For most women, periods last just three to five days. But what happens if your period goes beyond the five-day mark? Should you rush out and see your doctor, or is there no cause for concern?
There are several reasons why your period may be longer than usual.
How Long Do Periods Normally Last?
For most women, their period only lasts three to five days. However, anywhere from two to seven days is considered normal.
7 Causes for a Prolonged Period
Why won’t my period go away? There are many reasons why your period may go on longer than expected. But remember that it’s not uncommon for menstruation to last seven days.
If your period is still going on after the seven-day mark, here’s why:
1. You’ve Just Started Your Period
The average cycle is 28 days, although it may be shorter or longer for some women. But in the first few years of menstruation, cycles are typically longer. As you become more regular, your cycle shortens.
Along with a longer cycle, you may also have your period for longer than average.
If you’ve just menstruating, this is likely the cause of your extended period.
Menorrhagia is a condition that can cause excessively prolonged and heavy periods that are irregular.
Heavy bleeding is a concern for many premenopausal women, but in most cases, the bleeding isn’t heavy enough to be considered menorrhagia. In other words, this condition causes serious blood loss.
Women with menorrhagia lose so much blood and their periods last so long that they cannot maintain their normal activities.
Common symptoms of menorrhagia include:
- Bleeding for more than seven days.
- Soaking through at least one tampon or sanitary pad every hour for several hours.
- Needing to wear two sanitary pads to control your menstrual flow.
- Anemia (severe fatigue, tiredness, and shortness of breath).
- Unable to maintain normal activities.
- Needing to change sanitary pads or tampons in the middle of the night.
Adenomyosis occurs when the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus, starts to break through the wall of the uterus. This condition may be confined to one spot, or it may be located throughout the entire uterus.
While not considered life-threatening, the condition can cause some very uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Prolonged and very heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Abdominal bloating and pressure.
- Severe pain and cramping.
Adenomyosis is a common condition, and it is typically diagnosed in women who have had children and middle-aged women.
Women who have had uterine surgery may also be at higher risk of developing this condition.
4. Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding
When uterine bleeding is abnormal, a condition called dysfunctional uterine bleeding may be the cause. As its name suggests, this condition occurs when there’s a disruption to the normal cyclic pattern of the endometrial lining.
Common symptoms include:
- Unpredictable bleeding
- Excessive bleeding
- Prolonged periods
Approximately 1-2% of women who do not seek treatment for this condition will develop endometrial cancer.
5. Endometrial Hyperplasia
Endometrial hyperplasia occurs when the uterine lining is too thick. In most cases, excess estrogen and too little progesterone is what causes this condition.
When ovulation does not occur, the body does not make progesterone, and the lining of the uterus does not shed. As a result, the uterine lining continues to grow. The cells that make up the lining may cluster together and eventually become abnormal.
Common symptoms of this condition include:
- Heavy and/or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
- Shorter menstrual cycles (less than 21 days).
- Bleeding after menopause.
Endometrial hyperplasia can be treated with progestin, or synthetic progestogen.
Uterine fibroids are common among women of reproductive age. This condition occurs when benign tumors begin growing in the womb.
Depending on the severity of the condition, you may or may not experience any symptoms. Those that do have symptoms will often experience:
- Constipation and frequent urination
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Pain in the back and legs
- Pressure in the pelvis
Hormonal therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of this condition and shrink the fibroid tumors.
7. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Hormonal imbalance can lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome, better known as PCOS. Over time, the imbalance can lead to a variety of symptoms, including:
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Amenorrhea (absence of period)
- Excessive hair growth on the face, chest, back and stomach
With PCOS, testosterone levels are higher than normal, which can lead to issues with fertility and a host of other symptoms.
PCOS can be managed, so speak to your doctor about your treatment options.
Certain thyroid conditions can also cause your period to last longer than normal. The thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism.
Periods that are longer, heavier and more painful than normal may be a sign of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Weight gain
- Irregular periods
- Sensitivity to cold
- Sexual dysfunction
Thyroid conditions can be treated or managed through medication or surgery. If you have any of the above symptoms, see your doctor right away to discuss treatment options.
9. Ectopic Pregnancy
If you are bleeding for more than a week, your period may not be to blame. Ectopic pregnancy can cause similar symptoms, and treatment must be sought right away.
A pregnancy test can confirm whether the bleeding is caused by an ectopic pregnancy.
When to See a Doctor
If your period is lasting longer than seven days, see your doctor right away. Bleeding for more than a week is abnormal.
Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- Severe pain
- Heavy bleeding
- Pressure in the pelvis
- Symptoms that prevent you from carrying out your normal activities
Prolonged periods are often a sign of abnormality in the growth and shedding of the uterine lining. Hormonal imbalance is often to blame, but your doctor will provide you with a proper diagnosis and a proper treatment plan.
How to Stop a Long (Prolonged) Period
If your period lasts for more than seven days, you may be searching for ways to stop the bleeding right away. Provided the bleeding isn’t too severe, you may have to wait for your body to naturally stop bleeding.
Once your period stops, your doctor can recommend treatment to help prevent excessive bleeding in the future.
Other treatments for prolonged periods include:
- NSAIDS, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
- Hysteroscopy, a procedure that removes fibroids and other growths in the uterus.
- Hysterectomy, a procedure that removes the cervix and uterus.
- Endometrial resection, a procedure that removes the internal lining of the uterus.
- Tranexamic acid, a treatment that can reduce blood loss.
Discuss your treatment options with your doctor.
Restoring your body’s natural hormonal balance can help alleviate symptoms and prevent abnormal cycles in the future. There are both natural and conventional treatment options to correct hormonal imbalances. Your doctor can help you choose the right treatment path for you.
Prolonged periods can be concerning, especially if the change is sudden. If you’re bleeding for more than seven days, see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms and find the right treatment option for you. While uncomfortable, most of the conditions that cause extensive menstrual bleeding are treatable with medication or surgery.