What Exactly Is A ‘Heavy Flow’?

As a period care company, we get asked often if the reusable period products we make work for a heavy flow. In a word: YES.

So what exactly is a ‘heavy flow’?

A period is the shedding of the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus that grows each cycle to support a potential pregnancy. A typical period can range from 4 – 5 days long, with a common loss of menstrual blood being 30 – 44 ml (about 2 – 3 tablespoons). There will be times that will be less typical, like right after menarche (someone’s first period), after pregnancy, and during perimenopause (the years leading up to someone’s last period). And there are so many variables that can affect a person’s menstrual cycle include hormones and contraceptives. So it’s important for menstruators to get familiar with their own bodies and cycles in order to understand what is a typical heavy flow, and what is an abnormal heavy flow (menorrhagia).

It is common for a typical period to go from a heavy flow in the first couple of days, to a light flow in the last few days. If someone needs reusable period products for their heavy flow days, we recommend our XO Flo menstrual cups for internal protection (XO Flo is one of the highest capacity period cups on the market), and a variety of our cloth Day and Overnight Pads.

GladRags Heavy Flow Value Kit

What is menorrhagia?

A heavy flow is likely normal and nothing of concern. Sometimes a heavy flow can have underlying causes such as uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, adenomyosis, or endometriosis. This kind of heavy menstrual bleeding can impact someone’s quality of life and can cause anemia. One in five menstruators in the USA experience menorrhagia. Menorrhagia (excessive heavy menstrual bleeding) would be a period that lasts longer than 7 days, and regularly has over 80 ml (4 -6 tablespoons) of blood loss. If someone is soaking through high capacity tampons or pads every two hours, or passing clots larger than the size of a quarter, that would be considered heavy menstrual bleeding, and a medical provider should be consulted.

Know your flow!

If someone is unsure if their period is a normal heavy flow, or might be menorrhagia, the best thing they can do is pay attention to their own cycles. Quantify the flow with a menstrual cup or by how often a pad or tampon needs to be changed. Periods are an important health indicator, so it’s good to know your flow! If your heavy flow feels excessive, or if you have other symptoms like severe cramps or fatigue, consult with a medical provider, and take care of yourself, please.

A person's bare feet on a tiled floor with a splash of blood on the tiles.
image credit Monika Kozub via Unsplash