Experiencing your period isn’t as simple as seeing blood for a week on a monthly basis. It’s about knowing what’s normal and what isn’t. While all of our periods are different, we each have our own unique experience. Today I’m sharing four common symptoms that we’re taught to view as normal – but aren’t!
This is a fancy word for painful periods. In fact, painful periods are the most common gynecological symptom affecting almost 45-95% of women! While many women think that pain is a normal part of their menstrual cycle, it can have negative effects on their daily activities (forcing them to stay home from school and/or work).
Dysmenorrhea isn’t the same as PMS. PMS (premenstural syndrome) occurs a few days before your period, while dysmenorrhea occurs during your period (typically on your heaviest days). Symptoms can include abdominal and lower back pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and dizziness and headaches.
There are actually two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is pain without a pathology (ie. a structural cause), and can be due to prostaglandin production, nutritional deficiencies, and diet and lifestyle factors. Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain due to an underlying condition which increases during menses. Causes can include: endometriosis, fibroids and cysts, infection, and even IUDs. While some cramping is common, if you consistently experience pain during your cycle – it may be worth it to speak to someone. Especially if you want to do something besides take a pain reliever each month (acupuncture is a great alternative).
If you’re consistently changing your pad and/or tampon after less than two hours, you are experiencing an excessive flow. But this is just one piece of the menorrhagia story – you may also be experiencing clots that are greater than 1 inch in diameter, and/or have low ferritin levels (this can be found out through a blood test).
Keeping track of how much blood lost each cycle becomes very difficult – especially when using different sized tampons, pads, and liners! You can track your blood loss with this chart. Or if you’re using a menstrual cup, simply input the data on an app. Common causes of menorrhagia are an imbalance of hormones (ie. thyroid hormones), vitamin and mineral deficiencies, clotting disorders, and stress.
This refers to bleeding between periods, or if you’ve passed menopause, bleeding during menopause. There can be a few causes including pregnancy, hormonal imbalances (like PCOS), endometriosis, polyps or fibroids, infections (like STIs), trauma, and cancer.
After ruling out pregnancy, an absence the menstrual cycle can be divided into 2 types: primary and secondary. Primary amenorrhea is reflective of women who are 14 years old, have not experienced any secondary sex characteristics (breast development and pubic hair growth), and have not experienced their menstrual cycle. Or it can be reflective of a 16 year old who has yet to experience her menstrual cycle, but has secondary sex characteristics.
Secondary amenorrhea is reflective of women who have experienced their menstrual cycle in the past, but are no longer experiencing it. Causes can include nervous system changes, hormone imbalances, disorders of the ovary, outflow tract disorders (ie. infections), changes in weight, disordered eating, or exercise.
How many of these terms did you know? The best way to track any of these symptoms is to use a period app. My favourite is Clue, but you can use whichever works best for you! Once you have this information you can bring it to your ND, so they can get to the bottom of why certain symptoms are occurring with your period.
Hopefully you’ve come away with a plan of action! If you love learning about your hormones and your period, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter called The Flow for great and informative content like this!