Do you know what menorrhagia is? Unfortunately, I do

Many women suffer from this extreme menstrual condition. No one should suffer its excess bleeding, pain and debilitation without seeking medical help

For a lot of women, their period is an inconvenience. Maybe a hot water bottle and an early night is needed on the first few days, a couple of over-the-counter painkillers are taken, or they might skip a gym workout and take it easy. If they get their period while on holiday, they might be a bit annoyed but not devastated.

For those of us who unfortunately suffer from a condition called menorrhagia, it’s a different story. Our holidays, our work, in fact, our whole lives can often have to be planned around our cycle and, even then, if the cycle is irregular at all, it renders the predicted dates from our apps or our manual calculations useless and throws us into chaos.

So, what exactly is it?

Menorrhagia – yes, the third syllable is appropriately pronounced “rage” – is a gynaecological condition that means heavy or excessive menstrual bleeding. One of the main hallmarks is a period that lasts seven or more days. But even if you don’t quite reach seven days, there are plenty of other equally unpleasant symptoms to alert you to this condition. Not being able to go a full night without having to change your protection is one. If, during your period, you are up every night, washing your pjs and the bathroom floor because of the sheer volume of blood that has leaked, then Houston, we have a problem.


Your protection not lasting more than one hour at any time of the day is another red flag. As a yoga teacher myself, I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking it is teaching a one-hour class and taking furtive glances at my leggings every so often to check all is okay.

This often leads to the use of doubling-up of protection, another sign of menorrhagia. Probably not recommended as I am guessing there would be an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome. But people with menorrhagia often have to resort to this to get through daily life.

And finally clots. Large or multiple clots can be a sign. Obviously, only a medical professional can diagnose you based on your presentation, but these are general guidelines.

Did I mention the pain?

We all know periods can be painful but for me, personally, the pain is not even the worse part, as bad as it is. Over-the-counter medications tend to give me a rebound headache that lasts another week after the period has ended, so I only take them when I am truly desperate. I try to manage the pain with yoga, acupressure therapy and just general self-care. The worst part for me is the weakness, the brain fog, and the dizziness. There have been times when I have literally staggered, pale-faced and weak, towards a wall instead of an open door. I can barely see straight. Real life gets put on pause.

So are there treatment options?

After years of suffering, I finally went to a consultant gynaecologist public clinic. This was the first time I learned that what I experience actually has a name. I declined the coil they offered. If I had wanted a coil, an intrauterine contraceptive device, I could have got this from my GP anytime. So, I was put on a combination of a haemophilia medication, to reduce the bleeding, and a prescription painkiller. I was also offered a procedure called an ablation, where the lining of my uterus would basically be burned off. The medication helped. But the prescription was short-term and kept running out. This was lockdown times. My appointments became virtual – on the telephone. They became less frequent. And as a former healthcare worker myself, knowing how under pressure all the services were, I really didn’t want to keep bothering them, so I resigned myself to waiting for my procedure and got lost to follow-up. Which means I fell off their radar.

It was only after badgering the hospital, now very much in post-pandemic times, and writing heartfelt emails where I described how I felt that I was being left to bleed to death by the public health service, which weren’t actually acknowledged or replied to, that I was eventually offered my much-longed-for surgery.

The surgery was supposed to be my saving grace, this fabled day that I had looked forward to with so much enthusiasm and hope, the day I would win the Lotto of menstrual health, the day that my whole life would dramatically change for the better. Alas, it was not to be. While I was put under general anaesthetic that day, and had a minor procedure called dilation and curettage, better known as a D&C, the surgeon decided not to give me the ablation. The surgeon concluded that a coil was the appropriate treatment. Luckily for me, I had not purchased one. I had no idea you had to buy one and bring it into surgery with you and, anyway, even if I had known this, I would not have agreed to it, as I had already declined an offer of a coil, on multiple occasions. So, the D&C was what I got that day. It felt like getting four numbers in the lottery and winning €5 when you were expecting half a million quid. And recovering from an anaesthetic into the bargain.

I do know that whatever my outcome is now, post-procedure, I spent too long suffering, which is why I am sharing my story. If any of this is ringing alarm bells for you right now, these symptoms I have described are not okay. They are not normal and it is a big deal. Every one of us, regardless of sex, financial status, or any other factor, has to be proactive about our health. Request a referral. Don’t allow yourself to get lost to follow-up. Keep pushing. Don’t think that if your condition is not as serious or life-threatening as that of others, it doesn’t matter. It does. And you do too.