22 May 2024

Don’t suffer in silence: how to seek help for problem periods


Heavy periods, endometriosis and menopause symptoms can all affect our daily lives, but treatment is available.

If problem periods are having a major impact on you and how you learn, work and live, don’t suffer in silence. Treatment can help – contact your GP practice today.

Shazia recommends keeping a journal of symptoms

After suffering from the age of 14 with very painful, heavy periods, Shazia (pictured) sought help in her 20s from her GP practice. She was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

“I ended up with a great GP who was well-versed in understanding endometriosis,” says Shazia, now aged 40, who has undergone three operations.

“One of the things I loved was whenever I’d go in after that first surgery, the GP was really good at going, ‘if you are concerned, you know your body better than anyone so why don’t we investigate?’”

At its worst, she had periods every fortnight that lasted for almost two weeks, and says managing the pain became a “huge thing”.

She recommends keeping a journal of symptoms and says if you suspect you have endometriosis, ask your GP for an investigation. “The best thing you can do for yourself is take the time to really know what your body’s doing and why.

“Always say: ‘I know my body well, these are the things that I’m experiencing, I suspect it is endometriosis.’”

Heavy or painful periods can seriously impact women’s lives

Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Women’s Health Ambassador for England

“Heavy or painful periods can seriously impact women’s lives, making learning, working and caring more difficult,” says Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Women’s Health Ambassador for England.

“They can also be a sign of health conditions that need attention. There is treatment available, so I urge all women to know the signs of a problem period. If your periods prevent you getting on with daily life, please do not hesitate to seek advice.

“Your local GP practice or women’s health hub can direct you to the help you may need.”

Frequent questions

When should I contact my GP practice?

  • If you faint when you have your period
  • If you have to stay in bed when you have your period due to severe pain or heavy bleeding
  • If your periods become more painful, heavier or irregular
  • If you’re bleeding between periods or after sex
  • If heavy periods are affecting your life
  • If you’ve had heavy periods for some time
  • If you have severe pain during your periods
  • If you have heavy periods and other symptoms such as pain when peeing, pooing or having sex.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a long-term condition that can affect women of any age, including teenagers. Symptoms can vary.

Contact your GP practice if you:

  • have pain in your lower tummy or back (pelvic pain) – usually worse during your period
  • have period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
  • have pain during or after sex, or when peeing or pooing during your period
  • feel sick, have constipation, diarrhoea, or have blood in your pee or poo during your period
  • have difficulty getting pregnant
  • have heavy periods.

How do I know if my period is heavy?

Heavy periods are common and may just be normal for you. Symptoms include:

  • needing to change your pad or tampon every 1 to 2 hours, or empty your menstrual cup more often than is recommended
  • needing to use two types of sanitary product together, such as a pad and a tampon having periods lasting more than seven days
  • passing blood clots larger than the size of a 10p coin.

What does severe pain mean?

Painful periods are often a normal part of the menstrual cycle. But severe pain means it is always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk; it stops you from sleeping or means it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress.

What’s the difference between menopause and perimenopause?

  • Menopause is when your periods stop due to lower hormone levels. It usually affects women between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier naturally or due to certain medical treatments.
  • Perimenopause is when you have symptoms of menopause but your periods have not stopped.
  • Both can cause symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods.

Find out more

Don’t suffer in silence. Treatment can help if your periods or menopause symptoms affect your daily life. Contact your GP practice or go to nhs.uk/womens-health