If you're someone who menstruates, I'm willing to bet you've wondered why your period is so heavy at least once in your life, right? Of course, there are numerous reasons why your flow might be heavy — but new research has unearthed one we hadn't considered before. Dr. Jackie Maybin, a clinical lecturer in OBGYN studies at the University of Edinburgh, recently spoke to New Scientist and shared a discovery she made in her research on the cause of heavy menstrual cycles. According to Maybin, the protein H1F1 may be at the root of the issue when people experience heavy menstrual flows.
H1F1 is a protein that activates other genes when oxygen levels drop, which occurs in the uterus during a period. This protein activates other genes when oxygen levels drop — something that is known to happen in the uterus during a period. Interestingly, H1F1 also helps repair issues in the stomach, so Maybin and her colleagues wondered if H1F1 also repairs uterus lining after a period.
To determine whether or not this was the case, the researchers took sample cells from the uteruses of eight women, half of whom experienced heavy menstrual cycles, over the course of a month. They found that H1F1 does appear in the uterus during a woman's period; however, women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding have dramatically lower levels of this protein.
As a second part of the study, Maybin and her team gave mice injections of estrogen and testosterone to mimic menstrual cycles and hormonal fluctuations. Roughly 16 hours after the mice started to bleed, their uteruses showed signs of repair. For mice who were genetically modified to not be able to make the H1F1 protein, however, there was no recovery shown in the 24-hour window after they began to bleed. This suggests that the presence of the H1F1 protein is important not only for halting or slowing menstrual blood loss, but also for repairing the uterine lining post-cycle.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, it's common for people to experience a range of bleeding during their menstrual cycle, from light to moderate to heavy. The variation in bleeding is comparable to the fact that you may not get your period on the same day every month, or have it last the same length of time. These things can sometimes come down to outside factors, such as whether you're on a form of hormonal birth control, or simply shifts in your own hormonal balances. In fact, as OBGYN specialist Gerson Weiss of the New Jersey Medical School told Redbook magazine, the definition of a normal period will change over the course of our lives, so it's extra important to stay cognizant of what's happening in our bodies.
Personally, I think a great habit to get into is charting your own menstrual cycles, so you can get better acquainted with your cycle, any pre-menstrual symptoms you might experience, length of your cycle, etc. Even if your menstrual cycles aren't terrible, this might be a good way for you to track changes or shifts that could be warning signs of developing issues. Better safe than sorry, right?
Whether you're tracking your period or not, you may still experience heavy bleeding during your periods. As we all know, this can be wildly inconvenient, as well as painful. You might be wondering: How much bleeding is too much bleeding? According to the Center for Disease Control, if you're soaking through a tampon or pad in less than two hours, or going through more than five tampons or pads per day, you should talk to a medical professional. If you're curious, there is a specific amount of bleed that's generally considered normal to lose during your period: two or three tablespoons worth of blood total. If you're thinking that number sounds lower than your usual flow, you should talk to a medical professional about your period.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (2)