If you're someone who dreads your period every month, think of it like this: you can learn things from your period. Think of your period as your Mr. Miyagi. It will teach you everything you need to know about karate. Wait. I mean, it will teach you everything you need to know about your reproductive health. While your period won't disclose every secret of your swimsuit areas and you should definitely have regular pap tests, breast exams, and STI checks, it can be a useful way to keep track of your health. It's one reason why always skipping your period on the pill can be a disadvantage — having your period can let you know if something is not quite right in your body.
Again, while it's not the end all be all and you should definitely still refer yourself to a doctor for regular check-ups, you should also listen to your period when it's talking to you. For instance, if you're cramping more than usual, that might mean you need to see a doctor in between your regular check ups. It's important to know when your body is trying to tell you something, and your period is a big talker. Here are some things you can learn from your period:
1. Your Cramps Might Be Indicative Of Something Else
Around 50 percent of women experience period cramps, so they're pretty normal. However, excessive cramps can be a sign of a problem, and should be checked by a health care professional immediately. Endometriosis, which is believed to affect around 11 percent of American woman, can be the cause of severe cramping. The illness is treatable, but you have to get on it as soon as possible — so if your period is causing you more pain than usual, you should follow up.
2. The Color Of Your Blood Can Tell You A Lot About Your Hormone Levels
A look at your blood can tell you a lot about your hormone levels, which might be important in keeping you healthy. For instance, a "frozen blueberry" color and texture might mean you have too much estrogen, while a "strawberry jam" color and texture might mean you have too little estrogen, which can lead to low libido, fatigue, and even hair loss. Hormone imbalances on either side of the spectrum can also lead to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so it's important to note what your period is telling you about your hormones.
3. Your Flow Can Tell You About Your Vitamin Levels
If you have a very heavy menstrual flow, you might be a anemic — which is going to make you feel pretty terrible at all times, not just during your period. If you're bleeding so much you use a tampon or pad up every hour or so, then you might be at risk for anemia, which will give you fatigue and shortness of breath.
4. Unusual Bleeding Could Be A Sign Of Cancer
Emphasis here is on "could be." That means that if you experience abnormal bleeding like heavy spotting between periods or after menopause, you should consult a doctor. Around 90 percent of women who have abnormal vaginal bleeding are diagnosed with endometrial cancer, so while there can be other causes for this, you should take bleeding outside of your period as motivation to book a doctor appointment immediately.
5. A Missed Period Could Obviously Mean You're Pregnant
If you're sexually active (even if you're using protection, or are on the pill or other hormonal contraceptive) a missed period could be a sign of pregnancy. (Just in case you missed Mean Girls.)
6. Changes In Your Cycle Could Be Evidence Of A Pituitary Tumor
Pituitary tumors can be benign or cancerous and occur on your pituitary gland. There are lots of symptoms for them, so id you're experiencing a weird cycle plus dizziness or headaches (there's a big list of other symptoms here too), it could mean your pituitary gland isn't functioning correctly. You need your pituitary to be healthy because it's essentially responsible for secreting hormones straight into your bloodstream upon instruction from your brain. Those hormones run parts of the endocrine system, including your thyroid gland, adrenal glands and ovaries. If it's inflamed or has a tumor growing on it, the failure to function correctly could cause hormonal imbalances in your body, and failures in those other important glands and organs. So stay vigilant on those cycle changes — you might catch something that an ordinary doctor's visit won't.