For most women, periods mean menstrual cramps, mood swings, bloating and more. But for some, it also includes blood clots. Symptoms like heavy flow, abdominal cramps, and back pain are made even worse by the presence of blood clots during periods. Blood clots are a mixture of blood cells, tissue from the lining of the uterus, and proteins in the blood that help regulate its flow. For most women, occasional clots in period blood are normal and nothing to be concerned about. That said, it’s also possible that another condition is causing abnormally heavy periods with blood clots to appear. So know all about menstrual clots and when to visit a doctor.
Large Blood Clots During Period
Occasional blood clots during your period are perfectly normal. These commonly happen when blood flow increases – an effect of the uterine lining being shed. Blood can coagulate in the uterus or vagina at any time throughout your period, just as it does to seal an open wound on your skin. Then, when it passes during menstruation, you see clots.
But large blood clots during periods, such as those that are bigger than a coin, may indicate the presence of uterine fibroids. Additional symptoms to watch for include:
- Abnormally heavy flow
- Significant abdominal pain and cramping
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful urination
- Frequent clots
- Blood clots during the period with pain
How Period Blood Clots Are Formed
- During menstruation, the endometrial cells that line the uterus strip away and leave the body. As this happens, the body releases proteins that cause the blood in the uterus to coagulate. This coagulation prevents the blood vessels in the uterine lining from continuing to bleed.
- The blood that the body has already shed also contains these coagulation proteins.
- When the flow is most substantial, the coagulation proteins within the blood may start to clump together, resulting in period clots.
- This generally occurs when menstrual blood pools in the uterus or vagina before leaving the body.
What Causes Blood Clots During Period?
- As the uterine lining sheds in periods, it pools in the bottom of the uterus, waiting for the cervix to contract and expel its contents. To aid in the breakdown of this thickened blood and tissue, the body releases anticoagulants to thin the material and allow it to pass more freely. However, when the blood flow outpaces the body’s ability to produce anticoagulants, period clots are released.
- This blood clot formation is most common during heavy blood flow days. For many women with normal flows, heavy flow days usually occur at the beginning of a period and are short-lived. Your flow is considered normal if menstrual bleeding lasts 4 to 5 days and produces 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood or less.
- Menorrhagia refers to heavy menstrual bleeding and menstrual bleeding that lasts more than seven days. For women with heavier flows, excessive bleeding and clot formation can be prolonged. One-third of women have flows so heavy they soak through a pad or tampon every hour for several hours.
Possible Medical Treatments
Your treatment will depend on a number of factors, including the cause of blood clots during periods, severity, pain, age or other symptoms. They may also suggest some actions that people can take at home, such as staying hydrated with water, avoiding aspirin, which may make bleeding worse, eating a healthful diet that includes iron-rich foods or doing regular physical activity. The following are the possible medical treatments that your doctor might suggest:
- Iron supplementation
- Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen)
- Hormonal therapy
- Antifibrinolytic medicine
- Surgical treatment
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Other medication
When To Seek Medical Help
Although it is normal to have clots in the blood during menstruation, heavy periods with blood clots can sometimes signal a medical issue. It is advisable to seek medical advice if:
- If blood clots during periods are larger than a coin and very frequent
- Occur with an abnormally heavy flow that requires a person to change their pad or tampon at least every 1–2 hours
- If your menstrual bleeding is heavy and requires you to change your tampon or pad every couple of hours
- If the bleeding lasts longer than seven days
- If there is an excessive amount of blood clots during periods
- If you have extreme abdominal pain with nausea or vomiting
- If you have bleeding or clots while pregnant
- Period clots are normal and usually a symptom of heavy menstrual flow
- There are a few different causes of abnormal menstruation. A doctor can help find effective ways to treat the underlying issues and control frequent or large period blood clots
- Take appropriate measures if facing abnormal period blood clots
- Get a proper diagnosis for any underlying medical condition
- To help you keep track of these changes, you may find it helpful to take notes about your period in a journal or a smartphone app
If you wish you had one place to learn everything about periods, then worry not! Here is your 101 menstruation guide. Sometimes a heavy flow is simply that—a heavy flow. Other times, it is a symptom of another underlying condition. In general, period blood clots aren’t something to worry about. But if you believe you have menorrhagia, your periods are irregular, or you are concerned about painful cramps, blood clots during periods with pain or other symptoms, go ahead and schedule a visit with your doctor.