Chances are that spotting and bleeding aren’t the only symptoms you experience when your period arrives. For example, you may experience mood changes, breast sensitivity, or mild cramping. Some symptoms that accompany your period can be normal.
But other menstrual symptoms could point to a problematic underlying health condition. Since no two women experience the exact same period or period symptoms, it can be difficult to know what’s normal and what’s not.
Board-certified OB/GYN Asia Mohsin, MD, at Progressive Women’s Health in Friendswood, Texas, is an expert at identifying and treating the underlying causes of irregular periods. To help you know what to look for, we’ve created a list of five key menstrual symptoms to pay attention to, so you can know when to seek medical help.
1. Your period is MIA
Your period is easily influenced by many factors. For example, exercising too much or too vigorously, certain kinds of birth control, and high stress levels can all affect your cycle and cause changes that may trigger a missed period.
If your period returns to normal after a month, it’s not usually a cause for concern. But if your period is missing in action (MIA) for more than three consecutive months and you’re not pregnant, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your care provider.
This condition, called amenorrhea, has many causes, including:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Thyroid irregularities
- Issues with the pituitary gland
- Premature menopause
- Structural abnormalities or problems
- Certain medications
Having a body mass index (BMI) that’s too high or too low can also trigger amenorrhea.
2. You’re spotting all the time
Having spotting every now and then when you’re not having your period is pretty normal. But when you’re spotting or experience break-through bleeding every month, it’s time to call Dr. Mohsin to discover what’s triggering it. Some of the most common causes of spotting include:
- Uterine and/or cervical cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Hormonal changes and imbalances
Though rare, spotting can also be caused by cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer, making it essential to schedule an exam sooner rather than later.
3. Your periods bring digestive distress
All women know that periods can affect the digestive system. The hormones released before and during menstruation can trigger bloating, mild nausea, and an increase in bowel movements.
But some digestive distress during periods may indicate bowel endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in which your endometrial tissues — which normally lines your uterus — grows outside of your uterus. If it grows on your digestive tract, it can create painful bowel movements, constipation, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and deep pelvic pain.
4. Your period arrives and then doesn’t stop
There’s a lot of variation in how long periods last. Some women have very short periods, lasting only two days or so, while other women bleed for seven days. But if your period arrives and then keeps on coming for days or weeks, this can point to an underlying health condition.
Periods that consistently last longer than a week are referred to as menorrhagia, and the prolonged bleeding they bring can cause health issues, such as iron-deficiency anemia, sleep interruptions, fatigue, and more. Some causes of long periods include:
- Certain medications, such as some forms of birth control, blood thinners, or NSAIDs
- Problematic pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies
- Uterine fibroids
- Uterine polyps
- Thyroid problems
- Infections, such as STDs or pelvic inflammatory disease
- Uterine or cervical cancer
Some bleeding conditions, like hemophilia, can also trigger menorrhagia. If you’re experiencing long-lasting cycles, it’s important to schedule an exam at Progressive Women’s Health sooner rather than later to address the underlying cause of your prolonged periods.
5. Your cramps are severe
Getting cramps during your period isn’t fun, but mild cramps are normal. Your uterus contracts to put out your uterine lining, starting a few days before your period and typically lasting for several days into your period.
But, when you have next-level cramps that are intense and interfere with your ability to carry out your daily activities, it’s a sign that something’s not quite right. Some causes of intense menstrual cramping include:
- Uterine fibroids or polyps
- STDs or pelvic inflammatory disease
- Endometriosis or adenomyosis
- Cervical stenosis and other structural defects
- Some types of IUDs
When cramps disrupt your life, get progressively worse, or if you’ve never experienced severe cramps and they suddenly appear in your late 20s or 30s, it’s time to schedule an exam with Dr. Mohsin at Progressive Women’s Health.
If you have any of these problematic period symptoms, call 281-993-4072 or book an appointment online with Progressive Women’s Health today.