids (fibroids that grow inside the uterine cavity) are the most likely to cause heavy bleeding and large clotting. Uterine polyps that grow on the cervix or in the lining of the uterus can also be a factor in heavy clotting. If you’re experiencing heavy bleeding, large blood clots during your period or lower back pain, it could be a uterine obstruction like a fibroid.
3. Birth Control
If you recently started a new form of birth control and are passing large blood clots during periods, your method of birth control could be a contributing factor. Some forms of birth control, like non-hormonal IUDs, can cause heavier-than-normal periods and clots in some women. If you have an IUD and are experiencing heavy clotting and bleeding, talk to your doctor about your symptoms to find out if this is the right form of birth control for you.
Like birth control, there are many over-the-counter and prescribed medications that can contribute to heavy periods with clots. Anti-inflammatory medications, hormonal medications (like estrogen and progestins) and anticoagulants can contribute to abnormal menstrual flow and bleeding. If you’re passing giant blood clots during periods, try to take inventory of the medications you’re taking and ask your doctor about their potential side effects.
In the initial stages of pregnancy, if there is a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (which is when a fetus begins to form outside of the uterus), it can oftentimes be confused for a heavier-than-usual period clot. An early loss of a pregnancy can lead to larger-than-usual blood clots as well.
Endometriosis results when tissues that normally grow inside of your uterus develop outside of the uterine cavity. This can cause heavy clotting and bleeding during your cycle, abdominal pain and severe cramps. It can be very painful and hard to diagnose, but several treatments can make this chronic illness more manageable.
7. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Another condition that can cause heavy clots and bleeding during your cycle, PCOS, is a common hormone imbalance. Follicles form on the ovaries, which fail to release eggs regularly, resulting in irregular periods.
Other Chronic Conditions
There are plenty of less-common chronic conditions that can affect your period and make it heavier than it should be: various thyroid diseases, adenomyosis, blood disorders like Von Willebrand disease, certain types of cancers and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (or PID).
If you are worried that your period may be heavier than normal, filling out a period tracking chart as it’s happening may be helpful for your doctor to diagnose your symptoms.
It’s important to talk to an experienced specialist about your concerns so that you can get the relief you deserve. At Advanced Gynecology our physicians are experts in menorrhagia, and we’re here to help.