Is it normal to pass blood clots during your period or ever? This concern is common among women, but many will never ask their doctors or even their friends. Let’s face it, most women feel embarrassed or uncomfortable discussing anything that has to do with their menstrual cycle. Many women simply pass off anything they experience during their periods as normal when some things are not. Passing large, golf ball-sized blood clots during or in between periods is not normal and it is time to call your doctor and find out what is going on.
Blood Clots During Your Period
During your period or menstrual cycle, certain hormones in your body prompt the shedding of the lining that has built up in your uterus over the past 25 or so days. While this is happening, there are small blood vessels on the inside of the uterus that bleed, and your body’s natural healing properties kick in to prevent you from losing too much blood. Some of this blood along with some of the discarded uterine lining can form clots.
Are Period Blood Clots Normal?
Our blood is made up of two components: plasma (the thin, straw-colored fluid which compromises the majority of the blood) and formed elements. There are three components that make up the formed elements: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The red blood cells make up the vast majority of the formed elements and are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout our bodies.
Hemoglobin and iron are critical components of the red blood cells, and when too many red blood cells are lost each month with a woman’s period, her ability to provide oxygen and important nutrients throughout her body is compromised. This condition is called anemia and results in a number of symptoms including significant fatigue, lightheadedness/dizziness, and migraine-like headaches.
Because of the way our body is designed, blood clots will form as a result of a reaction between plasma and platelets when a certain amount of blood stays in one spot for a length of time.
During a woman’s menstrual cycle it is not unusual for period clots to form, especially if she experiences heavy bleeding. Women form these period clots on their heaviest flow days, usually after the first day, when the blood will collect inside the uterus and a blood clot will form.
What Does a Period Blood Clot Feel Like?
Blood clots during your period look like blobs of red or maroon gel and normally manifest during the very beginning or very end of your menstrual cycle.
Passing very small, e.g. tip of your finger, blood clots during your period is normal and many women do not ever feel them exiting their bodies. Other women will feel a clot come out after standing up from a chair, getting out of bed, or using the bathroom.
Passing period clots is usually uneventful, however, large blood clots can not pass out of the uterus without the cervix dilating which can cause strong cramping and pain.
Golf Ball-Sized Blood Clots Are Reasons For Concern
The formation and passing of small period clots are considered normal. So when should we worry about period clots? and What size period clot is considered normal?
As a general rule, period clots that are smaller than nickel are usually nothing to worry about unless you are experiencing an excessive amount of clots being discharged. Period clots that are larger than a quarter are not normal (no matter how long you have been experiencing this), and golf ball-sized, or larger is a reason of concern and should be checked out right away by your doctor.
If you are passing gold ball-sized blood clots outside of your period, you may be pregnant and experiencing a miscarriage.
Passing several blood clots in a short amount of time, large blood clots bigger than a quarter, or golf ball-sized clots may be an indication of an underlying condition and you should seek medical attention.
What Causes Period Blood Clots?
Several underlying conditions can cause abnormal blood clots to form during a woman’s menstrual cycle or between her periods. If a woman is experiencing significant heavy bleeding, frequent blood clot expulsion, or large blood clots it may indicate she has a medical condition such as:
- Uterine fibroids are growths that develop and present on or around the uterus and are noncancerous. Fibroids can cause a host of painful symptoms including heavy and prolonged bleeding, pelvic pain & pressure, and frequent or large blood clots;
- Adenomyosis is a condition where the uterine lining tissue becomes very thick and breaks through and grows into the walls of the uterus causing pelvic pressure, pain, bloating, heavy bleeding, and clotting;
- Endometriosis presents outside of the uterus and consists of uterine tissue that is growing abnormally outside of the womb and on or around other organs. This can lead to irregular periods, pain, and blood clots;
- Polyps of the uterus or cervix – abnormal growths that can occur on the cervical canal or uterus can cause both heavy bleeding and blood clots;
- Hormones – out of balance hormones such as during perimenopause can prompt irregular uterine lining shedding or an unusual period which can be accompanied by very heavy bleeding and blood clots;
- Other woman’s health conditions – thyroid issues or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can cause irregular bleeding or clotting during menstrual cycles;
- Cancer – although rare, cancer of the uterus or cervix may cause blood clots;
- Miscarriage – sometimes before a woman knows she is pregnant, she can miscarry which would cause irregular bleeding and blood clots.
Large Blood Clots During Your Period Can Mean Uterine Fibroids
Experiencing small blood clots during your period is usually nothing to worry about but frequently passing clots, heavy bleeding, or larger blood clots can indicate an underlying condition like uterine fibroids or adenomyosis.
Uterine fibroids are the most common causes of heavy bleeding with blood clots, pelvic pain, and pressure. They can often be diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam but can be confirmed through an MRI.
Non-Surgical Treatment For Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids can be effectively treated through a non-surgical procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) as an outpatient procedure with no hospital stay. The procedure is performed by an Interventional Radiologist, a physician with specific training in minimally invasive, image-guided targeted medical treatments all over the body, and takes about 30-40 minutes.
Uterine fibroids require a blood supply to grow and thrive. During the UFE procedure, the blood supply to the fibroids is cut off which causes them to shrink and die. As the uterine fibroids die off, they soften and shrink, resulting in significant or complete relief of a woman’s symptoms. Recovery after uterine fibroid embolization is only about 5 to 7 days unlike the 6-8 weeks recovery associated with surgical removal.
UFE Treatment for Adenomyosis
Uterine fibroid embolization is also an effective treatment for adenomyosis in about 75-80% of patients. The only treatment option that is customarily offered to women with adenomyosis is hysterectomy. Non-surgical UFE is a viable option and should be considered in every woman before undergoing surgery and removing the uterus.
If you are experiencing heavy bleeding or large blood clotting, or have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or adenomyosis, contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center® today to set up a consultation.
Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout have over 30 years of experience in performing uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). They have helped over 10,000 women find the relief they were looking for without surgery. In as little as 30 minutes, you can be free from painful symptoms, heavy bleeding, and abnormal period blot clotting.