Apart from having an excuse to take a few extra naps, I can't say there's anything good about getting your period. It's a time to be tired, and a time to feel kinda sh*tty. But never is this more true than when your period isn't normal.
Instead of simply dealing with a a few days of casual bleeding, you might be met with horrific PMS, an irregular cycle, or a late flow. These are all clear signs that something's up with your period, and that you should talk to your doctor ASAP.
But sometimes period problems can be a bit more subtle, while other symptoms may become "normal" to you over time — even though they're totally not. That's why it's important to know what a healthy period looks like.
As Donnica L. Moore, MD says, "The 'textbook' period is a 28 day cycle with three to six days of progressively decreasing blood flow." (A cycle lasting up to 35 days is also considered within a healthy range.) As for blood loss, "the usual amount of blood loss per period is ... equivalent to five to 35 milliliters," Moore says. (For reference, one tampon holds about five milliliters.)
To be perfectly clear, just because a symptom happens to you and everyone you know doesn't mean it should be ignored. "Sometimes 'normal' period symptoms — like a heavy flow, or really bad cramps — may seem normal, but that doesn't actually make them OK, and especially if these are new or changed symptoms," Dr. Heather Bartlett tells Bustle. Even these everyday symptoms could point to a problem — as well as a need to visit your ob/gyn. Read on for some subtle signs it's time to book an appointment.
1. Your Skin Breaks Out A Crazy Amount
It happens to so many of us that pre-menstrual acne now seems par for the course. But, as women's health expert Una Gasparovic tells me, a period breakout can actually be a sign of an unhealthy hormonal imbalance. Even if a few zits don't bother you, it's worth getting checked out to prevent more serious hormone-related problems down the road.
2. You Feel A Bit Woozy
If you feel faint or dizzy during your period, then you might be one of the 25 percent of menstruating women who have anemia, Moore tells me. It happens when you don't have enough blood cells, and thus not enough oxygen travelin' on up to your brain. Not a good feeling.
3. You Have All Sorts Of Weird Cravings
If you're anything like me, then you're probably well-acquainted with the cravings that can occur in the days (or weeks) before your period. Cravings can range anywhere from a subtle desire to snack, all the way up to an insatiable lust for everything in the fridge. As Gasparovic tells me, this can be another sign of a hormonal imbalance. So, if you fall somewhere on this snacking spectrum, it may be worth noting.
4. You Notice A Whole Lot Of Blood Clots
A blood clot looks like a sticky red mass of goo, and often comes pouring out with the rest of your period. If you notice them, it could be a sign "that the uterine lining is not shedding at the proper rate," says acupuncturist and women's fertility expert K.J. Sauer, LAc, M.S.O.M, in an email to Bustle. A healthy period shouldn't have many clots — and they can lead to anemia — so keep an eye out for them.
5. Your Boobs Kinda Hurt
Any type of breast pain — mild or otherwise — can point to a problem, so don't let it go unchecked. It might be due to (you guessed it) a hormonal imbalance, according to Dr. Amanda Weeks, owner of Whole Body Health. But there can be other causes as well, so go ahead and ask your doctor what's up.
6. You Have Mood Swings
Period-related mood swings have become the stuff of legend, but they're definitely not something you have to accept — especially if they're bad. PMS that creates anxiety, depression, or fatigue is abnormal, Dr. Julie Von tells me, and can indicate a hormonal imbalance. Whatever you do, don't wait 'til it gets worse.
7. Your Spot Some Color Changes
If your period discharge suddenly looks darker, has more clots, or smells bad, tell your doctor ASAP. "We'll discuss to make sure you don’t have an infection ... such as as sexually transmitted infection (STI)," says Bartlett. If that ends up being the case, treatments are available.
8. Your Flow Is Strong
Even if you always have a heavy flow, it's still not considered "normal," Bartlett tells me. Not only can a heavy flow cause anemia, but it may be a sign of other underlying problems. So yes, definitely not something you should simply accept.
9. You Can't Seem To Sleep
Your cycle can either knock you out (as it does for me). Or, it can make sleeping feel damn-near impossible. As Dr. Jolene Brighten tells me, the latter can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. When that's the case, sleeplessness is often accompanied by mood swings prior to or during your period. Fun fun.
10. Your Period Is Super Short
While most of us would kill for it all to be over and done with, a day-long period isn't actually a good thing, Brighten tells me. "It could ... be a sign that your estrogen is too low to support endometrial growth," she says. And that's not OK.
11. Your Period Is Extra Long
On the flip side is an extra lengthy period, such as one that lasts a week or more. Again, even if this happens to you on the regular, it ain't good. "A period that lasts longer than seven days can be due to hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, fibroids, and other conditions," Brighten says.
There are a million reasons why your period can go awry — hormonal imbalances, stress, dietary changes, fibroids, infections. The list goes on and on. So, if you feel like something is a bit off, talk to your ob/gyn. They can figure out what's up and help get your cycle back on track.
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