Although most women get their periods, the similarities end there. No one period or woman is alike. The truth is, periods can vary wildly in length, flow and even color from woman to woman. In fact, even a woman’s own cycle can vary over her lifetime. So how do you know if something is amiss with your flow?
1. OMG, I missed my period! Am I pregnant?
Before you run out to purchase a pregnancy test, take account of what you may have going on in your life at that time. “You may notice that after a very stressful time in your life, a big event, a medical illness, a surgery or after starting a new diet or fitness regime, that your menstrual cycle is a little irregular,” Dr. Reed says. “One skipped period shouldn’t be a cause for concern or worry.”
That said, if you have missed two or more in a row, it may be time to take some action. Dr. Reed suggests a pregnancy test as a first step.
If you don’t think your missed period is due to a pregnancy, then scheduling a checkup with your OBGYN would be a good thing. Make sure you are ready to share with your doctor about any changes to your health, a new diagnosis or recent surgery, recent stressors or another time you experienced a missed period. There could be a myriad of reasons your cycle is shaken up.
“Even what was “usually” normal for you can change. Your doctor can help rule out life changes and any other causes for your irregularity, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, perimenopause or diabetes,” Dr. Reed says.
2. Is My Period Too Heavy?
Although it may feel like you’re leaking gallons of blood, on average, women lose only three to four tablespoons of blood each period. If you’ve always had a very heavy period, there may not be a reason to panic quite yet, although it’s good to make sure your doctor is aware of your heavy flow, so they can monitor your iron levels, Dr. Reed says.
Some women are lucky enough to have a light flow the whole time, while others are heavy the first day of their cycle and then again day three or four. That said, Dr. Reed says if you find you are soaking through feminine hygiene products every hour and it’s lasting more than seven days, it could be a sign of something else, such as polyps, fibroids or a thyroid problem. If this is becoming a new normal for you, it would be good to check in with your OBGYN.
3. Why Are My Cramps So Painful?
Cramps are a normal part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While normal cramps should only cause mild pain, some women experience severe cramping at the beginning of their cycle causing them to miss school or work. If the normal interventions of heating pads, warm baths and ibuprofen doesn’t seem to help, Dr. Reed suggests discussing this with your OBGYN.
“If you are experiencing pain while going to the bathroom or during intercourse and it’s affecting daily function, you should see your doctor. Treating the cause is the key to reducing pain and can rule out other health conditions like endometriosis and adenomyosis,” Dr. Reed says.
4. What Does It Mean If I Get My Period Twice in a Month?
If you have a shorter interval between your cycles, it is possible to have two periods in one month. You might have one at the very beginning of the month and then one at the very end of the month. But, if you begin to notice your cycles are two weeks or less apart, you should check with your OBGYN as this could be an indicator of a hormonal imbalance or other medical issues. Dr. Reed suggests using an app to track your bleeding throughout the month. “You can track such things as spotting, flow and pain,” Dr. Reed says. “It can really help you communicate your symptoms clearly to your doctor.”
Have more questions about your flow? Don’t sweat it. Dr. Reed and other OBGYNs at Banner Health are here to help. Find a Banner Health OBGYN near you or call our Nurse on Call line at 844-259-9494. Nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with free health care advice.