Periods can be a real nuisance and can feel like they get in the way of life when "Aunt Flow" comes knocking every month. If we pay attention to how our periods differ from this month to the next we can learn a lot about our general health. Certain symptoms can point to larger health problems that should be immediately addressed by doctors. How do you know if you have an irregular period? Noticing the differences in color, texture, flow and pain can all be indicators.
How Our Body Prepares For Our Period
Every month our bodies prepare for conception by thickening our uterine lining to help with implantation of a fertilized egg. If an egg is not fertilized that month, the body then sheds this tissue and your period begins. A menstrual cycle should last anywhere from five to seven days depending on the heaviness of flow.
How Much Blood Is Too Much?
According to the United Kingdom Nation Health Service (NHS) women should lose around 30 to 40 milliliters of blood during their menstrual cycle. WIth a heavy cycle coming in at around 60 milliliters of blood lost. A way to check if you are bleeding too much would be to note the amount of times you are changing your tampon, if you have to change it every 2 hours and you should consult a doctor.
How Long Is Too Long for a Period to Last?
A natural cycle should not last any longer than 7 days. If your periods last longer than a week you could be a risk for more serious health concerns. Also if you continue to bleed heavily throughout that week, and have to continuously change your clothes or bedding, you should book an appointment with a doctor to get checked out.
Why Do We Have Cramps?
A woman's uterus contracts during her period to help aid in the process of shedding the uterine lining and passing the unfertilized egg. When a uterus contracts the blood vessels are constricted and are not able to receive a flow of oxygen. This causes the cramping pain that we feel during our period.
What If Your Period Is Too Painful?
There are two types of cramps (also know as Dysmenorrhea) associated with menstruation: Primary Dysmenorrhea and Secondary Dysmenorrhea. Primary Dysmenorrhea are the common cramps felt in the abdomen and lower back, before or at the beginning of a period. Secondary Dysmenorrhea are severe cramps felt throughout the whole lowers body and can be a result of something more serious.
Painful Cramps And More Serious Problems
Secondary Dysmenorrhea can be associated with more serious health problems and should be consulted with a doctor. Some of the reproductive problems associated with these type of cramps are: Fibroids, which are benign tumors that grow in the walls of the Uterus and Endometriosis, a disorder where the Uterine lining grows outside of the Uterus.
Breast Tenderness and Your Period
Many women experience some form of breast tenderness while they are menstruating. The fluctuation in hormones can be blamed for this symptom and is completely normal. It is good to note that this tenderness should only occur within the menstruation cycle timeline and any irregular lumps, or nipple discharge should be consulted with a doctor.
Spotting / Light Bleeding In Between Periods
Polyps can cause spotting or light bleeding in between periods, particularly during sex. But spotting can also be a sign of pregnancy, cervical cancer or uterine cancer. Spotting can also be a side affect of a low-dose hormone contraception. While most spotting is completely normal all spotting symptoms should be run by a doctor to ensure it isn't anything more.
Blood Clots During Period
Throughout the course of a woman's period, she will often notice blood clots in her period blood. These clots are a result of pieces of your uterine walls shedding and anything up to the size of a quarter is considered normal. Clots larger than that could be a sign of Fibroids and should be checked out. If you have recently implanted a copper IUD these large clots could be a sign your body isn't taking to it.
What The Color Of Period Blood Says About Your Health
Throughout your menstrual cycle, your period will change heaviness, texture and even color. From bright red, to deep burgundy, to brownish rust, the color can indicate a lot about your health and the health of your reproductive system. Noting the changes of color throughout your cycle can help you discover if medical attention is necessary.
Blood Color and Health Risks
If your period is the color of Strawberry Jam and is associated with a light flow, your estrogen levels may be low. If your period is more akin to the color of frozen blueberries, your estrogen may be higher than normal. The ideal color for period blood should be similar to that of cranberry juice, bright red and vibrant.
Dark Brown Blood and Your Period
Near the end of your period your blood may get darker and often look brown in color. This is totally normal. This is the blood in the uterine lining that has come out slowly and in the process began to oxidize, giving it the brown hue. This can also show up at the beginning of a period as well, as a result of the excess from the previous menstrual cycle.
Other Colors And Symptoms That Can Be Warning Signs
If your period blood looks grey, and you are also noticing a fouled smell or odor associated with the blood, this can be a result of an STD or a miscarriage. If your period blood looks extremely watery, or adversely, if your period is extremely heavy, you could be experiencing an iron deficiency and will need to consult your doctor.
Every Woman's 'Normal' Is Different
During their childbearing years, most women will experience irregular periods, and while a normal menstrual cycle is 28 days, women can range from 21 days to 35 days depending on their unique physiological traits. Although a period should never last more than 8 days, no matter how long or short your monthly cycle is.
Outside Factors And Our Period
If you are experiencing symptoms of irregular periods, before jumping to conclusions about your health, look at your external factors of your environment. Are you an athlete who regularly pushes your body to the limits? Have you changed your diet or health lifestyle? Are you particularly stressed? All these factors can affect your period and should be taken into consideration.
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