What is haemophilia and how can it affect your period?
Do you find yourself constantly changing your pads or tampons because of heavy bleeding? Or do you have periods that last 7 days or longer? If you or a loved one is dealing with similar symptoms, then it might be haemophilia. Understanding why this blood disorder happens and how it can be treated may give you some comfort and lead you to the right help. So let’s take a closer look!
Periods are different for everybody: some of us have short and light ones, while others have a longer and heavier flow, and that is usually normal... every body is unique, after all! However, in some rare cases, heavy menstrual flow can be a sign of haemophilia. But how do you know if it’s this rare condition or nothing to worry about? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about haemophilia and periods.
What is haemophilia?
Haemophilia is an inherited blood disorder caused by a change (often called a mutation) in the gene that’s in charge of thickening your blood. Basically, this prevents blood from clotting properly. For example, if you get a cut on your finger, fall, or scrape your knee, and the blood doesn’t stop on its own after a few minutes - it could be a sign of haemophilia.
This rare condition is passed down from parents to children. So, if there’s a history of haemophilia in your family, you have a 25% chance of getting it as well.  And although it’s much more common in males than in females, anyone can get it.
Being aware of this condition might help you spot the signs and seek the right care and support you need. Or, if you happen to know someone who might have haemophilia, having this knowledge will put you in a much better place to support them. In either case, getting acquainted with the different types of haemophilia may be a good place to start...
Types of haemophilia
There are two types of haemophilia - type A and B. The type of haemophilia you might have depends on the clotting factor (a protein) in your blood that controls how you bleed. People who have the haemophilia gene mutation may have low levels of these blood proteins.
Haemophilia A and haemophilia B
The most common type of haemophilia is type A, which is also known as classic haemophilia. The other type is haemophilia B, which is sometimes also known as Christmas disease – but it’s nothing to do with swapping presents or lavishly decorated trees. The first-ever patient diagnosed with haemophilia B was called Stephen Christmas so that’s where it got its famous nickname from.
The only difference between the two types is the specific clotting factor that’s missing in your blood (factor VIII in type A and factor IX in type B), but otherwise, they are basically the same.
If you suspect you might have haemophilia, getting a diagnosis is the best way to find out which type it is. While it can be daunting to find out your body may not work as it should, having accurate information can help you get the right help, so it’s worth it!
Did You Know
What are the symptoms of haemophilia during your period?
Since haemophilia is a blood disorder, it is only natural for it to affect menstruation. So, which are the symptoms of haemophilia to look out for during your period?
Long or heavy periods
Much like everything to do with our periods, how long they last can vary from person to person. Typically, menstrual flows last from 2 to 7 days, with longer periods often correlating with heavier ones. And while it’s completely normal for your bleeding to vary from cycle to cycle, consistently having a flow of around 5 tablespoons (80ml) would be considered as heavy periods (also known as menorrhagia).
Calculating how much flow you actually bleed can be tricky, but there are some ways to tell. You may have noticed that you need to change your period pad or tampon every 1 to 2 hours. Or perhaps you wake up frequently during the night only to waddle your way to the bathroom to change period products. You may pass blood clots (pieces of bloody tissue) that are larger than a grape or feel spontaneous flooding or gushing of blood. You may even find period blood stains in your clothing or bedding even when using period products designed for a heavy flow.
Our ovaries release an egg around day 14 of the menstrual cycle. While this process goes nearly unnoticed for most, people with haemophilia may struggle with symptoms like pain in the lower abdomen when ovulation occurs. It can happen on only one side of your lower tummy and is sometimes also called ‘Mittelschmerz’ (German for ‘middle pain’).
Treatment for haemophilia symptoms
Although it can seem daunting at first, living with haemophilia symptoms doesn’t mean you can’t have a normal life or keep doing the things you love. And even though it is a complex condition, haemophilia is treatable.
Most of the time, the pain that comes with haemophilia can be relieved with some rest and pain relief medications. But if you find that you have unusually severe dull pain in your lower abdomen that isn’t settling with simple painkillers, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor. They’ll be able to confirm what’s really going on in your body and guide you through the best possible treatment.
In some cases, they might suggest you try out a contraceptive pill to lighten and regulate your period, or they may even reference you to a haemophilia treatment centre where you can meet and get support from others experiencing the same blood condition.
Coping with haemophilia
On top of medical treatment for haemophilia, it may be helpful for you to experiment with different period products to find out which one works best for you and your heavy flow. With options like our intimawear by Bodyform heavy flow period underwear or period pads like our Bodyform V-Protection Ultra Long+ Towels with Wings, there’s plenty for you to try out and feel protected throughout the days and nights of your period.
Finally, remember that although living with a rare condition can feel like a lonely and isolating experience, it doesn’t have to be that way! Consider reaching out to friends, family, or even support groups that might help you find some comfort. Getting any frustration or worries off your chest can really help you cope with haemophilia and encourage you to continue living fearlessly.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.
How haemophilia is Inherited (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC)
Bleeding disorders may cause heavy periods (Hemaware – The Bleeding Disorders Magazine)
van Galen KPM, d'Oiron R, James P, Abdul-Kadir R, Kouides PA, Kulkarni R, Mahlangu JN, Othman M, Peyvandi F, Rotellini D, Winikoff R, Sidonio RF. A new hemophilia carrier nomenclature to define hemophilia in women and girls: Communication from the SSC of the ISTH. J Thromb Haemost. 2021 Aug;19(8):1883-1887. doi: 10.1111/jth.15397. PMID: 34327828; PMCID: PMC8361713.
Heavy menstrual bleeding (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC)