9 Things Your Period Can Do To Your Body

When we think of our bodies during our period, we imagine cramps, tender breasts, and uncomfortable bloating. But those aren't the only side effects when it comes to menstruating: There are a number of other surprising things that happen to your body during your period, and you have never realized the connection before. They may seem like they have nothing to do with what's happening with your uterus, but they are a real result of your womanly cycle, as strange as it might seem.

"A woman experiences so many changes during her period because of the fluctuating hormone levels," says Dr. Kelly Kasper, OB/GYN at IU Health over email. "As estrogen levels rise during the cycle, the lining of the uterus grows and thickens. These rising levels of estrogen not only contribute to the normal PMS symptoms (bloating, cramping, acne, moodiness) but also other unique changes.

It seems like we go through enough, but the unpleasant results of menstruating don't stop at the typical symptoms. If you notice some specific changes when Aunt Flow is in town, it's not just in your head. Here are 11 surprising things that happen to your body when you are on your period.

1. Your Cognitive Abilities Decrease

If you find that you're not able to concentrate as well as your normally do during that time of the month, you're not alone. "Periods can decrease a woman’s cognitive ability," says Kasper. "Cramps, backaches and nausea can decrease a woman’s selective attention, attention span, and multitasking skills."

2. You Get Hornier

You might find that you want to hit the sheets more often than usual when you're on your period. "Your libido is actually increased due to the drop on progesterone," says Dr. Jane Frederick, M.D., FACOG over email. "Higher progesterone levels while not menstruating are known to lower your libido."

3. Your Gums Can Become Swollen

During your period, you may become more susceptible to oral health problems due to hormonal changes, according to WebMD. Some women experience oral changes that can include bright red swollen gums, canker sores, bleeding gums, and more.

4. You Go Number 2 More

"You may notice a change in your bowel movements from one extreme to the other," says Frederick. This might mean you're headed to the bathroom to go potty much more than you would like. "This happens due to the change in progesterone that upsets the intestines," she says.

5. Or You Could Be Backed Up

On the flip side, being on your period could also make you more constipated. You can also blame hormone levels for this unpleasant side effect.

6. Your Genital Area Is More Sensitive

Getting a wax while you're menstruating could prove to be particularly painful, as your genital area is much more sensitive during this time. In fact, women are more sensitive to pain overall, according to research from the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills.

7. You Can't Fall Asleep

It can be much harder to fall asleep when you're on you period: 23 percent of women report disrupted sleep in the week before their periods, and 30 percent report disrupted sleep during them, according to research from the National Sleep Foundation. This occurs because of the change in your body temperature from hormones, increased stress and anxiety, and increased cramps and muscle pain.

8. You're More Prone To Yeast Infections

"When your period begins, the PH in your vagina changes," says Frederick. "This change can result in bacteria or yeast growth causing an infection. If a woman is experience recurrent infections during her period, her physician may prescribe birth control to help with the ph levels."

9. Knee Pain

In addition to all those cramps and muscle soreness, you can also get pain in your joints, especially in the knees. According to a study presented at the Integrative Biology of Exercise Conference, your knees work differently at different points in your menstrual cycle, which could destabilizes your joints and cause pain.

If any of these symptoms become too much for you, you can always talk to your doctor who can help figure out the best way to minimize your discomfort.

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