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General Information

DEFINITION--A fairly common disorder that is characterized by unusual heavy or prolonged period of menstrual flow. The average amount of blood loss during a normal menstrual period is about two ounces. With menorrhagia, a woman may lose three ounces or more. It rarely signifies a serious underlying disorder.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Female reproductive system.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Females from age 12 to 55.


  • Excessive menstrual flow (varies greatly from woman to woman).
  • Menstrual period lasts for more than 7 days.
  • Large clots of blood may pass.
  • Paleness and fatigue (anemia).


  • Imbalance of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone).
  • Fibroids (benign uterine tumors).
  • Pelvic infection.
  • Endometrial disorder.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Hypothyroidism.


  • Obesity.
  • Estrogen administration (without progestin).
  • Young women who have not established a regular ovulation cycle.
  • Women approaching menopause.

HOW TO PREVENT--To detect early signs of reproductive system disorders, have an annual pelvic examination with a cervical smear test (Pap smear).

What To Expect


  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Special medical diagnostic tests (e.g., pregnancy test, endometrial biopsy, blood test) to help determine cause of bleeding may be performed.


  • Treatment usually depends on age of woman, whether or not she wants children and on any underlying disorder.
  • Dilatation and curettage (D & C) may be performed.
  • Hysterectomy may be considered in persistent cases where fertility is not desired.


  • Anemia due to excessive blood loss.
  • Surgery may be required.


  • Varies with cause of bleeding.
  • Patients with hormonal causes usually respond to treatment.

How To Treat


  • Wear extra sanitary pads during excessive flow to prevent embarrassment.
  • If using an IUD, consider a change to another method of contraception.

MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Hormone therapy to control bleeding.
  • Other medications to control the bleeding, if hormones cannot be taken for some reason.
  • Iron replacement therapy for anemia.

ACTIVITY--Reducing activities during menstruation and resting with feet up may be helpful.

DIET--No special diet.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You have signs or symptoms of menorrhagia.
  • Symptoms worsen after treatment begins.
  • New or unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may cause side effects.
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