When you get your period, you probably think you know what to expect: cramping, some irritability, fatigue, general inconvenience, bloating. . . you know the drill. Many women experience the same collection of symptoms nearly every month, though they might vary based on stress and other factors. Whatever your list of symptoms includes, you probably assume that what's going on down there is completely normal. And, chances are, it is. There are, however, some period symptoms you shouldn't assume are normal, even (or perhaps especially) if they're symptoms that you've always experienced.
Some severe PMS and period symptoms can be signs of more serious conditions including endometriosis, PMDD, pelvic inflammatory disease, and uterine fibroids. It's likely that if you have one of these conditions, it'll need to be addressed either through careful observation of a healthcare provider, medication, or some other treatment. Don't just assume that because you the symptoms you regularly have while on your period — and therefore don't know anything different — that they're normal. Knowing what to look for and being proactive by having a conversation with your healthcare provider can help you get to the bottom of things and hopefully result in a more peaceful period to boot.
Wondering if your monthly symptoms are normal? Here are nine abnormal period symptoms that warrant a call tot he doctor.
1. You Bleed Through Pads Quickly
In an interview with Prevention, Dr. Nanette Santoro, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Colorado, Denver, said that bleeding through two pads an hour for four hours in a row means that your flow is heavy. This could potentially be a sign of a whole host of conditions ranging from bleeding disorders and hormonal imbalances to uterine polyps and endometriosis. Talk to your doctor to get things straightened out.
2. Your Period Lasts Longer Than A Week
Some women are blessed with seriously short periods, while others' last the whole week. If your period lasts longer than a week, however, it might not be normal. Like quickly bleeding through protection, long-lasting periods are indicators of heavy flow, as Santoro mentioned in the aforementioned Prevention article. It could just be a one-off fluke, but it could also potentially be a sign of something more serious.
3. Your Cramping Is Unbearable
There are no period cramps that feel just peachy. That being said, some women have to take time off of or cancel plans due to monthly menstrual cramps, which could be a red flag that things aren't right. Uterine cramping during your period is due to prostaglandins, gynecologist Dr. Judith Simms-Cendan told Seventeen in an interview.
For some women, oral contraceptives or regular old ibuprofen may do the trick, but other women simply can't find anything to alleviate the unbearable pain. If you're part of that second group, ask your physician to test for endometriosis or irritable bowel syndrome, both of which can cause seriously painful cramping.
4. You Get Spotting Between Periods
According to Cosmopolitan UK, spotting or other light bleeding in between periods could potentially be a sign of certain STDs, cervical or endometrial polyps, or even, rarely, cervical cancer. If you notice spotting between periods, it's a good idea to have a chat with your healthcare provider. It's possible that the spotting is entirely normal due to something like starting or stopping oral contraceptives, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
5. Your Mood Swings Interfere With Your Life
A little irritability and mood swings during your period is likely nothing to be overly worried about. If, however, it's bad enough to affect the relationships in your life or otherwise cause problems, it could be a sign of PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. According to the aforementioned article from Seventeen, PMDD can cause depression, anxiety, and anger. Raising your concerns with your healthcare provider is important — PMDD symptoms can be managed effectively so that they don't interfere too much with the rest of your life.
6. You Vomit Or Get Migraines
Some women do get nausea or headaches periodically during that time of the month, but if it's bad enough to cause vomiting or full-blown migraines, that's not normal. According to the previously-mentioned article from Cosmopolitan UK, if you can't keep food down and over-the-counter meds are no match for your migraines, talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider.
7. You Pass Large Blood Clots
Blood clots are a fairly normal part of periods. Usually, though, they're relatively small in size (though still freaky looking, am I right?). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if your period blood clots are larger than the size of a quarter, you should see your healthcare professional about it, as they could be related to a wide variety of more serious issues.
8. You Feel Pain When You Poop
Many women don't experience this particular period symptom, but if you find bowel movements painful while on your period, it could potentially be a sign of endometriosis, according to the Office on Women's Health. Endometriosis can cause a lot of pain — and potential fertility issues — so raise the topic with your healthcare provider the next time you see her.
9. Your Lower Back Pain Doesn't Quit
According to an article from Popsugar, pain in the lower back during your period is likely associated with regular uterine cramping and nothing to worry about. If it's exceptionally bad (just like with uterine cramping) or causes other issues, talk it over with your healthcare provider just in case.