Listen to this article
The prevalence of obesity around the world has tripled over the last few years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Along with that rise, everything from diabetes to heart health issues have also soared. But this doesn’t just end here. Because being overweight can invite millions of health issues – even heavy periods. Yes, you read that right. Some women experience a heavier menstrual cycle because of being obese.
Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, Consultant Bariatric, and Laparoscopic Surgeon, Saifee, Apollo Spectra, Namaha and Currae Hospital, Mumbai, tells HealthShots, “The effect of obesity on reproductive health is quite complex. Obesity is associated with “irregularity” in periods which is usually a result of anovulatory cycles. This irregularity may consist of complete stoppage of periods, periods could be early or late or the flow could be heavier or lighter than usual.”
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is an obesity-related condition. Women with obesity tend to be insulin-resistant, which in turn promotes the development of polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS and vice-versa. PCOS is a condition in which the ovaries become enlarged and have multiple small collections of fluid. Increased levels of multiple hormones such as luteinizing hormone, leptin, insulin, estrone, triglycerides, and very low density lipo-proteins in turn have a negative impact on the hypopituitary gonadotropic axis which in turn may lead to infertility, says Dr Bhasker.
Various studies have suggested that obesity may be associated with heavier blood flow during periods. Dr Bhasker says, “This may be caused due to increased inflammation of the lining of the womb (uterus) and also by delayed repair of the lining of the womb.”
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology also suggests obesity is linked to heavier periods and may be caused by delayed repair of the womb lining.
Weight loss may help reduce blood loss during menstruation. “Weight loss can have a positive impact on the menstrual cycle of women with obesity. Weight loss helps to improve insulin resistance and also leads to improvement in PCOS”, says Dr Bhasker.
For weight loss, lifestyle modification forms the cornerstone of therapy and must be the first line of advice. With that, patients must be put on a medically supervised diet and exercise programs. As a result, reproductive abnormalities induced by obesity tend to improve after weight loss. The period cycle tends to become more regularized and cycles become ovulatory from anovulatory. Women suffering from PCOS must also see an endocrinologist to seek treatment for the same.
In the case of women with severe obesity (with a Body Mass Index over 37.5 kg/m2), bariatric surgery can be recommended for weight loss, suggests Dr Bhasker.
Heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as losing more than 80 ml of blood in every cycle or when the periods last for more than seven days at one time. If you need to change the sanitary pads every 2 hours, are bleeding through your clothes, or are passing clots more than 2.5 cms in size, you must see your gynaecologist, suggests Dr Bhasker.