6 Things Your Period Can Tell You About Your Health
Most of us don't spend too much time analyzing the details of our period, but if you notice something is up with your menstrual cycle, it's worth paying attention to. There are a number of things your period can tell you about your health, especially when it comes to symptoms that seem extreme or out of the ordinary. If something is off in your body, it shouldn't be ignored, even if it feels like it's as simple as how much you are bleeding each month.
"Your period is very often an indicator of what is going on in your body because your period is a very delicate balance of several hormones all acting together in perfect synchronization," Joseph Chang, MD, MBA, FACOG of Parkland Health and Hospital System, tells Bustle. "Your period can be affected by many, many things going on in your body."
It's important to notice when you're having an irregular period, as it can indicate that something is else is going wrong in your body — although it's important to note that not every irregular period necessarily indicates a larger health issue. Sometimes bleeding can also occur that has nothing to do with your period or your hormones, but is still worthy of your attention. If you're ever in doubt, seeing a doctor can help you figure out if there is something bigger going on.
Overall, it's worth paying attention to your period and noting if anything seems abnormal. Here are six things your period is trying to tell you about greater health issues, according to experts.
1. Irregular Periods Can Indicate A Thyroid Issue
Problems with your thyroid can cause hormonal imbalances, and this can show up in the form of an irregular period. "Both an overactive and underactive thyroid can cause issues with your periods," Dr. Chang says. "They can both cause your periods to be more frequent or less frequent." In some cases, a thyroid issue could even lead to no period at all for several months.
2. Irregular Periods Can Mean You're Stressed
Stress can also impact your menstrual cycle by affecting the part of the brain responsible for producing hormones. If you're noticing changes in the timing of your period or how heavy or light it is, it could be due to what you're experiencing in life. "Moving, marriage, divorce, loss of or changing jobs can all can cause periods to become irregular," Dr. Chang says.
3. Irregular Periods Can Signal A Chronic Illness
"Chronic illness like kidney issues or chronic infections can also cause overall debilitation of the body," Dr. Chang says. "That will also cause hormonal imbalance, which leads to irregularity." Symptoms can include heavy bleeding, long intervals of bleeding (usually more than seven days), and irregular bleeding in between periods, according to Dr. Michael Guarnaccia, reproductive endocrinologist at Extend Fertility.
4. Painful Periods Could Be A Sign Of Endometriosis
In addition to irregular periods, painful periods are also something important to pay attention to. "Chronic painful periods and short menstrual cycles (less than or equal to 27 days) could be signs of endometriosis," a reproductive health condition that causes the cells that form your uterine lining to grow and shed outside your uterus, Dr. Guarnaccia says. Painful periods that could indicate endometriosis go beyond just cramping, and they can include pain in your lower back and stomach or even other areas of the body.
5. Heavy Bleeding Could Indicate A Uterus Issue
Heavy bleeding, along with irregular cycles or spotting, could also indicate abnormalities of the uterus. "[This includes] uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, and adenomyosis," Dr. Guarnaccia says. These growths can be benign, but they may require surgery for removal, so it's important to bring up to your doctor any heavier-than-normal bleeding.
6. Heavy Bleeding Can Mean You're Iron Deficient
If you're experiencing fatigue as well as heavy bleeding, it might be a sign you're iron deficient. "Heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding can often cause iron-deficiency anemia in women of child-bearing age," Dr. Guarnaccia says. "This chronic anemia can lead to other symptoms such as lethargy, shortness of breath on exertion, weakness and pallor."
Your period can be a crucial source of information about your body. If you notice anything irregular or extreme about your period, consult your OB/GYN or GP who can help you determine if it is a sign of a larger health issue.