Most women’s menstrual flow lasts a few days, often up to a week. Sometimes, however, women may have periods that last much longer, like having a period for 3 weeks. If a woman’s period is prolonged, irregular, or excessively heavy, it is called menorrhagia. This is a condition that may be controlled with the use of hormones or birth control therapy, or it may be a warning sign of a more serious, underlying health issue.

Causes of Prolonged Menstrual Bleeding

A woman’s entire menstrual cycle usually takes 21-35 days to complete. Young girls who have just started having periods or older women nearing menopause may notice variations of that schedule. The fluctuation of hormone levels, particularly estrogen, is often the cause for these inconsistencies. This is not abnormal for females in these age groups.

Another cause for prolonged periods may be dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). DUB is a hormone dysfunction that may happen any time during a woman’s reproductive years, but it is most commonly found in women over 40. This condition is often successfully treated with hormones such as estrogen or progesterone. A combination of these two hormones may be prescribed in the form of birth control pills which act not only as contraceptives but also regulate the production of female hormones.

Other causes for long-lasting periods can include:

  • Thyroid function

  • Fibroids, benign growths on the uterine wall

  • Infection

  • Uterine polyps

  • Ovarian cysts

  • A bleeding disorder

  • Endometrial hyperplasia

  • Glandular issues

  • Cancer

Ovulation problems may also cause prolonged periods.

Treatments for Prolonged Periods

The right treatment for your extended periods will, of course, depend on what is causing them. Some women may be treated simply with medications, others may require endometrial ablation, a surgical procedure to remove or cauterize the uterine lining. Still others may require a hysterectomy.

If you are having a period lasting 3 weeks or more, see your doctor. Not only is this condition uncomfortable and exhausting, it can indicate a serious underlying health issue. Your gynecologist can help you find the right treatment for your circumstances.

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