How pregnancy cured my menorrhagia (heavy menses)

Menstrual cup

Suffering from menorrhagia

Whenever my mother-in-law asserted me that my menstrual problems would be healed with pregnancy, I was sceptic. After all, I’ve had had menorrhagia (heavy and prolonged periods with blood clots) for more than a decade, or more precisely – since first having a period. I used to fear that time of the month, and for good reason. With having to get up and go to the toilet every few hours, sleep was often hard to come by on the stronger days.

In the past, I had to plan around my periods to make sure I wouldn’t get into uncomfortable or embarrassing situations while on my period. Oftentimes, I had to take a day off work because working just wasn’t possible on the stronger days. When I climbed the mountains at Tiger Leaping Gorge in the summer of 2013, I decided to take a shorter route and head right on to Shangri-la instead of trekking to other villages further down the road because my period was about to start.

Before becoming pregnant, I used menstrual cups, because pads or tampons simply wouldn’t do it anymore. I also had severe back pain and other menstruation-related pain. The pain was treated rather fast with TCM herbal teas a doctor prescribed me, but my periods were still extremely heavy.

Searching for treatment

In the summer of 2013, I went to the hospital for check-ups and the doctor told me that my menorrhagia was connected to hormonal imbalances (excess estrogen and low levels of progesterone). She prescribed me hormones, but I decided not to take the medicine after reading all the listed side effects and online articles saying that the hormones could cause breast or other cancer.

So in early fall of 2013, I went to see a TCM practitioner specialising in gynaecology instead. A few days after I started treatment for my hormone imbalances (a condition that can be treated very well with TCM, I’ve heard), I found out that I was pregnant.

Pregnancy – more than just a short-term solution to menorrhagia

Pregnancy and breastfeeding were the perfect short-term solution for my menstrual problems. And as it turns out, pregnancy can indeed heal heavy menses. When my menses came back 5 months after giving birth, they weren’t heavy anymore. I was still anxious that they’ll become heavier with time, but after having had a few menses, I’m more positive that the results will be long-term.

My husband always emphasises that I should wear slippers at home and avoid the cold – cold foods (both in temperature as in TCM terms), cold weather (meaning not staying outside for too long or wearing enough layers in windy or rainy weather), cold water and cold feet. In China, many kitchen sinks only have cold water, so he always washes the dishes when I’m on my period (he washes them many other times too, but particularly at that time of the month). He’s positive that my adhering (somewhat) to Chinese postpartum practices played a big role in healing my menorrhagia.

So what if you don’t want to or can’t treat your heavy periods by becoming pregnant? (There’s also still a huge chance that your menorrhagia won’t go away after pregnancy). Just know that one other option besides relying on hormonal treatments or taking the pill is Traditional Chinese Medicine. When I enquired with a naturopath in Austria who treats these conditions naturally (and has waiting times of half a year or longer), she told me that TCM is very well suited to treat menorrhagia or other menstruation-related conditions.

Have you ever had menstrual problems? How do you deal with them?

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About

Hi, I'm Ruth, welcome to China Elevator Stories! I have been living in Kunming and Shenzhen in the past and am now staying in Northeast China with my Chinese husband and our baby and toddler son. Join us on our journey bridging worlds!

16 comments

  1. That’s a miserable condition to have — I’m glad you’ve improved.

    My gynecologist’s solution was birth control pills. I love them. Made me a little nauseous at first, but that disappeared in the first few months. I’ve been on them for years and I never want to go back to cramps and heavy bleeding.

  2. Yeah I second Autumn, birth control works wonders. While I never really had a problematic period, after getting on birth control pill (I must continously take it to prevent ovarian cysts which I am really prone to) my period became a joke. Like 3 days max and extremely light.

    Needless to say, I never looked back!

    • I’ve heard that taking the pill is a great option for some. I took the pill for a few years and it did indeed improve my menstrual problems. Not as much as pregnancy though! It gave me lots of side effects though, so I had to get off it.

  3. I’m so glad pregnancy solved your problem with heavy periods, Ruth. That must have been very unpleasant. I’ve never heard of menstrual cups before.

    It sounds like your husband takes good care of you.

    • I never heard of them until about 2 years ago either. They have a lot of other advantages too compared to tampons/pads, but sometimes they aren’t very convenient to change if you’re not at home.
      He does. This is one thing I like about being married to him – he’s very committed and doesn’t think this is a women’s problem and there’s nothing he can do to help.

  4. I have endometriosis and cysts on my ovaries, which causes heavy periods with clotting and extreme pain. I had surgery for it in 2008, which helped relieve the pain, but it never went away and started getting bad again in recent years. My only recourse has been to take a double dose of the pill every day. This has stopped most of my periods. I now only get them 3-4 times a year. This is still too much for me. As someone who can’t have kids because of my condition, having a period is a huge imposition on my life. I would have a hysterectomy just to stop it completely, but I don’t want to have an “unnecessary” major surgery, though my doctor told me that at some point, a hysterectomy will be necessary.
    At least in China, because of the one child policy, birth control pills are cheap and available OTC without a doctor’s appt. However, I have noticed that the price has nearly doubled since I moved here 5 years ago. The first pack I bought was 13 RMB. Now, it is around 21-23 RMB depending on the pharmacy. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but a 100% price increase for anything in such a short amount of time is a concern. I haven’t had the opportunity to research this yet, though, to find out the cause.

    • A 100% price increase is indeed a lot, especially considering the fact that the pill should be available to poor people or people who don’t have an income (yet) as well.

      Have you looked into alternative treatment options? One of my Chinese friends has a similar condition and is going to a TCM practitioner. It surely isn’t a short-time cure (her doctor said for some it takes 1 year of treatment, for others 10) and as far as I know not everyone responds to the treatment, but it might be worth giving it a try.

      • Yeah, I should look into that. It certainly wouldn’t hurt at this point.
        Oh, by the way, I noticed you used a menstrual cup in you illustration. Are they commonly used in Austria? I have only recently begun hearing about them and their benefits; they aren’t use in America at all, but more women are discovering them online. I’m interested in trying them out and plan to encourage my daughters to at least try them (I’ll probably get one for my god-daughter too!). But I was wondering with the clotting and heaviness if there would be a problem with them. I would imagine they would actually work better than pads for clots since the clots are so bad sometimes the pad and tampons can’t absorb them anyway!

        • Yeah, if you can find a good TCM practitioner, this might definitely be an option you could consider. I went to the gynaecology ward in a hospital for TCM in Shenzhen for treating my menorrhagia and the doctor seemed to be very knowledgeable in regard to my condition.

          Actually I still had to use a pad in addition to the cup to avoid leaking. My menses were just way too strong. But it worked much better than the tampons/pad combination. Cups are also supposed to be healthier than tampons, because the blood is collected, not absorbed (and there are usually chemical residues in tampons). It works better for clots and there are different kinds of cups, it definitely won’t hurt to try them. There’s a lot of information about them online, that’s how I found them in the first place. I’ve never heard of them in the past in Austria, but my sister has also started using them a while ago, so I think more people start using them. I think I’ll use them again now with lighter periods because they are more hygienic and healthier for women than pads or tampons.

          • Yeah, the thing about chemical residue on the pads/tampons is why I am so interested in the cups. I have read several articles that have posited the rise of endometreosis is possibly linked with the commercialization of sanitation products because of all the bleach and chemicals in them.

            • Yeah, I recently read an article about radioactive pads. Some people buy organic pads and tampons, but those are probably more expensive. I’m not sure about residues in cups, but there’s one kind you can clean by boiling, so I imagine it to be a bit better in that regard than pads and tampons.

  5. I’ve had horrendous periods since they started – and even then I can’t tell you my exact age. They were so irregular it wasn’t funny, and only after much trial and error with all types of pills and contraceptives, I found the depo injection works best for me. I’m scared to go off it actually, that’s how much relief I get from it.. Interesting that your periods have become so much better since having a baby 🙂

  6. Sandra

    Hey I’m 16 & I think I have menorrhagia 🙁 I’ve been on my period for 1 week & some days now. The first 4 days it was a regular period nothing was wrong but then all of the sudden I get a heavy period & I had to go to the restroom every 20-30 minutes & huge blood clots came out like the size of 4 quarters. I’m worried & scared. When I wake up my bottom is soaked w blood, I’m tired of it…does it go away without treatment? 🙁 I’m so scared

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