We're all used to the searing cramps, nausea, moodiness, and general feeling of discomfort that accompany our monthly period. Every woman's cycle is different, with some bleeding for three to four days while others bleed for a week, some have debilitating cramps while some have next to none. No matter what your period is like, there are some markers everyone should watch out for, because your period could be telling you that something in your body isn't right.
Your biology books will have told you that your period is supposed to come every 28 days. That, however, is not true. If you have a gap of 21 to 45 days between your period, that's perfectly normal, but don't fret if the gap changes every month. It takes a few years for women to actually get to a regular cycle, so if you've just started your period or you're approaching menopause, don't worry. If, however, you have a 35-day cycle, and it suddenly drops to a 20-day cycle, you need to make an appointment with your gynaecologist. The reasons behind irregular periods could be stress, a change in diet and exercise, or issues with your thyroid.
No one is a stranger to cramps, and you will be hard pressed to find a woman who doesn't always have painkillers in her bag at any given time. But when the pain gets so bad that it's literally getting in the middle of your life, it's not normal. You could have endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pelvic infections, or a narrow cervix, all of which could be causing your debilitating cramps, and can lead to worse problems if left untreated.
Ideally, your period should last anywhere between three to seven days, and you should bleed around two-three tablespoons. But if you're bleeding more than that, and for longer, you need to visit your gynaecologist immediately. You could have a condition called menorrhagia, and you could have uterine cysts, polyps, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, an issue with your IUD, uterine cancer, or hypothyroidism which could be causing this heavy bleeding. Heavy bleeding on the first two days of your period is okay, but if you're changing pads every hour, something is wrong.
A period that is a little too light may be a sign of something wrong as well. If you're barely bleeding, it means that your body simply doesn't have enough nutrients and is prioritising other body functions over your period. You may be an athlete who's training too hard but not getting nutrition, or you may be extremely underweight, or you could even have polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Bleeding between periods, also known as spotting, happens to a lot of women. Usually, it's something as minor as a sore in the vaginal area, forgetting to take a birth control pill, or if you're approaching menopause, but it could also be fibroids, endometriosis, low progesterone levels, or even uterine, endometrial, cervical, or ovarian cancer.
A little clotting between your periods is perfectly fine, but if your period consists of golf ball-sized clots or there's an excessive amount of clotting, it could mean something serious. You should report it to your gynaecologist immediately, because it could be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid issues, or a blood disorder like von Willebrand’s disease.
The most obvious cause for a skipped period is a pregnancy, and you can get an over-the-counter pregnancy test to check. But if you haven't been having sex, and you're not Mother Mary, you should take notice. A change in weather, diet, or lifestyle, prolonged stress, illness, or polycystic ovarian syndrome may all be causes for skipping a period, and it could also be ovarian cancer.