6 PMS & Period Symptoms That Aren't Normal

When I worked at Planned Parenthood as a Family Planning Assistant and Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I learned that abnormal PMS symptoms are among some of the most common reasons women seek doctor's advice and treatment. It can be scary, painful, and flat-out annoying to not know what's going on with your body or how to fix it.

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a mixed bag for a lot of women. It can come and go, hit you hard, or skip you altogether. When it hits, it's normal to experience cramps, headaches, bloating, mood swings, back pain, food cravings and exhaustion. You might want sex like your vagina is going to die tomorrow, or you might prefer to jump off a bridge over anything sexual at all. Every person is different.

Overall, these PMS symptoms should be annoying and inconvenient, but not debilitating. They shouldn't really ruin your day. I mean, once in awhile, you might feel super period-y and in the mood to die on your couch with snacks and a heating pad, but if you had to go do something, you could. If you experience so much pain and discomfort (physical or emotional) that you can't handle an average day, you'll want to make a log of your symptoms and check in with your OBGYN as soon as possible. The problem could be something super simple to fix or a symptom of a bigger medical problem. Either way, your doctor can guide you toward better premenstrual days.

1. Worst Cramps Ever

Cramps come and go, and they're typically no big deal. But if your cramps are so bad, you have to miss work or school, and over-the-counter pain meds don't even touch them, you need to get checked out, according to About Health. You should also see your doctor if you have cramps more than three days, or if you get them at other times of the month when you're not on or expecting your period.

2. Heavy Bleeding

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding as a flow that soaks through a pad or tampon (or more than one) in an hour and persists for several hours. Heavy bleeding can be a sign of hormonal imbalances, pregnancy complications, kidney disease, and even some cancers.

3. Prolonged Bleeding

A heavy flow is also one that lasts for more than seven days, according to the CDC. This can include spotting and regular bleeding. Talk to your doctor, because there's no need to suffer with an abnormally heavy or prolonged flow, as it can lead to anemia and fatigue.

4. Huge Clots

Clotting is normal when the clots are smaller than a quarter, according to the CDC. They happen when you bleed too fast or too heavily for your body's anticoagulants to kick in. You should see your doctor because large clots can signal a miscarriage or point to fibroids, hormonal imbalances or an enlarged uterus, according to WebMD.

5. Pain During Sex

If your PMS window or your period means painful sex, it could signal endometriosis, according to Iris Orbuch in an article for Cosmopolitan. Endometriosis can cause tissue to grow in places that make sex uncomfortable. You should never have to deal with painful sex.

6. Intense Sadness, Anger, Or Depression

Severe depression, anger or moodiness that is triggered by a certain point in your cycle is a condition called PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. While the causes aren't fully understood, it's believed to be hormone related, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's also treatable with medication, so you don't have to miss out on work, school and life.

The bottom line is that you don't have to suffer, even if you've gotten used to your extreme symptoms. The powers of science have your back.

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