Curejoy Expert Dipti Mothay Explains:
Menstruation, also known as menses, menstrual period, cycle, or period, is a monthly occurrence among women when the body sheds the lining of the uterus (womb). The steps in the menstrual cycle are triggered by the rise and fall of chemicals in the body called hormones.
What is a normal menstrual cycle?
A menstrual cycle is considered to begin on the first day of a period. The average cycle is 28 days long; however, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days. Menstrual flow might last for two to seven days. Your menstrual cycle might be regular or irregular and your period might be light or heavy, painful or pain-free, long or short and still be considered normal. Moodiness, trouble sleeping, food cravings, cramps in the lower abdomen and back, bloating, tenderness in the breasts and acne are some of the symptoms of a normal menstruation. However, if menstrual pain is interfering with your ability to perform basic tasks each month, it may be time to talk to your gynecologist about your symptoms.
Menstrual symptoms that may indicate a need to contact the doctor
According to Dr. Briden, naturopathic doctor and author of Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods, “Standard pain during menstruation is most commonly in the lower belly where the uterus is. However extended pain that makes you vomit or that reaches the lower back or legs shouldn’t be considered a routine thing”.
Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms :
- Your period stops suddenly
- Menstrual cramps continue to be painful for longer than usual
- Bleeding is excessive, requiring more than one pad or tampon per hour
- Signs of infection, such as fever, chills, and body aches, are present at the time of the menstrual period
- Bleeding between periods
- Feeling sick suddenly after using tampons
- You have any questions or concerns about your period or possible pregnancy
- Unexplained weight gain
- Accompanying odorous discharge
What causes abnormal menstruation?
Abnormal periods may be caused by:
Uterine fibroids occur in 50-80 percent of women. Uterine fibroids are tumors that attach to the wall of the uterus. These tumors are usually non-cancerous, but they may cause heavy bleeding and pain during periods .
Endometriosis is a benign disorder characterized by the presence of endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines the uterus) outside the uterine cavity where it becomes attached to reproductive or abdominal organs. The patches of endometrial tissue swell with blood during menstruation as if they were still in the uterus. Endometriosis may cause abnormal bleeding, cramps or pain before and during periods and painful intercourse .
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a bacterial infection that affects the female reproductive system. Symptoms of PID include a heavy vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor, irregular periods, pain in the pelvic and lower abdominal areas, fever, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea .
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone imbalance that can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth and acne. Sometimes a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome will have irregular periods or stop menstruating completely. In addition, the condition is associated with obesity, infertility and hirsutism (excessive hair growth and acne) .
Stress and Lifestyle Factors
Gaining or losing a significant amount of weight, dieting, changes in exercise routines, travel, illness or other disruptions in a woman’s daily routine can have an impact on the menstrual cycle.
Birth Control Pills
Most birth control pills contain a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin (some contain progestin alone). The pills prevent pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. Going on or off birth control pills can affect menstruation.
- Menstrual Pain, EMedicineHealth.com
- Guide to the Treatment of Fibroids and Menstrual Disorders, Cleveland Clinic
- Endometriosis, Gynecology & Obstetrics, John Hopkins Medicine
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, OurBodyOurSelves.org
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome): General Information, Center for Young Women’s Health