If you experience clots with your period, let me start off by saying that you are not the only one! I see so many women in clinic that experience all sorts of signs and symptoms with their periods and having clots sure is one of them. Your period is as unique as you are. Every woman’s cycle is different in their own way, some bleed for only a couple of days, some bleed for seven. Some are heavier, some are lighter, some have debilitating pain every month and some experience no pain at all – yes that is possible!
There can be many differences when comparing menstrual cycles, but there are some qualities of the period we want to look out for and pay attention to, and clots fall into this category. Let’s dive in.
Are clots normal?
Clots are normal in that they are very common, but they are not a sign of a healthy period. Generally speaking, any blood clots you see in your period that are smaller then a 5c piece are not too much of a cause for concern. Women will often describe them as ‘pea sized’ or ‘rice grain size’, this can often be bits of endometrial tissue passing through and quite normal.
However, when you see clots in your period that are larger, bigger then around a 10c piece, this is when we want to pay attention and investigate further.
In Chinese medicine, clots with the period belong to a pattern we call ‘blood stagnation’. Our blood can become stagnant many different ways, however what ever the underlying pattern is, the presence of the clots indicates there is something impeding the proper flow of qi and blood.
What should a normal period look like?
A normal period should arrive pain free, with no clots and freely flowing blood. The amount of blood should be manageable with no flooding or leaking.
Why should you care if you have clots with your period?
So we now know that having clots in your period can be a sign of blood stagnation, but why does that matter? Well, our bodies are talking to us all the time, giving us signs and messages on the state of our inner environment. Whether this is through bloating, headaches, or clots, these are all messages our body is giving us to say something needs addressing.
The beauty of Chinese medicine is that through careful consult and diagnosis, we can identify small, subtle imbalances in the body and correct them before they grow and develop into something bigger. Most illnesses or disease states do not begin overnight, there is typically a long build up beforehand where the body gives small cues to say that it needs some help and support. We can pay attention to these subtle signs to prevent things from developing further. I think the quote ‘if you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have hear it scream’ perfectly sums up what we want to do!
Aside from clots being a sign of blood stagnation in Chinese medicine, from a western point of view, clots can be a sign of hormonal imbalance. When the clots are numerous and large they can often accompany some gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids.
Causes of clots in Chinese medicine
There can be many different reasons and pathological processes that can manifest as clots in Chinese medicine, this is where it is important to work with a practitioner to identify your exact pattern and root cause for an appropriate and targeted treatment plan.
However the two most common patterns I can see in clinic are what we call in Chinese medicine Cold in the uterus and Heat in the uterus.
Causes of clots in western medicine
High oestrogen levels: oestrogen is a proliferative hormone, meaning it makes cells grow. One of the roles of oestrogen is to thicken up the uterine lining during the first phase of the cycle before ovulation (follicular phase).
Oestrogen can rise from many factors including:
- Poor diet
- Exposure to xenoestrogens (found in plastics, pesticides etc)
- Repeated antibiotic use
- The Oral Contraceptive Pill
- Unmanaged stress levels
- Sluggish liver function (metabolises and detoxifies oestrogen)
- High body fat percentage (adipose tissue secretes oestrogen
Endometriosis/adenomyosis/fibroids are commonly associated with clots and can be seen as a cause in western medicine
So what do we do about clots?
In order to appropriately address clots with the period the best route to take is to work closely with a practitioner that can assess your individual health history, diet and lifestyle. Identifying your specific pattern is the cornerstone of Chinese medicine, our goal is to treat the person as a whole so there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to acupuncture and herbal medicine.
That being said, there are some easy and simple things you can do at home alongside your treatment to help support your body back into balance.
If you read the signs and symptoms for cold in the uterus and heat in the uterus listed above and feel that you resonated with one in particular (it’s okay if you feel like you could be a bit of both!), I have listed some diet and lifestyle tips below for both patterns as well as tips to guide you that are relevant for both patterns.
Cold in the uterus
Keep your lower back, abdomen and feet warm throughout your cycle.
Keep warm especially during your period and ovulation as these are the only two times in your cycle your cervix is open – leaving your uterus venerable to an invasion of Cold.
Avoid cold and raw foods
Eat lots of warming and cooked foods
Drink warming herbal teas like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Rest in ‘legs up the wall’ pose at nighttime before bed to invigorate circulation and blood flow to the uterus and reproductive system.
Take regulars baths and/or warm showers to warm and increase blood flow to abdomen and reproductive system.
Perform regular self abdominal massage or seek out abdominal massage from a therapist that specialise with working with women.
Heat in the uterus
The big focus here is on reducing inflammation – a lot of which can be done through diet & lifestyle (listed below)
Avoid hot spicey foods
Reduce/avoid alcohol intake as it increases heat and inflammation and raises oestrogen levels.
Avoid caffeine as it is strongly heating in Chinese medicine and we want to cool any excess heat out of your system.
General diet and lifestyle guidelines for clots
Increase qi and blood flow and circulation to reproductive system
Avoid inflammatory food and drink: this includes gluten, processed sugar, dairy, fried greasy foods, caffeine, vegetable oils & alcohol.
Focus on liver health: increase brassica family vegetables eg. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale and bok choy – make sure they are always cooked rather then raw.
Special note on dairy: avoid dairy especially when there is large clots with heavy bleeding. Dairy increases oestrogen receptor sensitivity and can worsen clotting and heavy bleeding.
Focus on gut health:
- Our gut health is everything and the foundation of our health, and this is no different when it comes to our menstrual health!
- Increase fibre in your diet to bind up excess oestrogen to pass through the bowel.
- Repeated antibiotic and oral contraceptive pill usage can disturb the bacterial balance in our microbiome. This delicate balance thrown out of wack can impair oestrogen metabolism and detoxification - leading to higher levels of oestrogen and hormonal imbalance.
- Move you bowels! Constipation causes oestrogen to be reabsorbed through the large intestine and recirculated. We want to be having a bowel movement 1-2 times per day (ideally 2!) to allow for healthy elimination.
Address stress: prolonged stress causes stagnation in the body and can lead to hormonal disregulation. Chronic stress and being predominantly in our ‘flight or flight’ nervous system (sympathetic nervous system) diverts precious blood flow away from the reproductive system. Read more about the effects of stress on our bodies and reproductive system here.
Abdominal massage: either self massage or from a therapist to encourage healthy blood flow and break up stagnation.
Avoid tampons when you have big clotting. In Chinese medicine we want our blood to be able to flow freely, using a tampon can stagnate the free flow of blood. Consider using a pad or a menstrual cup with big clots and see if you notice any changes. If you want to know more about menstrual cups click here.
Avoid smoking - even second hand smoke. Smoking has been shown to worsen clotting in the period.
Move stagnation through regular physical movement. Aim for more intense, dynamic movement and exercise during your follicular phase (first half of the cycle until ovulation) and more restorative movements such as regular walking and restorative yoga after ovulation up until the next period.
Look at your skin care and household products. Make the switch to natural & organic products to avoid the chemicals that can disturb the endocrine system and raise oestrogen levels.
And now onto our emotional wellbeing. Emotional stagnation can commonly manifest in the womb for women. Feeling stuck in one particular emotion for a long period of time such as frustration, repressed anger, feeling like you are unable to live or speak your truth or live your calling creates tension and stagnation in your body, long term this can manifest with physical symptoms. Enquire within and see if this may be relevant for you. Where can you invite more ease and flow into your life?
And of course I can’t finish off this list without mentioning two of my favourites, acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese medicine has an amazing and long standing (2000+ years!) reputation for working wonders with women’s health, and I am lucky enough to witness these effects every day in clinic. These two are an amazing tools in your kit for reducing clotting with your period and achieving a happy and balanced menstrual cycle on a whole!
Want to address clots to prevent further progression and ensure whole body and hormonal balance. Don’t ignore your body’s clues!
There can be many different causes for clotting. It is important to seek personalised guidance from a practitioner so your treatment is specific to you.
Focus should be on increasing blood flow, moving stagnation, addressing diet, gut health, stress, emotional wellbeing and physical movement.
Seek help from your GP or practitioner if your clots are very large and you are experiencing uncontrollable heavy bleeding/flooding. This is not normal and indicates there is something going on internally that needs to be addressed.
Any questions? You are welcome to send me a message!