How To Know That Your Period Might Be Abnormal

by Isadora Baum, CHC

A period can seem pretty standard: It arrives every month, leaves you feeling bloated and hangry, and then darts off, only to arrive again a few weeks later. However, sometimes there are signs of an abnormal period, and such imbalances in hormones can definitely mess with your mood, energy levels, and flow. While there are several factors that can cause you to be a little late or to be heavier or lighter than usual, an abnormal cycle could also signify a greater health problem, and it's worth speaking to a doctor.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on keeping their moods and bodies as stable as possible throughout the menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations can be tricky to handle, as they can influence how you feel about yourself, as well as how productive and energetic you can be during the day. In order to stay sane and not let the period woes get the best of you, here are 11 ways to know if your period is abnormal and might need some help with getting back on track. By using a few lifestyle tweaks, you'll probably feel more comfortable in your own skin, have greater energy, and have more control over your day.

1. Spotting

Over email with Bustle, Dr. Brett Worly, ob/gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, explains that "there should be no spotting" during a regular period cycle. The only periods of blood should be when you're menstruating, and if there's spotting on different weeks, it could signal a problem, advises Worly.

2. Excessive Pain

While a cramp or abdominal discomfort can be quite common, excessive pain during your cycle is not considered normal, advises Worly. According to Dr. Charles Galanis, a Board Certified Surgeon in Chicago, and Robert Dorfman, Research Fellow at Northwestern Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, over email with Bustle, "Dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstruation, and dysmenorrhea is often associated with endometriosis. Endometriosis presents with dysmenorrhea as well as pelvic pain, and it may cause infertility." As recommended by Worly, "periods can be mildly painful, but they should be manageable with Motrin 600mg every 6 hours, and Tylenol 650mg every 4 hours."

3. Heavy Bleeding

While some people may experience heavier flows than others (for instance birth control might make the flow a tad lighter), excessive bleeding could signal that there's a greater problem, advises Worly. "Periods can sometimes be heavy or light, but should never be so heavy where a person soaks 2 pads per hour for more than 2 hours in a row," Worly says.

4. Lightheadedness

If you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any point during your cycle, it's considered abnormal and could be a greater problem. "Women should not feel lightheaded or dizzy persistently with periods," says Worly. Apart from general fatigue, if you start to feel imbalanced, perhaps book an appointment with a physician.

5. Skipped Periods

"Amenorrhea refers to a complete absence of periods in a woman of reproductive age who is not pregnant or breastfeeding," Galanis and Dorfman say. "Some factors can cause an absence in flow, such as excessive exercise, starvation, and low BMI, as well as stresses that can trigger such reactions," Galanis and Dorfman add. If you notice an absence of periods, see a physician for help.

6. Depression

While mood can change throughout the cycle, where you're more likely to feel happier during ovulation and sadder during menstruation, Galanis and Dorfman advise, depression is not normal. "As progesterone levels increase, this is when the female may begin to feel moody, since progesterone may help stimulate cortisol, a stress hormone," say Galanis and Dorfman, but excessive sadness could signify a larger issue.

7. Too Long Of Duration

As reviewed by David L. Katz, MD, over interview with verywell, a period that lasts longer than a week could be seen as not normal. If your period extends past seven days, and you're still bleeding and experiencing symptoms, see a physician to rule out another complication. Your periods should also be around the same length each month, without much fluctuations.

8. Random Flow

According to Amy Autry, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics-gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco over interview with Everyday Health, a period that randomly shows up either too early or too late on a more frequent basis constitutes as irregularity. Get a calendar to track your flow, and see a doctor if you find you're less regular.

9. Overtraining

Autry also explained that overtraining, or even just intense activity (looking at you, female pro-athletes and personal trainers) on a daily basis, can mess with hormones and cause a period to become irregular. Such symptoms might include skipped periods or too light of a flow. If this lifestyle is familiar to you, ask a physician for advice moving forward.

10. Cysts

According to experts at WebMD, a sign of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can be the appearance of cysts on the ovaries, and these growths can cause irregular periods and can even be linked to infertility, if left untreated. If you notice any abnormal symptoms, like hair growth on the face, thinning hair on the scalp, depression, or weight gain, see a doctor immediately.

11. Nausea

Experts at Cleveland Clinic explained that vomiting or nausea during a period cycle is abnormal, and if any of these conditions occur, it's worth booking an appointment to see a doctor and discuss what could be attributing to the problem. The experts suggested stress, as stress can influence hormones, weight, mood, and habits.

If you notice any of these symptoms during your period, it's important to keep yourself safe by checking with a doctor and ruling out any dangerous conditions. Staying as regular as possible in your cycle will benefit your health and happiness long-term.

Images: Pixabay (11); Pexels (1); Bustle (1)