Every period is different. The symptoms you experience when you’re menstruating are unique, just like you! Some people get their period and don’t even blink because the symptoms are next to nothing. For others, it’s a dreaded time of month where you just feel like poop. It’s common for people to experience some degree of pain or overall blah-ness, but for some people, periods can be completely debilitating, with severe menstrual cramps or secondary dysmenorrhea (pain caused by a disorder in a woman's reproductive organs).
Most unpleasant period symptoms, like period cramps, are caused by prostaglandins: a hormone-like compound in our bodies used to signal to our uteruses that it’s time to shed. However, there are more severe period symptoms that require medical intervention.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms listed below and they’re disrupting your life and overall wellbeing, you shouldn’t ignore them or brush them off as a necessary evil during your cycle. More often than not, these symptoms are linked to other underlying health issues and require medical attention.
1. Extremely heavy bleeding
Sanitary brands generally recommend changing your menstrual products every 4-8 hours. For heavy periods, you may find yourself needing to change your pad or tampon within 2-3 hours – this is nothing to be concerned about. However, if you can’t even get through an hour without bleeding through your pad or tampon, this is more than just a heavy period. It could be an indication of anemia or other health issues. We recommend consulting a doctor to learn more about why this is happening to you.
Sometimes, the anticoagulants in your body (properties that cause the rate you bleed to slow down) can’t keep up with your flow. This can cause the occasional small blood clot to appear during your menstrual cycle, and this is completely harmless. But if you’re experiencing blood clots bigger than the size of a quarter, it could be a sign of uterine fibroids or hereditary disorders like von Willebrand disease.
Large blood clots can also be caused by a miscarriage or complications with a IUD. Either way, if this is happening to you, you need to speak to your doctor about it.
2. Unbearable cramping or back pain
Almost everyone experiences cramping during their cycle, but usually these menstrual cramps can be treated with pain meds and don’t disrupt your everyday life. However, if your period cramps are causing you to miss school or work regularly and nothing seems to relieve your pain, it might be an indicator of endometriosis and you should consult your doctor ASAP. Even if you aren’t dealing with this disorder, a doctor can prescribe something to alleviate extreme period pain and help you resume your everyday activities.
Your prostaglandins can cause your uterus to contract too forcefully, which cuts off the oxygen supply to surrounding muscles. This explains why you’re experiencing lower back pain during your cycle. But once again, if this lower back pain is so severe that it disrupts your life, it could be an indicator of endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Time to call your doctor!
3. Throwing up or severe headaches
Experiencing period nausea and headaches during your menstrual cycle is considered a ‘normal’ side effect of your period. Despite this, if you’re finding you’re glued to the toilet on your period, can’t keep food down or are experiencing menstrual migraines so severe nothing can relieve them, I recommend consulting your family physician. While this isn’t necessarily an indicator of an underlying disorder or disease, constant vomiting on your period is an extreme symptom that can be relieved with the help of a medical professional.
4. The never-ending period and spotting
Extended periods, known as menorrhagia, are usually a result of a hormonal imbalance. However, this can also be related to blood clotting disorders, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, cysts and certain types of birth control. You should consult a doctor to figure out what the underlying cause is and how it can be treated.
Spotting (light bleeding between your regular menstrual cycles) is very common, especially if you’re on a low-dose birth control. However, spotting can be an indicator of several health problems such as uterine or cervical polyps and, in rare cases, cervical cancer. Spotting can also be a sign of pregnancy. While spotting is most likely nothing to worry about, it’s still good to bring it up with your doctor if you’re spotting regularly. This will help you understand exactly why the spotting is happening and give you the opportunity to rule out any underlying health issues.
5. Uncontrollable PMS
If you’re experiencing uncontrollable, extreme mood swings right before or during your menstrual cycle, it might not be plain old PMS. If you find your mood swings are disrupting your day-to-day or ruining relationships with those around you, it could be a disorder known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). To learn more about PMDD symptoms, check out the blog post we wrote about it.
6. Painful bowel movements
This one is pretty rare, but endometriosis can cause painful bowel movements, as well as extreme constipation or diarrhea. While this is a rare symptom overall, about 15% of people with endometriosis suffer with bowel-related issues from the disease.
Most period side effects are caused by those pesky prostaglandins. While they’re unfortunate, they’re considered ‘normal’ symptoms of your monthly cycle. The period symptoms we’ve described above are extreme symptoms and not a ‘normal’ part of menstruation, so you shouldn’t just ‘deal with them.'
If you are experiencing anything talked about in this blog post, speak to a medical professional. Doing so will get you one step closer to alleviating the issue, so what’re you waiting for?
Finally, if you find you’re experiencing period leakage or don’t have the time to change your pad or tampon, we recommend getting a pair of our Oh-No Proof Underwear for back-up protection and peace of mind.
Disclaimer: The blog writers at Knixteen are not medical professionals, and give this advice based on their own research and experience. If you have further questions or concerns, speak to a trusted medical professional.