My period is out of control and I keep bleeding on things
June 12, 2014 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I am dying of embarrassment. Please help. I have really heavy periods and in the last couple of years, I can't contain the blood. I need some practical solutions. Metafilter is where I can ask for help with the grossest body things, right? This is so embarrassing I don't even know who to talk to.

I am in my 30s, I have kids, and I have already discussed this with two doctors, who found nothing wrong medically (fibroids, PCOS, etc.) ..... I just have really heavy periods. I always have, but in the last two years, I've started having problems where I can't contain the blood! Usually during the daytime I wear a tampon AND a maxipad and change the tampon every 4 hours or more often, and I STILL end up leaking and staining all my underwear ..... and pants ..... and couch. That was the last straw - this morning I stained the couch, for the third time. All my sheets, my mattress ..... any pants I wear during my period are going to become victims ..... I'm basically becoming afraid to leave the house during my period because I have no idea when I'm going to leak and stain my nice pants or (nnnnnnngggggggh) someone's chair.

At this point I am trying to always sit and sleep on a medical pad like they put under you at the hospital, waterproof on the bottom, but I can't take one with me to leave the house and this is ridiculous. I've been menstruating for 20 years and never had this problem.

What do I do? Is it simply a matter of switching brands? Do I need to go back to my doctors? What specific words do I use? They were basically like, this is unpleasant but not a medical problem. I want to stop bleeding on everything, I am open to just about any solutions, medical, practical, anything.

I am not interested in a DivaCup. I am not currently on hormonal birth control. We are probably done having children but not for certain. I can answer more questions, I'm not sure what else is relevant.
posted by Sockish American to Health & Fitness (76 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Mirena was a godsend for me (although it did have a negative effect on my mood). 6 weeks of bloody hell while my body adjusted to it and then...nothing. I almost forgot about tampons. Love it.

And yes, go back to your doctor and tell them it's a serious quality of life issue and that if they don't fix it, you'll find someone who gives a shit. OB-GYNs, in my experience, are awful about dismissing totally horrible situations as "deal with it, everyone gets it". Uh, no, no they don't.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:30 AM on June 12, 2014 [28 favorites]

For me, when I started taking oral contraceptives, my period became less heavy and I got less cramps and PMS. Is that something you have tried?
posted by winterportage at 7:31 AM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Definitely go back to your doctor (or find another doctor). Make sure you stress exactly how bad this is, that it's leaving you virtually unable to leave the house. If nothing else, ask them for a repeat prescription for Tranexamic Acid, which you take for two or three days during each period and reduces the bleeding somewhat - it can make the difference between manageable and unmanageable.
posted by penguin pie at 7:32 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I used to have long (like full-on for 8 days), heavy, irregular periods. I slept on towels, ruined underwear and clothes, had to get up twice a night to change tampons, you name it. Going on hormonal birth control (at age 32) changed my freaking life. Much lighter flow, for only 3 days, and now I know when it's going to happen. Is there a reason you don't want to go on HBC? You can stop if you want to try for more kids. It may take a while to find one that works for you, though.

Also if your doctor(s) aren't taking this seriously, can you switch or get another opinion?
posted by mon-ma-tron at 7:33 AM on June 12, 2014

I started using incontinence pads during the day and adult diapers at night for exactly this purpose. They hold a ton of liquid and the coverage area is HUGE. This is important for nighttime when it flows down your buttcrack and past where the maxi ended. Now I look at an "overnight" sized maxi and wonder how I ever got by with those things.
posted by bleep at 7:33 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was dealing with fibroids and bleeding like a mofo, I basically resorted to wearing an overnight maxipad all the time. These cover a lot more territory. It helps that I pretty much always wear dresses or skirts, so I didn't have to worry about a big, bulky pad showing. The other bonus about wearing a skirt (especially flowy, circle skirts) was that if I had an accident while out, I could just turn them around, wash out the spot in the sink and stay dressed, and then say "oops... spilled some coffee", because the wet spot was on my front instead of butt.
posted by kimdog at 7:33 AM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Well, I would have said menstrual cup since they can hold more than any tampon can... but I'll assume you mean menstrual cups in general when you say Divacup. So that solution is out.

I would go back to my doctor and tell in more detail how much blood you guesstimate that you're losing. Because it sounds like this is in fact a medical issue. Ask to be tested for anemia.
Unfortunately, not all doctors take it seriously when we say 'My periods are very heavy'. You may need to press the issue a bit.

When I was having similar problems, in my case due to a fibroid, my doctor said that the default solution (short of fibroid removal, which I've had since and omg life is back to normal again) would be a Mirena, an IUD that secretes a tiny amount of hormones. In many women, this stops their periods completely; in many others, it makes them much lighter. So that's something you may want to talk about.

And if you should decide that you are in fact done having children, you might want to ask about endometrial ablation.

Good luck finding a solution that works for you! I've been there, and it sucked.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:33 AM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

Might be worth talking to your doctor about the Mirena IUD (the one with small amounts of progesterone in it). A common side effect is reduced menstrual flow. Some women stop getting their periods altogether; I'm not one of those lucky few but my periods are much much lighter (I could now theoretically get through a whole day with one regular-strength tampon).

The Mirena does have some downsides, especially at the beginning. I was in a lot more pain than my doctor warned me about at first, but I absolutely think it was worth it. Just know what to expect if you decide to go down that path.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:34 AM on June 12, 2014

Have you tried OB Ultra tampons?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:36 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've been through this, though I was 10 years older and it seemed like a perimenopause thing. To top it off, my cycles were 22-24 days long, and I bled for 7-10 days. It was pretty horrible.

We tried birth control pills, which didn't help. Then we inserted a Mirena IUD, but it sank me into a profound depression and had to be removed in under a week. Apparently I don't respond well to hormones!

After that, we did an endometrial ablation. This is a surgical procedure where they destroy the uterine lining using heat or another method. I still have hormonal cycles (and even cramps, which is interesting--I'd always thought cramps were a side effect of bleeding, but apparently not), but I don't bleed anymore beyond a tiny bit of spotting for a day or two, which can happen if some small part of the endometrium survives. I love my endometrial ablation.

Getting help for me meant being really clear about how badly my quality of life was being affected. I got very specific: I tracked my bleeding on a calendar to show that I wasn't making up the short cycles and long periods, or exaggerating them, and I described the size of the clots I was passing in vivid detail.
posted by not that girl at 7:39 AM on June 12, 2014 [21 favorites]

1) I would go to a different doctor and use words like these:

"Affecting my quality of life"
"Cannot do everyday activities"
"Potential for causing financial issues" (replacing clothes, cleaning costs, etc)

2) Are you near a teaching hospital? Try a doctor there.

3) Think about a Mirena IUD. It didn't help me but does help many.

4) I bled nearly 24 hours a day for more than a year. I also had pain. Turns out I had adenomyosis (which my doc suspected all along), which is like endometriosis but in a different location. The trouble with adeno is they can't tell if you have it unless they remove the uterus and do path on it. I ended up having a hysterectomy and saved my sanity after bleeding like a stuck pig for that long. I started this journey with a disinterested gyn who merely gave me a Mirena, which didn't work. I lost interest in her when she ignored my use of phrases like I entered above. That's when I switched to a doc at Hopkins, who was compassionate and interested in solving women's complicated reproductive system problems.

Good luck!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:42 AM on June 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

Seconding penguin pie's suggestion of a prescription for tranexamic acid (brand name is Lysteda). starting in my mid- to late 30's, i couldn't get through a 1 hour business meeting (even with an overnight pad and an OB Ultra, which are my go-to products). in my case this is due to fibroids. while you look for your cause, ask your doc about trying this drug. it absolutely changed my life. don't be put off by the fact that your docs may not have heard of it--none of my have either. it's been used in Europe for ages and is relatively new to the US. i can't recommend it enough. good luck.
posted by smokyjoe at 7:44 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

This honestly sounds like ablation territory to me and I can't believe your doctor didn't at least bring it up in passing. I think another doctor is what you need.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:45 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

i don't have a solution for you, but i want you to know you're not alone. i try really hard to just not go anywhere the first two days of my period and sit on layers of old pillowcases to try to save my sheets/couches/bed/etc.
posted by nadawi at 7:48 AM on June 12, 2014

I wear multiple pads at a time, or I leak all over the back of my underwear. Usually 2 overnights. I'm not quite as heavy as you, but I still feel like I have a heavier and longer period than most (5-6 days).
posted by Aranquis at 7:49 AM on June 12, 2014

Yes, go back to your doctor and if they don't help, find another. This is not something you should have to just live with. A friend of mine had this issue and the Mirena really helped her. As for me, it was awesome. 5 years without a period at all. Then I had it out to have another baby and had to learn how to stock up on tampons and pads again.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:51 AM on June 12, 2014

Oh lord yes get a Mirena if you can deal with that sort of thing (I could not), or an endometrial ablation if you are done having kids. I have a dozen friends who had ablations and all of them are as happy as can be.

If your doctor did not mention at least these two wholly normal and viable options, or did not specifically explain why neither would be appropriate for you, then find a new doctor ASAP. What is happening to you IS NOT NORMAL. It is NOT SOMETHING YOU NEED TO SUFFER.
posted by elizardbits at 7:51 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I was on HBC happily for many years; however, I had a very difficult bout of post-partum depression and took over a year to get under control, and since then any kind of hormonal birth control has significantly increased my depression and my doctors and I were unable to find a hormonal birth control option that doesn't destabilize my mental health. Now that I am stable and have been for the past while, we are recently debating whether it is worth trying again to find one that works (it is my preferred BC) or whether my husband should just get snipped.

Does the not-Mirena IUD reduce bleeding?

(I am not a great IUD candidate because of slightly abnormal anatomy, which is also why diva cups aren't great for me, but my doctor is willing to try with an IUD, with the understanding that I'm at higher risk for it being painful or not going in right or needing to be removed.)

To be honest my doctors and I have all been a bit pre-occupied with the nearly-requiring-hospitalization post-partum depression so things that weren't immediately life-threatening got shunted to the side a bit. If I go back to this one with "major quality of life issue" I am sure they will be helpful, I just wasn't sure how normal this was or how to ask about it.
posted by Sockish American at 7:52 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another vote for the Mirena IUD. My periods have always been pretty normal but now they're nonexistent. Same for a few friends of mine who have it as well. Good luck.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:52 AM on June 12, 2014

NB everyone's experiences with Mirena can be very different. Some people (unfortunately it is a low percentage, maybe 25% iirc) never get another period. Others spot lightly once a month. Others have 3-4 months of spotting and then nothing. You won't know until you try, and the one thing I have never heard about a Mirena is that it made already heavy periods permanently heavier.
posted by elizardbits at 7:53 AM on June 12, 2014

If you can't do the IUD, the NuvaRing has been amazing for me. Periods have been so light for the most part, that I just need a light liner to keep things clean.
posted by Verdandi at 7:54 AM on June 12, 2014

Ohnoes if you are having depression issues wrt hormones then maybe a hormonal IUD is not for you after all.

Still, ask your doctor.
posted by elizardbits at 7:54 AM on June 12, 2014

Does the not-Mirena IUD reduce bleeding?

Copper IUDs (non-Mirena) can actually increase bleeding.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2014 [14 favorites]

Just saw your update. I have some friends who have the Paragard (copper) IUD and apparently it was just the opposite of the Mirena. Their flow actually got heavier.

FWIW, oral contraceptives made me depressed and emotionally unstable. Three years into having the Mirena, I have had no such side effects.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2014

The Mirena definitely does have a hormonal component that I personally wouldn't risk in your scenario--I also had serious post-partum emotional issues, was miserably mean while pregnant, etc. and am very hormonally sensitive, and it really wrecked my shit, mentally. I didn't get depressed so much as I got angry and hated everyone and was very frequently a jerk.

If you're done having children (as indicated by him getting snipped), then ablation would be a good choice. It's not if you still think you might want to conceive, IIRC.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:57 AM on June 12, 2014

It sounds like your doctors were really helpful to you when you were suffering from PPD. That's great. Would you consider working with a psychiatrist who specializes in women's reproductive mental health as well as an OB-GYN who does the same? That might be very helpful for you in terms of deciding on a treatment.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:59 AM on June 12, 2014

I had horrific heavy periods but HBC has made them actually stop. I also have odd anatomy (tipped AND bicornuate uterus) which means a menstrual cup and an IUD would be tricky, though not impossible. I'm on a low-hormone pill (Lo-Estrin, maybe?) that's not supposed to actually take away your period, but that's what happened to me. I also had horrible mood swings when I first tried HBC like, oh, 20 years ago (I'm 41) but this is a completely different thing, I get no moodiness at all. And oh my god, I can't remember the last time I used a tampon, and I have new sheets and underwear that don't have blood stains on them... it's a miracle.
posted by chowflap at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2014

- Back to the doctor. Give hormonal birth control another try (brands you didn't try yet that have no/little effect on mental health). If it does not work, ask them about other options.
- Get black underwear.
- Get some black/dark pants and skirts (check out your local thrift store).
- Try incontinence pads & undergarments.
posted by travelwithcats at 8:03 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something you might try before your next doctor's appointment for this issue - try taking vitamin K2. I have somewhat heavy periods and I've noticed my periods are lighter when I take vitamin K2 around the time I have my period.
posted by needled at 8:09 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the interim while while you figure this out, have you tried Instead cups? They're different in shape from Divacups and the like but they can also hold a good deal of fluid. They're more like diaphragms, fitting up close to the opening of the uterus. Perhaps they'd work with your anatomy. Although, one problem with any menstrual cup is that if it fails, it can fail spectacularly and dump out ALL the fluid it has collected in the past several hours, whereas a leaking tampon only allows the overflow to leak.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:09 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who has had hormonal issues, I think I'd rather spend a week sitting on a portable toilet every month than risk that kind of collapse again, especially in your case with a recent extremely serious bout of PPD in the picture. You can't just merrily play Pill Roulette in that kind of situation, as suicide is not reversible.

But maybe your flow issues didn't present as The Problem At Hand, given the more serious PPD situation, so maybe just going back in with a more firm agenda is sufficient. Take a log with you if you can, because most GYNs use a benchmark of tampon/hour to distinguish between bleeding and hemorrhaging, or go in during your period.

And, you know what, if you need to take cameraphone photos of the accidents to make your point, do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on June 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

The medical word for excessive menstrual bleeding is menorrhagia. Here is a page from the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research at UBC which talks about what qualifies as menorrhagia, what causes it, how to measure the amount you are bleeding, what you can do on your own to help with heavy flow, and what investigations and interventions your doctor can try.

Also, here's a self-assessment test from the UK National Health Service which looks at whether the way your period affects your quality of life is normal, or excessive.

It might be a good idea to follow the instructions in the first link for measuring your flow, and go back to your doctor with quantitative information on exactly how much you are bleeding. Hopefully these specifics will help to find a treatment that works for you, especially if your results put you above normal limits (ie, above 80ml).

Also, another alternative menstrual product that I think might be helpful is sea sponge tampons. The reason I think they might help is because instead of tossing the tampon every four hours, you actually just remove it, rinse it, and reinsert it. (And you also remove it for several hours to disinfect once a day, but if you have two in rotation, that doesn't leave you without coverage.) I use them, and if I am having heavier than usual flow, I just rinse the sponge every time I go to the bathroom. You do have to be ok with getting very "hands on" to use these, but they are SUPER comfortable (way nicer than regular tampons) and in my experience, as long as you rinse regularly, they leak much less than regular tampons, too. If there is a leak, it's usually clear discharge/liquid, not stain-y blood. I don't usually have super heavy periods, so I can't be sure that these would help, but I think that they might at least make it easier to manage.

So, in your position I would probably stick with conventional menstrual products for the next period or two, measure flow based on tampon/pad usage, and then switch to sea sponges after that while pursuing this with doctors.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Oh gosh, I feel for you so hard. This was me in my late teens. My teacher mother who never ever let me stay home from school for any reason actually let me stay home for the first two days of my periods because I bled so heavily. Like changing tampons every hour and still bleeding through a pad heavy.

The only thing that worked to give me any respite was HBC and replacing the tampons and pads with a divacup. I was on the pill for 9 years and have had the Mirena for about 2.

I didn't find out about the divacup until I was in college; really wish I had known sooner. (The "solution" before medical intervention was spending a lot of time in the bathroom crying and using extremely heavy duty urinary incontinence pads when I actually had to leave the house, since I was way beyond kotex.)

I don't know what's unusual about your anatomy, but I have a tilted uterus and the cup took a bit of finagling to figure out. I don't know what you're dealing with, but it may be worth trying it for a while to see if you can make it work. Really and truly improved my quality of life.
posted by phunniemee at 8:15 AM on June 12, 2014

No, non-hormonal IUDs do not reduce bleeding.

On the other hand, methods such as the Mirena and the Nuvaring shed such a low dose of hormones that it's not supposed to go anywhere beside where it needs to be.
It makes a big difference whether the hormones are distributed via your bloodstream (as with the pill) or directly and locally. So these options might still be worth asking about.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:19 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mirena train. I haven't had my period in two years. It's glorious.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:20 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also came to say the hormones in Mirena are localized. They possibly could affect your mood, but it is quite unlikely. I think it wouldn't hurt to try. If you get depressed, you can have it removed at any time. As for unusual anatomy, it you can get some muscle relaxers and/or painkillers like Vicodin it will help a lot for the insertion.
posted by catatethebird at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2014

One of the side effects of the Mirena is mood disturbance. Because it is local, it is low hormone compared to other methods of hormonal birth control. It does not contain estrogen, so it might not be an issue if estrogen is what causes your mood issues. However, I'm sensitive to progesterone and it did, in fact, seriously affect my mood. I want to be absolutely clear about that because the local hormone thing is confusing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:39 AM on June 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Vitex/chasteberry is a "natural" supplement that will reduce the bleeding. It takes a couple months of taking it daily to work, it worked for me, it's safe (i.e. won't interfere with future baby-making). I was bleeding about 2-4x the average amount each cycle (I know because I use the divacup so I could literally see the quantity of blood every time I removed it, my period is normal again, my cramps are greatly reduced, etc.).

You can take it alone but I've found the ingredients in Lorna Vanderhaege's Estrosmart Plus to be really useful for reducing pms so that's what I take, it has vitex, you take 2 a day.
posted by lafemma at 8:40 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You do have to be ok with getting very "hands on" to use these, but they are SUPER comfortable (way nicer than regular tampons) and in my experience, as long as you rinse regularly, they leak much less than regular tampons, too.

Not my experience. I loved them in many ways but they leaked a lot any time I coughed, laughed, or sneezed. Never had that problem with tampons.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cycling shorts with a non-gel crotch insert have been helpful for me in similar emergencies.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the full prescribing information, available here [pdf]
The most common adverse reactions (≥5% users) are uterine/vaginal bleeding alterations (51.9%), amenorrhea (23.9%), intermenstrual bleeding and spotting (23.4%), abdominal/pelvic pain (12.8%), ovarian cysts (12%), headache/migraine (7.7%), acne (7.2%), depressed/altered mood (6.4%), menorrhagia (6.3%), breast tenderness/pain (4.9%), vaginal discharge (4.9%) and IUD expulsion (4.9%).
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2014

I just want to offer support. I went through what you're going through as a teenager and I was too foolish and young to even think of asking a doctor about it, and I would literally line my pajamas with plastic wrap and stuff like that to keep from ruining the bed. I finally mentioned to my mom that I had had my period for an entire year (well, I just told her "a long time") and it turned out I was terribly anemic as well and that was why I was so tired I was falling asleep all day long. Have you had your blood counts checked?

Anyway, hormonal birth control worked for me but I had no mood issues. There are so many other solutions as listed above. This is absolutely not normal, you don't have to live with it and you should not have to live with it. It makes me very sad to think of you trying to live with it. Please go back to your doctor. p.s. not that it makes any difference, but I am a doctor telling you this.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

By the way, I don't know if your doctors are GPs or OB/GYNs but please see an OB/GYN. I actually had to see 2 OB/GYNs (a regular one and a reproductive endocrinologist) before I was diagnosed with PCOS, because I am thin and don't fit the stereotypical picture for someone with PCOS. The menorrhagia and irregular periods were part of my symptoms.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:45 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've dealt with depression, too, though not as severe as you mention... but I'm seconding Mirena IUD anyway. It's been a zillion times better than the rollercoaster I was going through otherwise, with cramping and bleeding everywhere on top of it. Had a couple light periods, and none since, for years now.

I definitely do not have the negatives that I did with typical hormonal birth control, but different people will get different results...
posted by stormyteal at 8:49 AM on June 12, 2014

This is not a long term solution at all, but for now I would suggest wearing exclusively black underwear and black pants / skirts during your period, to avoid visible staining. Also, perhaps you could set a timer so that you change your tampon & pad every two hours (or every hour) - every four hours isn't working.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:50 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, to be clear, I had a much easier time on mirena than I did on oral HBC--and in fact I'm considering the lower-dose IUD that's similar to the Mirena--but it's important for you to know that it's a possibility so you can keep an eye out for it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:51 AM on June 12, 2014

Please get an opinion from another doctor! This is definitely not something you should just have to live with. If you have been tested for PCOS--did they do both a blood test and a sonogram?

Just an anecdote: I have had difficulty with some types of HBC making my PMS quite severe, some barely affect it. Because I need to be on it for a variety of reasons, what's working for me is finding a pill that has minimal, if any emotional side effects, combined with an increased dosage of my antidepressant 10 days prior to the first day of my period.

One thing I will mention if you want to give the divacup another try is that it's something that can be a bit messy to change. While I think the divacup is absolutely fantastic for women with heavy periods, it's not something that you can easily change in a bathroom stall. I always have backup pads on hand in case of emergencies.

As a short term solution, you could look into cycling shorts. They're actually very comfy and do have an absorbent crotch pad that might be helpful.
posted by inertia at 8:53 AM on June 12, 2014

A product to try quickly before any new meds might kick in are the Always Infinity pads (with wings, those are important). I swear, you could pour a gallon of blood into one of those. They seem way too thin to work but once I ran out and had to use normal maxi pads again and I was shocked by the comparative failure. They're a little expensive, but extremely worth it.

I too have lived with the constant worry about bleeding onto other people's chairs and things. One trick I adopted was to always bring an extra layer and sit on it. Like, I'd put my coat on top of the chair, instead of on the back, and sit on it. Or I'd wear leggings and a skirt, with a slip. Or bring a flannel shirt or hoodie "in case it gets cold" and carry it by my waist and just-so-happen to sit on it. It's that extra bit of mental security. I suggest a black cotton trench coat to look classy and not be *too* hot, which you know you'll be able to scrub if you stain it.

Anyway I just wanted to toss in my support. I don't think this is gross or embarrassing, and I'm glad you are asking about this! The more people talk about all things menstrual, the less stigma there is. As someone who has had to forgo most birth control options because of depression, I appreciate this question a lot!
posted by Mizu at 8:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

My new blood thinners made me bleed all over chairs etc. I can't use hormonal bc and I had a bad iud reaction so the options now are basically that I stay home for the first two days and wear black yoga pants with maxi pads (the post delivery ones are the best if you can get them) and then just make sure to change frequently. IMO tampons at that intensity are useless and irritating, save them for later. The diva cup will not work on sudden surges of volume either.

Black clothes and towels are very helpful. Wet wipes or showering 3-4 times a day helped too. Also seeing it as the blood equivalent of an intense migraine and not something you should gave to pretend to wear white and do yoga during.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:03 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mirena Mirena Mirena Mirena
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:03 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh the scarf! Yes Mizu is so right. A big shawl or cardigan to wrap around your waist when you've bled through is so so good. And pack a new pair of clean undies with pads and wet wipes when you have to leave the house. And plastic bags to put stained clothes in and chuck them in your bag.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:05 AM on June 12, 2014

Before surgery to remove my fibroids, I dealt with extreme bleeding (at least as bad as what you're describing) and I now have a Mirena and I love it and I would NEVER, EVER recommend it to you because depression is a known side effect of Mirena. In fact, if you look at the Canadian inserts on the device, you will see that it is contradindicated for anyone with a history of depression. For some reason that info isn't as prominent in the US inserts, but there you go.

Here is a very off the wall suggestion: I have never used it, but you might want to look into centchroman/ Saheli, a non-hormonal birth control pill that is in wide use in India. Some American women who cannot tolerate hormonal birth control do import it, and report much lighter periods because of it. Check out their community here.

Back to conventional ideas. So, before I got the surgery, I used those Always Maxi Overnight Extra Heavy Flow pads somebody linked above (and, in a pinch, basically any pad for postpartum women), plus tranexamic acid. I also prepped for my (neverending, ten day) period by taking three ibuprofen three times a day for the three days leading up to my period. This sometimes reduced blood flow.

Finally, on days when I was at home, I skipped the super-heavy Pearl tampon and used an Instead cup. For whatever reason, that seemed to make the bleeding more manageable (and it certainly reduced the pain I was experiencing. You don't mention pain, for which I'm glad).

I cannot tell you how much I feel your suffering. I remember very vividly having to plan my entire life around the ten days my period consumed. I remember rescheduling vacations, turning down social events, and generally putting my life on hold. It sucked. The first sign of hope was finding a doc who would take me seriously when I said how much it sucked. If your doc isn't actively strategizing with you about how to reduce your blood flow, start looking for a new doc. Your life is too important to dwell in misery for a quarter to a third of every month!
posted by mylittlepoppet at 9:16 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

I and several other women I know with mood disorders have had very good experiences with Mirena. I have a long history of depression, which my provider knew about, and I had had a ton of issues with rollercoaster moods when on various HBC pills, especially since the formulary changed and I had to try several different kinds. I'm also on antidepressants. So I was very apprehensive, but I found that the only noticeable thing that the Mirena's hormones did for me was clear up my skin. The only reason I didn't stick with it was that it dislodged twice, but that is VERY rare (particularly after the six-week checkup) and it didn't hurt at all. So... anecdata.

I am also another tilted-uterus Diva Cup user. Other cups may be better for you, too, but I wanted to chime in and say that there's nothing difficult about changing it in a bathroom stall. I wash mine thoroughly in the shower each morning, but when I change it in a stall I just wipe it thoroughly with TP. Never had any sort of issue.
posted by Madamina at 9:17 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you tried post-partum pads? They might be difficult to source cheaply but are a lot bigger and more absorbent than overnights. It would probably be easier to source incontinence pads from the adult diaper section but I have no idea about their capacity.

Also, I find there is a huge different from one brand of overnights to some others. Where I live the standard brands and the generics are all just the equivalent of a maxi pad but the Kotex overnights have about double the soak capacity.

I can identify with you on this issue. I suggest you keep a watch out for dizzy spells and if you do start having them, that you go to the pharmacist counter and ask for a bottle of iron tablets. They keep them behind the counter. You may start to find that borderline anemia is a problem when your periods are this heavy.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2014

I can't read through all the responses now, but wanted to tell you my experience with the Paragard, Mirena and Diva Cup:

Tried Paragard first, six months after last baby was born. Tremendously increased bleeding to the point of staining everything, like what you describe. I still stuck with it for five years during which time I lost loads of hair as a result of low iron reserves. I'm sure the bleeding is the main culprit.

Once I started supplementing the iron the hair came back, but I got so tired of the heavy periods I decided to try the Mirena, figuring I can stop the iron supplements if it reduces the bleeding.

Almost immediately my periods virtually stopped, I had just some light spotting and soon not even that. Same month I had the Mirena inserted a major depression hit me for the first time in my life. I stuck with the Mirena for eight months and my moods progressively got worse to the point where I had to start therapy.

One day I yanked it out myself out of sheer desperation, and four months later I'm just about stable again and my periods are finally back to normal.

Throughout this time I've been using the Diva Cup. It is fine with normal bleeding, but when it was heavy the Diva Cup would leak pretty quickly. This might well have to do with the angle of the uterus, and presumably could differ in different people.

My sister has heavy periods and she uses a cup and a tampon at the same time, and that keeps things under control for her.

My takeaway is that heavy bleeding is not innocuous - I had other side-effects from the low iron too, like low energy, skin and nail issues and the hair falling out.
posted by Dragonness at 9:28 AM on June 12, 2014

Seconding that copper IUDs can drastically increase bleeding. Speaking from personal experience.
posted by _Mona_ at 9:57 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rather than giving advice for treatment plans, I'm going to give you the way that I dealt with this in high school when I was bleeding HORRIBLE amounts and terrified of leaks:

-small, thin pair of panties as bottom layer, nighttime strength maxi pad inside
-one of those pair of disposable leak panties--they were made specifically for periods for awhile, but now they might be packaged more as incontinence, anyway-- the ones I mean are thin, and stretchy they just add a second layer, in case the blood creeps down around the wings and out the back of the pad
-another pair of larger panties on top, so that a) my teammates in the locker room didn't see my disposable panties and ask about them, and b) one last barrier so that nothing would get through

I agree with the OB Plus suggestion, but I know the misery of having that plus a pad not be enough to stop the flow. While you consider your medical options, this was my foolproof and leakproof three-panty menstrual armor for several years of high school.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:21 AM on June 12, 2014

Response by poster: I feel a lot of relief that this is something other people have dealt with!

Answering a few questions .....
I have had my blood levels checked, did have the PCOS sonogram. I'm already on a supplement for iron, calcium, and Vitamin D, and I'm doing pretty well with that.
I actually don't really have any pain ..... I've always had heavy periods. When I was younger they came with painful cramping and nausea and PMS. Now since my last baby and getting the PPD under control they come with ridiculously heavy bleeding ..... but not much pain or cramping, no nausea, only a little grumpiness.
I have a GP, an Ob/Gyn, and a psychiatrist, and they all worked together really well when solving my PPD ..... I know once I'm clear with them about how bad a problem this is that they'll help me.

Current thoughts .....
I am seeing my GP in a couple weeks. I will talk to her about this as a specific issue that I need addressed. I will ask about Mirena, transexamic acid, and what she suggests. I'm not real gungho on Mirena because I'm so relieved to finally have my depression under control but I'll at least discuss with her whether she thinks it's an option.
I'm going to go look at the adult incontinence section at the pharmacy and see what sorts of options they have, to give me more options.
I'm going to not worry about my sheets because they're just sheets and I'm not the only one this happens to.
I'm reading the page on menorrhagia and I'm going to try measuring my flow and all that.
I'm going to get a black cotton cardigan of some sort to accidentally sit on at other people's houses. And probably black sweatpants to wear at home.

Still reading responses and all, just feeling relieved that there are options and solutions, not feeling so alone and embarrassed now.
posted by Sockish American at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2014

I had this problem for several years until I finally got the right doctor to diagnose me with a fibroid. When he removed it, it turns out it was filling my entire uterine cavity! On the sonogram it looked less than 1/3 the size that it actually was. My doctor (whose entire practice specializes in treating women with abnormal menstrual issues) said that sometimes fibroids can be hard to diagnose, so if you haven't seen a specialist that deals with this stuff, I'd head to one of them as soon as possible.

That said, my first reaction to your question was "you're only changing your tampons every 4 hours?" During my heaviest periods, I would burn through a Tampax Ultra tampon once an hour. I addressed it thusly: during heavy days, I went to the bathroom every hour and changed my tampon (aforementioned Tampax Pearl Ultra, which are even more absorbent than a super plus). Backup was an overnight Always Infinity pad, which is not very bulky at all. This is during the day, of course, so for nighttime I just slept in black cotton yoga pants and used the same tampon/pad combo, sleeping on a black towel and getting up once or twice to change the tampon.

I think the suggestions about incontinence products for nighttime are great and I wish I had thought of that when I was bleeding this much!
posted by bedhead at 10:45 AM on June 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Birth control changed my life. I didn't have out of control bleeding but I did have mega-awful cramps which have decreased to a shorter duration and more tolerable level. The volume of blood definitely went down too. Also I'm on extended-cycle so I only deal with it every three months.
posted by radioamy at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2014

I'm already on a supplement for iron, calcium, and Vitamin D, and I'm doing pretty well with that.

FYI, in case you do not know:

The iron and calcium should not be taken together. They should be separated by a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably more like 2 hours. If you need calcium, you likely also need not only the vitamin D but also magnesium and vitamin K. Calcium and vitamin K are both important for clotting.

My medical condition is known to cause nose and lung bleeds. I never had a lung bleed but I used to have constant problems with nose bleeds. I had good success with treating them with calcium supplements. I used to take between 400 and 1000 units (mg?) of calcium when I got a bleed and it stopped it cold within 30 minutes. After a few months of that, I stopped getting bleeds. Not just stopped getting them so frequently -- I stopped getting them entirely. I was bleeding all the time due to a calcium deficiency. Thus, I can't help but wonder if calcium deficiency might not be a contributing factor in your uncontrolled bleeding here.

I have, at times, had periods like this (but only the first 48 hours, followed by lighter bleeding). I don't think I have anything new to add beyond wondering if a calcium deficiency is contributing to the problem. I can only Nth things like "black pants, extra large pads, wrap a jacket around your waist...etc" In fact, I came here to read all those tips in hopes of upping my own game should I ever have to deal with this again. My periods from hell, where I seemed intent on hemorrhaging to death, seem to have subsided ...for now.

Oh, maybe one last tip: Peroxide is the only thing that really breaks up blood. I have tried to sit on non-upholstered chairs in public places and I happen, for other reasons, to always carry spray peroxide with me (you can get this at Walmart of CVS Pharmacy -- it comes in a light-proof brown spray bottle, since peroxide breaks down in light and you cannot thus simply pour peroxide into any old portable spray bottle). The one time I bled on a chair in public, it was a wooden chair, not upholstered, and peroxide plus a paper napkin cleaned it right up. This saved me the embarrassment of having to report it to anyone. I just took care of it quietly myself and then went to the bathroom to deal with the rest of the issue.
posted by Michele in California at 11:24 AM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another vote for disposable underwear from the incontinence section; the "Tena" ones I bought for post-partum use were surprisingly wearable, and the giant pads were nowhere near as useful or convenient.
posted by kmennie at 11:42 AM on June 12, 2014

The Mirena triggered a pretty serious bout of depression/anxiety for me and I'm not really prone to it in general. It did stop my period completely (I was on it to control my endometriosis) but the side effects, both emotional and physical, were absolutely not worth it.

So, word of warning. I am sensitive to hormones (nuvaring and the pill were also bad experiences for me) and no matter how much my OB swore that a low dose localized progesterone only IUD was not going to be a problem, well...

I really do recommend finding a doctor you trust who will take this seriously. Heavy menstruation is absolutely a quality of life issue.
posted by lydhre at 11:45 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a GP, an Ob/Gyn, and a psychiatrist, and they all worked together really well when solving my PPD ..... I know once I'm clear with them about how bad a problem this is that they'll help me.

This is so great! They really will be helpful to you. I'm very happy that you feel hopeful about this, and wish you the best of luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:46 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

In terms of feeling better about yourself while this is going on, I heartily recommend this elizardbits comment from a previous thread, which still flashes through my mind on a monthly basis, to great effect:
It also helps to keep in mind that you are walking around, for roughly 13 weeks of the year, for about 75% of your life, with blood and chunks oozing out of you like it ain't no thang, and therefore you are a hardcore motherfucker and people best recognize and respect. If you can deal with this you can deal with anything. ANYTHING.
Also: I Memailed you.
posted by penguin pie at 12:24 PM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

I feel you. My periods aren't that bad, but last year I contemplated going on the pill or getting an IUD and decided against it because I felt like the pill messed with my mood before. (Nonetheless, I got a major depressive episode right after that.)

I researched the Nuvaring and many people here on MeFi and on other forums actually reported it made them depressed. Just a word of caution. Same about the IUD.

I'm so sorry I can't say anything more helpful.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:29 PM on June 12, 2014

I sympathize. I had horrible, heavy, painful periods through my high school and early college years.

Michele in California has it right about the hydrogen peroxide. For period blood stains on clothes and sheets, I mix about 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide with a few drops (maybe 1/4 tsp?) of Dawn original dishwashing detergent (the blue bottle). You don't need to be exact or anything.

Pour the solution over the blood stain, and then just scrub the cloth in your hands for a minute. Then you can put it in the washer like normal. It's important to always use cold water, because heat sets the stain. Likewise, don't put stained clothes in the dryer unless you're okay with them never being not stained.

It's basically magic.

And bonus: it works on red wine stains too! (That's actually how I originally discovered it -- an elderly relative spilled an entire glass of red wine on a mostly-white, patterned tablecloth at Thanksgiving. We couldn't bleach it because of the pattern. This hydrogen peroxide + Dawn solution worked like GANGBUSTERS.)
posted by Ragini at 12:48 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

You have my sympathy. I went through this for five years - I visited three or four different doctors, seeking a magic remedy. I had to have iron injections for blood loss, anemia. I finally found a (prestigious) local doctor who explained that, in his opinion, some women have these kinds of periods just like others have heavy brows or blue eyes or skinny thighs. "Who knows, but medicine can't fix it at the present time." He worked with me to try some of the remedies mentioned above, several D&Cs, some caustically-expensive injection or another, but I finally took his advice to have a hysterectomy. Best decision I ever made... But perhaps that isn't your decision...
posted by Lornalulu at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2014

You are absolutely, most certainly, utterly not the only one this happens to. Before I had my fibroid removed (and mine was about the same size as bedhead's) I needed to change my large capacity menstrual cup every two hours, and sometimes that was not enough. Sometimes I filled it up in an hour or less. All the bleeding made me anemic.
I have bled through my pants during a 30-minute walk. Boy, was I glad I wore dark pants!
I have also just stayed inside the house and worn overnight maxipads in addition to my Fleurcup.
I have slept on black towels.
I have leaked through on several occasions, and stained the mattress. It was ridiculous.

You are so very much not alone. And please don't be ashamed. This is your body being a bloody nuisance, not some kind of personal failure.

And pretty much everything cleans up well (sheets, towels and clothes) as long as you can manage to dunk it in cold water immediately (or first thing in the morning), and then wash it in cold water when you have the chance. Still, black underwear saves a lot of worry, and the sweatpants are a good idea.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another Always Infinity Overnight user - but I layer them - two overlapping, three on the heaviest days, so that they cover almost completely from the front elastic to the back elastic. This requires almost two large packages per cycle. However, I have PCOS, am over 40, and have estrogen dominance issues; it has gotten worse over the past few years and the pill "helped" my hormones get even more unbalanced.
posted by candyland at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2014

Small suggestion that might help a tiny bit - buy dark sheets - purple, black, deep red, brown. Might give you a little extra peace of mind.

Definitely lots of comfortable black underwear.
posted by bunderful at 3:34 PM on June 12, 2014

Came back in to +1 bedhead's comment:

I had this problem for several years until I finally got the right doctor to diagnose me with a fibroid. When he removed it, it turns out it was filling my entire uterine cavity! On the sonogram it looked less than 1/3 the size that it actually was.

I said above I bled 24/7/365 for a year+ because of adenomyosis. However, I also was diagnosed with "small" fibroids. YAY INVASIVE TRANSVAGINAL ULTRASOUNDS AMIRITE.

However, when I had my hysterectomy (ovaries still intact, no hormones affected, just in case you're thinking hysterectomy = menopause), and they did the pathology to find the adeno, my doctor reported the fibroids were 3 times larger than the ultrasound had shown.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2014

The "every 4 hours" thing jumped out at me, too, as being a longish time during heavier days. Are you using ultra size tampons? They absorb double the amount of regular tampons (more about absorbency). I don't always see them in grocery stores and pharmacies so you might look online.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:01 PM on June 12, 2014

I agree with blue daisy . Why are you waiting so long to change? Even during light days, I change tampons and/or pads more often than that, even if just for hygiene purposes. Don't hate me, but you could also try Depends/adult incontinence pads. Not a flattering idea, but would keep your furniture clean.

If I were in your shoes, I'd be hesitant to add hormones since you're getting over depression. However, this amount of flow doesn't seem normal either. :/ Sorry.
posted by Neekee at 8:19 PM on June 12, 2014

Seconding ibuprofen, just in case you missed it. If you can't catch the lead-up to your period, it may still help slow things down if you take it on your heaviest days.

Tampons don't hold a candle to cups for capacity, but if you can't do cups, I've read OB Ultra are The Thing. I wasn't able to find any at the time I was looking - I think they were temporarily out of production or on backorder. As an aside about cups: I don't know if your anatomy issue is a tilted uterus. I have a tilted uterus, so getting a cup to work took some experimentation and ended up reducing the cup capacity, but it was well worth it for me. They're not magical--super heavy days call for backup, and instead of changing a tampon every 1-2 hours (or however often keeps you from bleeding though so much), you might be emptying a cup every 2.5-3.5 hours.

Also nthing talking with your doc about it.
posted by moira at 9:33 PM on June 12, 2014

Nthing find a new doctor.

I had excessive bleeding, spotting, and on for most days of the month. None of the tests showed anything. My doctor was smart enough to do a D&C that showed polyps and resulted in a complete reset to normal periods (for me). I was about 4 years past having my second child.

Please continue to look for a solution. This is not acceptable.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:04 PM on June 13, 2014

« Older Delight my dog   |   ISO best practices for cleaning up broken glass... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.