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5 Things About Periods That No Woman Should Ignore

Menarche, a female person's first menstrual cycle, marks the commencement of a monthly event that will be part of your life for up to 40 years. Typical periods come with an array of side effects, rivaling those of the medications you see advertised on television. Beginning around age 12, you may have learned to live with a myriad of unpleasant aches, pains, and added hygienic responsibilities. Although most of this is very normal, there are some things about periods a woman shouldn't ignore.

For the next four decades, you probably become accustomed to at least one of the following: bloating, cramps, moodiness, or breast tenderness. You experience these while attempting to adequately absorb the four to 12 teaspoons of blood and tissue escaping through your most intimate region. You treat the acne well into adulthood, ignore the lower back aches, and push through the pounding headaches. You learn to adjust to the many changes in her cycle that will come after pregnancy, as you age, or due to the use of hormonal birth control. What you don't want to do, though is be so tough and adaptable that you overlook certain period-related issues that can signal a serious problem.

Some may seem like run-of-the-mill menstrual side effects, but the following are examples of gynecological problems you should not ignore and should immediately discuss with your doctor.

1. Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia)

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According to WebMD, if you soak through a maxi pad or tampon every hour or pass large clots, you may have heavy periods, or menorrhagia. As Dr. Nanette Santoro, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado at Denver, told Woman's Day, abnormally heavy periods can be a sign of fibroids, polyps or adenomyosis. Additionally, OB-GYN Antonio Pizarro told PG Everyday that, in women over 45, heavy periods can be a sign of uterine cancer. He also warned that heavy periods can cause anemia or low blood count.

African American women who experience heavy bleeding during their cycle may have a rare condition known as Von Willebrand disease, a bleeding disorder that prevents the body from clotting, according to MayoClinic.  

Don't simply accept heavy periods as your lot in life. Visit your doctor to rule out any issues, and ask about solutions to control your heavy periods.

2. Missing A Period

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The typical cause of a skipped period, or amenorrhea, is pregnancy. However, gynecologists Pari Ghodsi and Sharon Mass told PG Everyday that skipping your period can indicate a hormonal imbalance, which can cause the uterine lining can to build up and lead to the growth of precancerous cells, according to Women's Day. WebMD suggests that missed periods can also be related to problems with the pelvic organs, such as imperforate hymen or polycystic ovary syndrome.

Though it may be nice not to have to deal with a period every once in awhile, it is important to make sure there isn't a potentially dangerous underlying condition.

3. Intense Cramping

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In an interview with Health, Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine, noted that intense cramping can be a symptom of endometriosis, a condition in which the uterine cells begin to grow outside of the uterus causing severe pain. Another cause for cramping, according to Woman's Day, could be a mass in the pelvis. Severe cramping should be discussed with your doctor, not only to rule out any serious issues, but to alleviate the unnecessary discomfort.

4. Spotting

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Spotting is not uncommon while on hormonal birth control but can be alarming otherwise. Adelaide Nardone, a clinical OB-GYN, told Health that spotting can be a sign of uterine polyps, which is an overgrowth of normal tissue due to high estrogen levels. Additionally, Woman's Day reported that spotting can be caused by fibroids, an infection such as bacterial vaginosis, or a precancerous growth. Spotting in between periods is not only a hassle, it can be a warning sign of a condition that your doctor can treat.

5. Severe PMS

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The website for Johns Hopkins Medicine states that severe PMS symptoms may be premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, an acute and chronic medical condition that requires treatment. Symptoms of PMDD appear during the week before and end a few days after your period starts. Women with PMDD may have trouble functioning at home, at work, and in their personal life during this time. PMDD can affect a woman's mental health and lead to depression and anxiety, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

PMDD can be treated, and just like with any symptom that disrupts your life, should be discussed with your doctor.