Periods aren’t exactly the most fun time of the month for those who get them. Everyone’s period is different – super light, heavy af, 3 days, maybe 8. Pain is not uncommon, but extreme pain could reveal a condition. We approached some common questions about periods, and what you can do to alleviate your misery.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs the week or two before menstruation and refers to the physical and emotional changes you might feel.
- breast tenderness
- feeling tired
- food cravings
- joint or muscle pain
- mood swings
- trouble falling asleep
- upset stomach, constipation, or diarrhea
What can I do to relieve menstrual cramps?
During menstruation, your uterus contracts (thus, the cramps) to help the lining separate and leave the body. Here’s what you can do to lessen the pain:
- take an over-the-counter pain reliever
- soak in a hot bath
- use a heating pad
If your period keeps you from doing what you normally do, talk to your doctor about strategies to manage or treat your symptoms.
What if I skip a period or my menstrual cycle is irregular? When a menstruator experiences a late or missed period, the most common concern is pregnancy. If this occurs, taking a pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure. However, many menstruators occasionally have irregular periods. Maybe you miss a period, or it comes earlier or later. Or maybe it’s notably heavier or lighter than usual.
Reasons your menstrual cycle might alter:
- birth control
- hormonal imbalance
- poor nutrition
- over exercising
- sudden weight gain or loss
If you suspect you’re pregnant or are worried about changes in your period, talk to your doctor.
What if my period is really, like unbearably painful or hella irregular?
Painful menstruation is also known as dysmenorrhoea. It can be characterized by painful symptoms, usually in the pelvis or lower abdomen area, and accompanied by back pain, diarrhea, or nausea.
If you are experiencing extreme, persistent pelvic pain, especially during your period, you might suffer from endometriosis.
is a painful, chronic disorder that affects over 6 million women and girls in the U.S., and millions more worldwide. It occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your uterus. This tissue breaks down and bleeds during your period, causing painful scar tissue. If you have signs or symptoms that may indicate endometriosis, see your doctor for treatment.
Symptoms may also include:
- heavy bleeding during and between periods
- pain during sex
- painful urination/bowel movements during menstruation [Mayo Clinic]
are another condition associated with painful periods. Fibroids are noncancerous growths of muscle tissue of the uterus that range in number and size. As many as 70-80% of all women have fibroids by age 50.
In addition to cramping and pain during your period, symptoms for fibroids may also include:
- heavier bleeding, sometimes with blood clots
- longer or more frequent menstruation
- spotting between periods
- pressure on the bladder or rectum
- frequent urination
- constipation and/or rectal pain
- lower back and/or abdominal pain [womenshealth.gov]
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
is a condition characterized by an imbalance of hormones, including androgens, insulin, and progesterone. It affects about 10 million women worldwide. It is a leading cause of female infertility. Contrary to what the name suggests, not all people with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries. Early diagnosis and treatment can help control symptoms and prevent long-term issues.
- irregular/missed periods due to not ovulating
- weight gain
- unwanted hair growth (generally on the face, arms, back, chest, thumbs, toes, and abdomen)
- thinning hair on the scalp
- acne and/or darkened patches of skin
- mood changes
- pelvic pain
- poor sleep and/or insomnia [PCOS Awareness Association]
For more information, check out Pain & Dysfunction 101. If you are experiencing symptoms, please see your doctor to discuss treatment options.
If you find that your period is debilitating and affecting your quality of life, be your own advocate, and see your doctor for treatment.