In your 40s
Periods are considered heavy when a woman bleeds for more than eight to 10 days, loses so much blood she becomes anaemic, and regularly experiences sudden gushes of blood (floods). In the lead-up to the menopause,heavy periods are usually a sign of a hormone imbalance. Hormone treatments and anti-inflammatories can be prescribed by a GP, or you can have a Mirena - a contraceptive IUD with a hormone which can make periods lighter - fitted.
Hysterectomy is a guaranteed cure but it is major surgery. Ask your doctor about new treatments that use local anaesthetic.
Growths that develop from the muscular wall of the womb or cervix, fibroids can cause heavy, irregular or painful periods. Fibroids may also cause discomfort through pressure on the bowel or the bladder. If they are causing problems, a gynaecologist may suggest surgery, including hysterectomy or, if you are still planning to have children, myomectomy, which removes the fibroids only.
The number of sufferers of this form of cancer rises sharply over the age of 40, although screening has been a huge success. Both the cancer itself and cells that have the potential to become cancerous can be detected by smear tests. If it's found early, it can be treated and cured with surgery or radiotherapy. Dr Robin Crawford, medical advisor for Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, says, ‘Most cancers of the cervix cause bleeding between periods or after sex, so if that happens, see your GP immediately.'