October 29, 2018

Menstrual Clots During Heavy Periods: What’s Normal & What’s Not?

The Short Answer from a women's health practitioner

A person lying in bed with head on pillow.

Q: Are menstrual clots during heavy periods normal?

A. If you notice on heavy days of your period that blood seems extra-thick, and can sometimes form a jelly-like glob, these are menstrual clots, a mix of blood and tissue released from your uterus during your period.

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They can vary in size and color, and usually, they are nothing to worry about.

Most of the time, menstrual clots are normal, but some symptoms can signal other health concerns.

The color of a menstrual clot, which can range from bright to deeper red, doesn’t matter as much as the size. If you’re noticing menstrual clots larger than a quarter, especially if you are soaking pads every hour, talk to your health practitioner.

The clotting is the body’s way of protecting us, but if it happening frequently, you need to pay attention.

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Watch for these other symptoms if you experience heavy flow and menstrual clots:

  • Significant pain
  • Anemia (easy bruising)
  • Accidents on clothing and sheets
  • Clots increasing in size

Commonly, the cause of heavy bleeding is structural or hormonal.

Possible causes include fibroids, polyps, ovaries failing to release eggs, bleeding disorders, thyroid disorders, or, more rarely, uterine, cervical or endometrial cancer.

To narrow down the cause, your health practitioner likely will start by taking your medical history and performing a physical. Imaging may be needed to look inside the uterus. If there’s a cancer risk, a biopsy of the uterus also may be necessary.

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Treatment depends on the cause; surgery may be needed if the problem is structural, while ibuprofen can help reduce bleeding and pain. Hormones may be helpful as well.

I strongly suggest lifestyle changes to help women regulate their cycles. This means a focus on physical activity and eating well, particularly eating less processed food.

Danielle Wehn, PA-C

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