You period will probably never be the most enjoyable week of your month. Well, it might not be so bad if you won the lotto while menstruating, but most likely, it's just a week where you feel a little low-key — or worse. However, that doesn't mean that every single side effect that comes with your period is normal and should be endured bravely. There are definitely times when your period symptoms cross the line into abnormal territory.
Although there's no such thing as a "normal" period, there are some rough guidelines to aim for. A cycle generally lasts anywhere between 21-35 days, and the actual flow of your period can go from 4-8 days. If you consistently land somewhere in these ball parks, you should be in the clear, but don't be surprised if you hit a bump in the road at some point. Thirty percent of menstruating women have irregular periods, and there are all sorts of reasons why this occurs. It could be a hormonal imbalance, uterine abnormalities, or chronic stress. You won't know the reason until you see your doctor.
You don't have to be a medical professional, though, to know when your period symptoms turn from standard to worrisome. Bustle spoke with Alyssa Dweck, M.D., gynecologist in New York, assistant clinical professor OBGYN at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and author of V is for Vagina, who says, "Women are accustomed to what their periods are like, so if something different comes up, that should spark concern." Anytime you notice something out of the ordinary, dig a little deeper with your doctor to find out what's going on.
Here are eight period symptoms you should get checked out.
1. The Length Of Your Cycle Suddenly Changes
2. Your Flow Suddenly Gets Much Heavier
Dr. Dweck says it's cause for concern if you unexpectedly find yourself using more super absorbency pads and tampons. Because the heaviness of your flow is unique to you, you'll know right off the bat when things get bloodier than usual. No matter what your normal period is like, though, anyone who can't get through an hour without changing out a tampon, for fear of leaking all over their clothes, should speak to their doctor. At least, that's how the Center for Disease Prevention and Control defines an abnormally heavy period. Some things that may cause a super heavy flow include kidney problems, hormonal imbalances, or growths or tumors on the uterus.
3. You Start Spotting Between Your Periods
There are a lot of possible causes of spotting in between periods, and Dr. Dweck says you've got to see your provider to figure out which one applies to you. It could be a side effect of the birth control or prescription medications you're currently taking. Other potential complications include endometriosis, STIs, or a thyroid disorder. Dr. Dweck also notes that pregnancy could cause strange spotting when you're not on your period. Go and get tested as soon as you can, because in some cases, spotting hints at an ectopic pregnancy.
4. You Have Your Period For A Really, Really Long Time
5. Your Cramps Are Unbearably Painful
6. Your Period Blood Has A New, Foul Odor
"Period blood never really smells good," Dr. Dweck admits, "but foul odor can sometimes be the sign of an infection." If the scent has been persistently pungent, you might have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. There's also the possibility you're living with an STI that has gone unnoticed. Keep in mind that your period odors will vary throughout your cycle, so jot down how long you've been experiencing the strong scent. If it's been tickling your nose for several days, go see your OBGYN.
7. You Stop Getting Your Period Altogether
8. Your PMS Symptoms Are So Severe They Interfere With Your Relationships
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, Dr. Dweck says we're the ones who know our bodies best. If "something new that pops up, especially if it’s persistent," she recommends not wasting any time to get in touch with a medical professional. Life's too short to live with a debilitating period.
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