Listen to Your Body: 8 Period Signs & Symptoms to Pay Attention to
What is Your Period Telling You?
Have you ever wondered if your period or the symptoms you experience around your period are normal?
Your period can give a lot of insight into your reproductive & general health.
Let’s go through some of the signs & symptoms we want to be aware of when it comes to our periods. When it comes to knowing whether or not you have a healthy period there are 8 things we want to pay attention to.
Signs of a Healthy Period & When to Investigate Further:
Menstrual Cycle Length
A menstrual cycle length is measured by Day 1 being the first day of menstrual blood flow, ending at the day before your next menstrual blood flow. Typically we talk about menstrual cycles being roughly 28 days in length. If you are not on hormonal birth control, a healthy menstrual cycle length is anywhere from 21 to 35 days. It doesn’t have to be the exact same amount of days comparing one cycle to the next, as long as it falls within the 21-35 day range. If you are having multiple cycle lengths in a year that are less than 21 or greater than 35 days it is worth investigating why.
Number of Days of Bleeding
A typical period lasts anywhere from 3-5 days, up to 7 days. Some things we want to pay attention to is if you are bleeding 5-7 days or more, making sure you aren’t low in iron & iron stores. If you are having periods that are less than 3 days in length we also want to look into why that may be happening. Everyone is slightly different, so it is important to monitor how many days you typically bleed to see if you notice short, long or any changes to your period.
How Much Bleeding Is There?
You might know this by the term “flow” - light, medium or heavy. A heavy flow is defined as needing to change tampons/pads less than every 2 hours. Some reasons for a heavy flow could be low progesterone or lack of ovulation, uterine fibroids, polyps, adenomyosis etc. Again we also want to screen for iron deficiency because of the amount of blood loss. We also want to pay attention to light flows where you would describe the flow as spotting or not a true flow of menstrual blood. A light flow could be due to stress, changes in weight, perimenopause, PCOS, thyroid conditions etc. It is also important to note that a hormonal contraceptive (pill or IUD) can be the reason for a lighter menstrual flow.
Colour of the Blood
Healthy period blood should be mostly bright red in colour, sometimes near the end or the beginning of your period you can have dark red or even brown blood, this is just older blood that was exposed to oxygen. If you are having grey discharge or orange blood it could be a vaginal infection. Pink blood could be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. Start paying attention to the colour discharge you are seeing and let your healthcare provider know!
A healthy period blood consistency shouldn’t be thin and watery but it shouldn’t be thick like ketchup either, it should be somewhere in between. Some small blood clots can form, however if you are having blood clots larger than the size of a quarter you will want to pay closer attention and let a healthcare provider know. There are a variety of reasons for large blood clots such as uterine fibroids, adenomyosis or even medications.
Severity of Pain
Menstrual cramps are a typical experience for many menstruators, however the severity of the pain should be tolerable and not impact your day to day functioning. If you are having severe pain, intense cramping, having nausea or vomiting from your menstrual cramps and requiring over the counter painkillers to get through the day this is something that we want to address not just for your reproductive health but for your quality of life.
If you are missing 3 or more periods in a row or having less than 9 periods in a year we definitely want to be looking into why this might be happening. There are many reasons for missing periods such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Thyroid Conditions, Cushing’s, Hypothalamic amenorrhea. Even mental and/or physical stress can impact your cycle. And always if your period is late we want to be screening for possible pregnancy. When it comes to missed periods, getting a thorough and proper assessment is key.
Mid cycle spotting (bleeding between your period and next period) could be a sign of low progesterone. Spotting after intercourse or menopause is something we also want to investigate to ensure the health of the cervix, endometrium and vaginal walls. Spotting could also be a sign of early pregnancy implantation. Let your healthcare provider know if you are experiencing any of those situations.