Abnormal period symptoms can signal underlying health issues. Here’s what to look out for.
The menstrual cycle differs from person to person, such as how heavy your period gets and how long it lasts. Some lucky few escape the dreaded PMS while others find themselves incapacitated by cramps for a day or two each month. Besides the normal range of PMS symptoms, there may be other period-related issues that hint of bigger problems.
We spoke to Dr Elisa Koh, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital to find out whether some common symptoms should be feared.
(Also read: 5 Really Good Reasons to Exercise During Your Period)
Dr Koh says that a normal menstrual cycle ranges anywhere between 21 and 35 days, the most common being 28 to 30 days. Each menstrual period typically lasts for three to seven days, so if your cycles are totally out of this range, it is considered irregular.
You can count the days by recording when your first day of period occurs and when your next period starts. There are various apps that can keep track of your cycle too. Take note of the dates and let your doctor know if you spot irregularities.
You may also start missing your period you are overexercising and restricting your calories for an extended period of time. The body needs a certain amount of fat to ovulate, so ensure you stay in the healthy BMI range and maintain a balanced diet.
Some people say that medications affect your period cycle, but Dr Koh says that “It is not always easy to establish if medications cause irregular periods, and the only way to be sure is to stop taking the medication and see if the cycles revert to normal. Certain antipsychotic medications are known to stop periods. Chemotherapy and hormone-related medications are also known to affect cycles. Scar tissue that occurs within the womb cavity as a result of previous surgery may also cause periods to stop.”
(Also read: 7 Best Yoga Poses to Do During Your Period)
Cramps between periods
Cramping that happens while you’re not on your period might indicate that the lining of your uterus is growing elsewhere. It might also be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious infection that can cause infertility and long-term pain. You should see your doctor if these cramps persist.
According to Dr Koh, regular period cramps typically start just before the period flow and last during the first one to two days of the period. Timing aside, it can be difficult to differentiate the different types of pain. Though period cramps usually occur intermittently at the centre area of your lower abdomen, pain from your bladder and intestines can mimic period pain too. Look out for other symptoms or check in with your doctor if you continue to feel unwell.
Bleeding between periods
Dr Koh says that any bleeding between periods is abnormal. Unusual bleeding when your period is long gone could indicate growths in or around your uterus, including endometriosis, fibroids, and polyps.
Spotting can also be a sign of miscarriage – any bleeding that occurs during pregnancy can involve a risk of pregnancy loss and should be further evaluated by a doctor. However, bleeding early during pregnancy of implantation bleeding is very common and does not necessarily result in any problems. Any bleeding during pregnancy that is fresh red or is associated with pain should be urgently checked by a doctor. There is not only a risk of miscarriage but an ectopic pregnancy which can be life-threatening.
If pelvic pain occurs when you have diarrhoea or constipation during your period, it could be a case of endometriosis. “Pain caused by endometriosis can start as early as many days before the period flow and last throughout the whole period. It can cause blood cysts to grow on the ovaries and in severe cases, it can affect the large intestine and bladder to cause pain during defecation and urination. Patients may also experience pain during sexual intercourse. it is not easy to establish the diagnosis of endometriosis as it cannot be detected on scans, only during surgery,” says Dr Koh.
(Also read: 5 Effective Ways to Relieve Bad Period Cramps)