Why We Need to Change the Cycle of Silence Around Heavy Periods

Menstruation has long since been linked to stigma surrounding the discussion of a period. Whether it is about one’s flow, one’s preference of menstrual products, or anything remotely related to one’s ‘time of the month,’ women often feel ashamed for speaking openly about periods. Women are taught to view their periods as a fact of life, and as a result, do not consider things like painful cramps or excessively heavy bleeding to be anything outside of the realm of normalcy during that dreaded time of the month. Though the conversation has somewhat emerged into the foreground, in part thanks to strong campaigns and social presences from popular brands that focus on women’s menstrual products and hygiene, there remains an education deficit around menstruation that makes it more difficult for women to truly advocate for the care they need.

A 2019 survey conducted by Hearst publications1 in partnership with Hologic’s We Hate Heavy Periods campaign surveyed nearly 900 women to find out what they know and how they communicate about their periods. The survey found that nearly three in four women talk to their girlfriends about their periods, but more than half don’t voice troubling period symptoms, like heavy bleeding or abnormal cycle length, to their doctor. This fragmented communication between patient and doctor can leave women in the dark about what is considered normal vs. abnormal when it comes to their period. So, let’s talk about it.

Normal vs. Abnormal Periods

Eighty-five percent of women surveyed agree that heavy periods are “just normal,” while sixty-nine percent say that pain during their period is just something to be expected.1 Encouraging women to speak openly about their period symptoms—with family, friends, and their doctors—may help women uncover if their ‘normal’ is actually abnormal. The good news is the medical community is beginning to rally around women more openly discussing their flows as a means of tracking their health. Lubna Pal, MBBS, MS, director of Yale Medicine’s Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Menopause programs, says, “As a daughter of a gynecologist, and then as a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist, I have approached menses as a ‘vital sign,’ a phenomenon whose regularity or irregularity can provide meaningful insights into the overall health of a woman of reproductive age.”

Women and girls are on board, too. According to a 2021 survey from Thinx & PERIOD, out of 1,010 students in the U.S. between the ages of 13-19, 85% agree “periods should be recognized as an indicator of good health rather than something dirty or gross.” 3 By equipping women with the necessity of tracking their monthly periods as a means of understanding their health, women can more quickly identify underlying health issues and seek aid from their doctors.

Ultimately, as a result of keeping one’s period to oneself, there are a lot of people dealing with symptoms they think are normal but aren’t. The Hearst survey notes that nearly 3 in 5 women reported that they experience at least one symptom of heavy periods that prevent them from living their best life1, including:

  • Restricted daily activities
  • Doubling up on sanitary protection
  • Soaking through one or more tampon within an hour
  • Bleeding longer than a week

Not only are these symptoms considered “abnormal,” they could also be indicative of abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), a treatable medical condition that affects 1 in 5 women.4

Treatment Awareness

Medical innovations and advancements continue to yield more treatment options for women facing uterine health problems like AUB, fibroids, infertility, etc. However, the Hearst survey found that nearly half of women incorrectly assume that hormonal therapies are the only way to lighten a heavy flow,1 meaning there’s some work to be done with increasing awareness of treatment options. Treatment options for AUB can range from hormonal therapies, like oral contraceptives and IUDs (most common), to minimally invasive surgeries, to major procedures like hysterectomies.

Still, with all these options – more than two-thirds of women surveyed noted that they were unaware of minimally invasive options for heavy periods.1 To help empower women to advocate for their health, it’s imperative that we spread awareness of all of one’s available treatment options. For example, procedures like endometrial ablation for the treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding and myomectomy or laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation for the treatment of fibroids, have helped millions of women treat their symptoms with minimized pain and reduced recovery time. It is critical that you work with your doctor to find a solution that is right for YOU.

Knowing Your Options and Spreading the Word

The bottom line? Heavy or painful periods may be common, but that does not mean they’re normal. In order to mitigate the destructive silence around menstruation that causes women to “just deal with” these problems, we need to speak up and encourage open and honest discussions. In doing so, women are informed and can be prepared to take action to address irregularities.

You can start by heading to our Heavy Periods fact page to learn more about AUB and find resources for women suffering from painfully heavy periods. One in 5 women suffer from AUB, so look around at the important women in your life and encourage them to speak with a doctor if they experience any symptoms that prevent them from living life to the fullest.




  1. Hologic, Inc. Data on File; Custom Women’s Health Subscriber Study. January – February 2019. Survey of 884 women who subscribe to Women’s Health print publication.
  2. Macmillan, C. (2021, January 27). Women and the Post-Modern ‘Period’. Yale Medicine. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/period-movement
  3. SKDK (2021). State of the Period 2021: The widespread impact of period poverty on US students. Commissioned by Thinx & PERIOD. https://period.org/uploads/State-of-the-Period-2021.pdf
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heavy menstrual bleeding. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html. Accessed July 05, 2017.