A woman checks off a long line of calendar days with red pen

What To Do When Your Period Lasts More Than 10 Days

Currently, I’m on the tenth day of my period. And I only realized this when, suddenly, I ran out of pads (since I haven’t had any periods in two years - thanks progestin). It turns out, I had forgotten the level of planning required when living with endometriosis. For a long time, I was free from worrying about the number of pads and tampons I kept in my drawers. I also didn’t need a backup stash in every other bag I owned, and there were no painkillers in my purse. But those days are over.

Having a period that lasts more than a week is certainly no fun

And, while I am not losing huge amounts of blood, it’s been quite draining. Yet, in my case, I sort of expected it would happen. Firstly, because when you have endometriosis, long-lasting, even heavy periods can be part of the experience. But also because I am coming off the hormones I’ve happily relied on for the last two years, and irregular periods may occur, while my body adjusts to the changes.

Yet, experiencing long periods is not something we should generally ignore

Especially if these longer bleeds happen all of a sudden. Bleeding for more than ten days could be a sign of another underlying condition. Additionally, if a long period results in a much heavier blood loss than usual, there is the risk of developing anemia. Bleeding heavily for a long while will also contribute to feelings of tiredness or fatigue, causing brain fog and affecting daily life.

What causes longer than average periods?

Long periods can happen due to a number of reasons. For example, medication such as aspirin and other blood thinners, anti-inflammatories, and intrauterine devices can result in prolonged bleeding. Fibroids or polyps can also be the cause behind extended periods. An underactive thyroid can cause irregular bleeding, and hormonal changes such as those happening during ovulation, or perimenopause, will also be behind these sorts of irregularities.

For some patients, a prolonged period may be the sign of cancer of the uterus or cervix.

What to do if we are losing too much blood

If you need to change a pad or tampon one to two times per hour, for several days, it's time to talk to a doctor, especially, if you are feeling light-headed because of blood loss.

A doctor will probably ask for specific information, like when your period started, the number of pads or tampons you’ve used, and if there are other symptoms, such as fatigue. It will also be worth mentioning any sexual activity you’ve had.

If you're on hormonal medication, this is also something your doctor should be made aware of. When I first went on the progesterone-only pill, I lost incredible amounts of blood. My endometriosis specialist deemed this pill unsuitable for me and put me on the progestin.

Depending on your history and the length of the period, your doctor may want to run some tests, including pelvic ultrasounds or pap smears.

If your doctor determines that your iron levels are low due to blood loss, they may advise you to level up your diet with iron-rich foods. Sometimes they may even prescribe an iron supplement.

It’s important to recognize how disrupting long periods are

Whether there is an underlying condition causing these symptoms, or it is just a one-off irregularity, long periods are no joke. They can be quite painful, draining, and overall quite life-disrupting.

It’s important to recognize that episodes like these interfere with both our physical and mental health. There is no shame in missing days of school or work by choosing to stay in bed, or decline to do anything that requires energy you may not have.

The rule of thumb when it comes to problematic periods is to take it easy. And talk to a doctor when it’s too tough to manage.

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