Ask a woman, and she’ll tell you it’s true, a woman lives from cycle to cycle. If you eavesdrop on an all-girls conversation, you are likely to hear, “I just finished my period”, “Oh God! It hurts”, “I am PMS-ing, like big time”, “Hey! Have you got a pad on you?”, and “No! I can’t, I need meds”.
Now that women have started talking openly about the taboo-ed periods, every ‘kind’ of period seems normal. But is it really NORMAL, in the true sense of the word? To figure that out, let’s start with the basics.
What’s A Menstrual Cycle?
The menstrual cycle encompasses the series of changes in a woman’s body that take place every month in preparation for a possible pregnancy. Every month, the ovaries release an egg as a part of the process called ovulation. While that is happening, changes in hormones prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If the egg isn’t fertilized immediately after ovulation, the lining of the uterus sheds, and gets flushed out through the vagina. This is what we know as menstruation.
What Is Normal When It Comes To Periods?
To know what is abnormal, it is important to first find out what’s normal. Here are some pointers:
- Typically, a cycle should last anywhere between 26 to 32 days. But only if it is consistent for you.
- When you bleed, what collects on your pad should resemble the color of cranberry juice all throughout your period.
- There should be no clots.
- Your flow should be strong, yet not as heavy that you have to run to the bathroom every hour.
- It is considered extremely healthy if your period starts first thing in the morning.
- There should be no brown stains leading up to the ‘normal’ cranberry red.
- A normal period lasts anywhere between 4 to 7 days. Not longer. Not shorter.
- A slight tingling feeling in the uterus is fine, but pain that makes you reach for medicine every single month is NOT normal.
- Once you finish with your period, in the run-up to ovulation, you should see the development of cervical fluid, which indicates fertility.
- PMS seems to be the norm, but in fact, you will notice an increase in your social energy towards the middle of your cycle. And then, in the second half of your cycle, you will see yourself being more focused and determined to get things done.
When Can You Call Your Period Abnormal?
Now comes the bad news. The part after which you should decide if you need to go to the doctor or not. Believe me when I say these cannot be ignored.
1. Absent Menstruation
If you miss two menstrual cycles or more, it’s likely that you have the following issues – thyroid problems, stress, excessive exercise, intense dieting, and/or hormonal imbalances.
In rare cases, a missed period leads to the growth of abnormal cells, which can lead to the condition preceding cancer.
If you go to a gynecologist, she will probably do some blood work to check on your hormones and thyroid. She will also check for the possibility of polycystic ovaries.
2. Abnormal Bleeding
If you are on the pill (birth control), bleeding abnormally between cycles is normal. But, even then, you must pay a visit to the doctor. You could have ovarian cysts or develop pre-cancer cells.
3. Unbearable PMS
If you notice yourself having erratic mood swings, anxiety, depression, food cravings, and/or extreme anger, you could be suffering from a premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This is worse than the usual ‘premenstrual syndrome’, as we know it. These unpleasant symptoms can be dealt with antidepressants, but you HAVE to visit your doctor first.
4. Large Blood Clots
An occasional, tiny blood clot is no cause for alarm. Sometimes, when your flow is heavy, the anticoagulants in the body cannot keep up with the gush, and that leads to those minuscule clots. Totally harmless.
But, if your clot is bigger than a quarter, it could be a warning sign. You might actually have uterine fibroids. Alternatively, you could also be suffering from the hereditary Von Willebrand disease. Clots are also a sign of miscarriage. If you have a copper IUD, your body could also be having a difficult time adjusting to it, thereby causing the clots. Whatever it is, you need to let your doctor know.
5. Bleeding Too Much Or Over 10 Days
Excessive bleeding is when you have to change your sanitary napkin every hour. This or having a long period are symptoms of polyps or fibroids, and can cause anemia. You need immediate medical attention in either case.
6. “Distressed” Hormones
If you have chronic conditions, such as asthma, depression, diabetes or arthritis, you might notice premenstrual magnification, wherein these conditions are worsened during your period. You need to speak to your doctor and get some medication prescribed before your cycle. This will be a relief. Trust me.
7. Any Major Changes In Your Symptoms
In general, if you had short periods but they have now become longer, or if you had heavy periods, which have now become lighter, you definitely need to book an appointment with your gynec immediately. It could be as simple as a change in the hormonal levels, or the fact that you are one cycle older. But, on the flip side, it could also indicate a major health problem.
What Can You Do To Prevent These Menstrual Irregularities?
The answer is as simple – use birth control pills. These pills regulate the menstrual cycle and serve as an effective treatment for any problem, including eating disorders. But even for this, love, you have to visit a doctor. Discuss the pros and cons and do your research well.
Menstrual problems are daunting. It’s like carrying a heavy emotional baggage. It’s painful and annoying, but if you are in touch with a doctor, you can prevent these issues, and truly have a happy period.
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