Dr Dawn: The problem is most women have no idea how much they bleed during a period or that heavy menstrual bleeding can be a symptom of problems like endometriosis, polycystic ovaries or fibroids in the womb.
Voiceover: So, in a unique television experiment, Dr Dawn’s recruited 3 brave volunteers to record intimate video diaries at home about their menstrual experiences. And because individual women don’t realise how much blood they lose or the wider health implications of very heavy periods, they’ll be using one of these, a menstrual cup. This is inserted into the vagina in much the same way as a tampon. It collects every drop of blood so the girls can scientifically measure their total menstrual blood loss.
Caroline: I have been experiencing the symptoms of PMS for probably 4 or 5 days now. It starts off with a feeling of being bloated, water retention, clothes tend to fell a little bit tighter than normal, things that would normally go straight over my head and not bother me at all irritate me for hours.
Lexi: I’ve been feeling a little bit tetchy for a few days and I get really dizzy before I’m due on. My head will spin; I will be trying to eat and everything’s just spinning. It’s like being very drunk without it being any fun at all.
Loretta: Usually I get a little bit of discharge, which is my general warning. It’s minimal as a rule and a very faint colour.
Lexi: I do have discharge working up to my period. So in the three of four days before my period I will get discharge.
Caroline: I can’t watch anything on the telly, I can even cry at Eastenders. The slightest thing can start me off. Whereas normally that’s not an issue, I’m not a particularly emotional person.
Loretta: Other than that I just kind of get this feeling, I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s just kind of like a feeling. I guess it would be about here (indicates to lower abdomen) and it just kind of tells me. I don’t know if there’s something going on and there’s actually like, sort of, a warning trigger.
Lexi: There we go; I had my visit from Aunt Flo at 3 in the morning. It’s just immense. I’ve got a marvellous run of shame, without any of the fun, going to the bathroom going ‘please don’t make a mess’. Caught it, did it and it’s been misbehaving since. There’s been quite bad cramps. It’s actually so bad I’ve got it all the way down here (indicates to lower abdomen). The whole area feels like it’s trying to do exactly what it’s doing, basically. It got so bad yesterday that it went right down the front of both my thighs. I thought I was going to fall over, honestly.
Loretta: I felt bloated as well since my last video so I’ll just show where. I guess around here (indicates to abdomen) mostly the centre and the surrounding area. Just up to my waist. I feel a little bit bloated.
Lexi: Hello, you are in my bathroom. Be excited.
Loretta: This afternoon we’ve got 2mls. So that’s not very much at all.
Lexi: And basically, looking at that, I would say that is probably about 4 or 5ml which really isn’t much, but that’s over the course of about 5 or 6 hours.
Loretta: And it’s a mixture of blood and discharge, so we’ve got 2 colours there. I’ve heard that out of all the discharge and the lining of the womb that comes out only about 10% of it is blood. I don’t know how accurate that is.
Caroline: Having started my period, my PMS seems to have gone. I feel much better in myself. A much, much more positive day today. I can feel instantly that my bloatedness seems to be decreasing; my clothes aren’t as tight around the middle. And I’m not as tempted to eat rubbish; I’m back onto my healthy diet.
Lexi: The other thing that I was finding I was really, really struggling with today is cravings.
Caroline: I just want to eat everything I see. I have this constant feeling of hunger that lasts all day.
Loretta: I’ve got some rice and baked beans, a really big bowl as you can see. I’m going to get through all of this because I feel so hungry. I hate food cravings so much.
Lexi: I think day 3 is the heaviest day of my period. I was quite heavy all day, and it was very bright red and fresh. I had cramping actually in my vagina as opposed to around my cervix which is a little bit unusual. I also found that between day 2 and day 3 my cervix was sitting really low down.
Loretta: I’m going to show you, I’m trying to hold it straight. I’ve got 12ml, so that’s a full cup today, which, I wasn’t sure what to expect really, but I guess that’s about normal because usually I’d say that’s quite heavy. So that’s a full cup, and it’s just red. There’s nothing more to say. It seems to be just a blood colour.
Lexi: At the moment I’ve found that I’ve been medium flow and dark and clotted and lumpy and gross.
Caroline: I do notice that when I am on my period I tend to be quite a lot hotter.
Lexi: I’m absolutely sweating. This does not happen to me at any other time of the month. No matter what I am doing I will not break a sweat, but whenever I’m on, that’s it, I’m like, dripping. I’ve lost my appetite. I’m feeling really sick. I’m getting cramps in my lower abdomen, let me show you, about here (indicates to front lower abdomen) and they’re just sort of squeezing like a sponge.
Loretta: My appetites really dropped and I’m not sure why. I’m getting a headachy feel just around here (indicates to temples). I feel quite light, I don’t know how else to describe it, light headed. Almost as if I’m only half here and half made out of air.
Lexi: I am so, so dizzy. I’d really love to know if anybody else gets dizzy like this because I wish I knew how to deal with it. Every time I stand up everything goes black, I just get this veil of black covering everything. And I spin and have to sit down again, and try and stand up and it happens again. Do you know what woke me up this morning? Boob ache. I’m not even joking. Searing pain, like someone driving a spear through both my nipples. Not sideways, but inwards. Not nice, really unpleasant. So I went to the bathroom to empty my cup to find that I had bled a good 14ml in the night. So, I’m starting to wonder if it’s some kind of correlation between how much you bleed and how tired you are.
Loretta: No aches, no pains. Absolutely nothing, just life as normal. Fantastic.
Lexi: So right now I will admit I’m feeling really low, really unhappy, extremely depressed and all I really want to do is curl up in a little ball and cry. Yesterday, I seemed to be quite light in the end. I ended up only bleeding about 10 or 12ml for the whole day which isn’t a lot. I don’t even think it was that much. The day before that I bled a good 30 something, so that’s incredible. I got up this morning and had a check and there was only about 2ml in the cup. And it had started to go, as I like to call it, rusty.
Loretta: The consistency and the colour at the moment is a darker red now, not so fresh in appearance and a little more discharge in the mix as well there.
Lexi: I’m now thinking what I actually get on the last day of my period is old blood mixed with discharge. Like I say, it’s a very, it’s a kind of rusty brown colour but really light, sort of diluted, like it’s been mixed with cream.
Loretta: I got 2ml there and it’s just kind of a creamy brown colour, just discharge. And that’s all, so I’ve hit about 60ml altogether and I think that’s going to be all.
Voice over: Having turned the video cameras off it’s time for the 3 diarists to come to the clinic and show Dr Dawn how much blood they lost in total during their period. Loretta lost a grand total of 60ml. Caroline, who endured quite a painful period, lost 69. And the formerly black haired Lexi who suffered with both pain and dizziness lost 79ml which is enough to give Dr Dawn cause for concern.
Dr Dawn: So, how did that period compare to normal?
Lexi: It was a lot lighter and slightly shorter.
Dr Dawn: 79mls is right at the top end of normal. Your very light period is what a lot of people would say is quite a heavy period, and one of the things I noticed about your period diaries is you were saying you felt quite dizzy, quite light headed. That kind of blood loss could leave you anaemic and it may well be worth popping to see your GP.
Dr Dawn: Women bleed between 10 and 80ml during a period; that’s anything from a small espresso to a cup of tea. If you think you’re bleeding more than that, it’s not necessarily a problem but it is worth getting checked out by your GP.
An extended look at the experience of three women as they go through their monthly period, including personal video diaries of the emotional and physical symptoms that occur.
Comments and Questions
Comments & Questions are now archived, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.