Menstrual periods occur in all females from the onset of puberty (average age of onset 11 or 12 years) and last until menopause in middle age. They occur when the lining of the uterus is shed via vaginal bleeding due to the girl or woman not being pregnant.
The length of a menstrual period varies from two days to seven days, on average 28 days apart. However, this cycle can vary too and anything between 24 and 35 days is considered normal.
If you are having a prolonged menstrual cycle this is abnormal, unless you are approaching menopause (usually between the ages of 45-55). Extra-long periods can result from hormonal changes and in women of this age range can be taken as a sign of the impending "change".
Other causes of extra-long periods include:
• Having uterine fibroids
• Having polyps in the uterus
• Having endometriosis (a disease where the lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the body)
• Having pelvic inflammatory disease
• Having a temporary hormonal imbalance, for instance, when changing hormonal contraception
• The copper IUD can also make you have heavy periods
• If there is a chance you could have been pregnant, the two-week period may have in fact been a miscarriage. Please see your doctor if you think you could be pregnant
• A condition called dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). Doctors don’t know what causes DUB and may diagnose you with it if they cannot find a cause for your bleeding.
If there is no obvious physical cause, particularly if you are middle-aged, the doctor may like to wait and see as some cases are down to menopause or a temporary hormonal imbalance that corrects itself without treatment.
A pelvic examination and ultrasound scan of the uterus will be carried out to see if there are any abnormalities and a biopsy of uterine tissue may be taken.
If there are fibroids, polyps or endometrial lining present where it shouldn’t be -- this can be surgically removed which should help regulate your periods.
Other treatments include hormone replacement therapies, some brands of the pill that make period’s lighter, and anti-inflammatory medications (these reduce blood loss).
If you are using a copper-only IUD you could consider changing it to a hormonal one such as Mirena, as hormonal IUDs can reduce a period, whereas a copper-only one can make it heavier.
Nutritional supplements may also be needed to replace the nutrients lost by excessive bleeding.
If you have finished having children a more drastic measure would be surgery, either to remove the lining of the womb, which will stop the bleeding but render you infertile, or to remove the uterus altogether via hysterectomy.
Heavy Periods, Net Doctor. Web. 24 May 2012. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/facts/menstruationheavy.htm
Contraceptive Coils (IUD’s), Net Doctor. Web. 24 May 2012. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/sex_relationships/facts/contraceptivecoil.htm
Long Periods, Net Doctor. Web. 24 May 2012. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/ate/womenshealth/207358.html
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/ She is the mother of five children and practices natural childbirth, delayed cord clamping, full term breastfeeding and organic food diet.
Reviewed May 24, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Add a Comment35 Comments
Hi, I'm 12 and have been on my period for two weeks now, I'm very concerned that it could be bad, is there any chance I'm ok and just exaggerating??May 23, 2019 - 2:32pm
Hi I am 16 years old and I have been menstruating for about 2 weeks and i am feeling so bad.June 5, 2019 - 2:24am
See your doctor about this - you may have a hormonal imbalance. The birth control pill may be able to help with this, if this is the case. Talk to your doctor about your options.
SusanJune 5, 2019 - 5:06am
EmpowHER is a website for girls and women ages 13+. Please talk to a parent about your concerns.
SusanMay 23, 2019 - 2:35pm
I am 49 yr old. I've always had regular 3 day periods no cramps starting at 15. I am going on 2 weeks of bleeding, first 3 days I was spotting, and then it stopped. Sex brought it on full force, and it won't stop. Am I going through menapause???October 8, 2017 - 6:34pm
I'm 23 years old and my periods have been very irregular this year. I had one in January (4 days), february (6 days), june(5 days), and September (14 days and counting). The first couple times I missed it I thought I was pregnant and now I'm just worried.. what could this be? Any help???September 29, 2017 - 1:26pm
Consider scheduling or at least speaking with a gynecologist.
MaryannOctober 2, 2017 - 8:25am
Hi. My last period was on the 31st August and it came right on time and normally. The only thing is that up till today I'm still experiencing some light reddish spotting. It's never happened to me before and even though I'm worried about it my gynae said we wait and see. I'm 34 and am not taking any pills. What do you think?September 17, 2017 - 2:20am
I have had my periods for 8 days and this is so abnormal to me,since it always lasts for 5 days.I'd taken the morning after pills when I had sex on the dangerous days,could this be the reason to my prolonged periods? If so should I seek medical advice or what?August 29, 2017 - 1:13am
Emergency contraceptives can cause changes in the menstrual cycle. That may explain why your period is lasting longer. You can speak with your gynecologist about this.
Regards,August 29, 2017 - 8:10am