Period symptoms will vary greatly between women, but there are a few side effects that are well-known. Watching these symptoms can help alert you if something is off about your menstrual cycle, allowing you to address any potential medical issues more quickly.
Not all women will experience the same period symptoms, and some may not experience symptoms at all. Knowing period symptoms will allow you to manage your period effectively, identifying if everything is on track of if your period is not behaving normally and addressing any potential medical issues more quickly.
Common Period Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is a common emotional disturbance that is very common. Women may experience mood swings and can be more likely to experience weepiness, fatigue or irrational emotional reactions. Those who are prone to psychotic episodes may see an increase in their symptoms during PMS, though this is much rarer. Women who are pregnant may also experience PMS-like symptoms.
Normal menstrual flow will follow a steady pattern. The flow will start out at a moderate level, increase to its peak point and then slowly taper off. When the flow is very slow or light, this is known as hypomenorrhea. This can be caused by taking birth control pills, but it can also be caused by a lack of the necessary hormones in the body. If your flow suddenly becomes heavy that exceeds 80 mL, then you may be suffering from a hormone imbalance, cancer or other dangers that may need medical attention.
Menstrual pain is very common, especially in younger women as they go through their period. It may include a burning, nauseating, shooting or sharp sensation. This pain is often felt in the abdomen, though the lower back and upper thighs can also experience pain. You may also develop headaches from the alteration in blood flow. If the pain is extremely severe, this is known as dysmenorrhea. This is a very common symptom of younger women, including 67.2 percent of young ladies aged 13-19. This pain can be so severe that the patient is unable to take part in their daily activities when it takes on.
Women often find themselves eating much more than usual during their period. Cravings for salty or "comfort foods" are particularly common. Doctors believe that the fluctuation of beta-endorphin levels which occurs at this time will cause this symptom to arise. Cravings or the desire to overeat will vary from cycle to cycle in most women who experience this symptom.
Due to the increased hormone levels and water retention during the menstrual cycle, the breast may begin to enlarge. This can be uncomfortable for some women who experience a significant growth during this time period.
Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding
Any time your flow is not functioning the way it normally does, it is important to take note. This is especially important if your periods do not follow a regular cycle or last longer than one week. If you are prone to having very long, very heavy periods you could be at risk for developing an iron deficiency or a significant hormone imbalance. Dysfunctional periods are also a warning sign for other conditions such as uterine fibroids, pregnancy, menopause, hormonal shifts or cancer, so you should have your symptoms checked by a doctor.
Relief for Period Symptoms
You should not try to ease the bleeding associated with menstruation. This is a healthy part of the process that allows your uterus to remove its lining so it may generate a fresh one.
- If your bleeding is severe or has gone on for more than one week without starting to taper off, see your doctor to determine if medical intervention is necessary. Those who frequently have irregular periods may be given birth control to help regulate their cycle more effectively.
- Though you may have cravings, it is important to try to avoid foods containing high levels of salt or caffeine while you are on your period. These foods will contribute to the water retention which causes bloating, swollen breasts and abdominal discomfort. You should also avoid smoking or consuming alcohol until your period has passed as these substances can put stress on your already overstressed body.
- You may not have as much energy during your period, so it is important to get plenty of rest and take breaks from physical activity as needed. Balance this rest with gentle stretching, light walking or other activity as remaining sedentary for too long can increase your risk of cramping.
- Massage your abdomen and lower back regularly to encourage normal blood flow in this area, and try to sit in a position that does not put excessive stress on your abdomen or lower back when you are resting.
- If you have been experiencing cramping, placing a hot compress on the abdomen or lower back can help relieve some of the pain. Some also choose to take a hot bath to relax the muscles so they will stop cramping. Be careful not to make the water or compress too warm as this can cause damage to the skin in the area. If you are prone to cramping, take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen, naproxen or aspirin when your bleeding begins to help reduce your risk of developing this painful symptom. If your cramps are extreme then your doctor may prescribe you a higher dose of ibuprofen to help take down the swelling that is causing your discomfort.