8 Questions About Your Period

Don't let your period cramp your style each month. Once you know the answers to these eight questions, you'll be able to master your menstrual cycle.

1: Is Moodiness Normal?

Feel crabby if you run out of chocolate just before your period? Cry when watching Twilight for the umpteenth time? Mood swings are, for the most part, normal around the time of your cycle.

That's about your hormones, which can also prompt headaches, fatigue, bloating, acne, tender breasts, or food cravings. Those are symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Most women, but not all, have some PMS symptoms before their periods. They're usually mild. But if yours feel extreme, mention it to your doctor.

2: How Bad Should Cramps Be?

It's OK if they're mild, but see your doctor if they're really bad.

Many teen girls and women get cramps for a few days when their period starts. You feel this as achy muscles below the belly button and sometimes in your low back.

That's a side effect of a hormone called prostaglandin.

Mild pain is no cause for worry. If your cramps are so strong that you double over in pain, call for a checkup. Your doctor may be able to treat painful periods that have a physical cause.

3: Am I Bleeding Too Much?

To tell if your flow is too heavy, count your pads or tampons. More than ten per day is too many. Soaking through an entire pad, every hour, for several hours in a row might be a problem. Same if your period lasts longer than seven days.

Check with your doctor to see if you need an office visit to deal with heavy flow.

It can seem like you change pads or tampons a lot. Yet the total blood lost is less than you may think. A woman normally produces about two tablespoons of menstrual fluid each cycle.

Your flow will likely be light at first, and heavier the second day. Then it tapers off as your period ends.

4: Isn't Blood Supposed to Be Red?

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Your menstrual blood can be any shade between red and dark brown. It may look almost inky black near the end of your period. Darker color shows older blood that doesn't leave the body quickly. It's OK.

5: What Are Those Clots I See?

Clumps of blood sometimes pass with your period. These clots are usually harmless. You're most likely to see them on your heaviest day of bleeding.

If you start seeing a lot more clots than normal, or you have one that is larger than a quarter, tell your doctor. In some cases, clots can be caused by a miscarriage, a fibroid, or hormonal changes.

6: Why Does My Gut Feel Blah, Too?

It's another side effect of the hormone called prostaglandin. It causes the muscles in your bowels to contract. This is why you can have loose stools, diarrhea, and stomach pain when you get your period.

7: What if My Cycle Has a Mind of Its Own?

It sure would be nice to know exactly when you'll get your period. But that depends on when your body releases an egg, called ovulating. If you don’t ovulate every month (and you may not at first), you won’t have regular cycles.

It's tricky for almost everyone to pinpoint a start date, except women taking birth control pills, which regulate your cycle.

Many women get their period about every 28 days. A regular cycle is from 25 to 35 days. To determine the days in your own monthly cycle, count from the first day you start bleeding until the first day you start bleeding again.

You may not get the same number of days next month. So it's a good idea to be ready for your period to start a bit sooner than you expect.

8: Why Did I Miss My Period?

If you're having sex, your first thought is apt to be, ''Yikes, am I pregnant?'' You could be. Another possibility is changing hormone levels.

Check with your doctor when:

  • A pregnancy test is negative and your period is still missing.
  • Your periods were once regular, but no longer show up when they should.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on January 07, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Endometriosis Research Center: ''Do you have Endo?''

Feminist Women’s Health Center: ''Menstrual Cycles: What Really Happens in Those 28 Days.''

Children's Hospital Boston: "Menstrual Cramps."

GirlsHealth.gov: "Problem Periods."Family Doctor.org web site: "Menstrual Problems." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists web site: "Menstruation."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists web site: "Premenstrual Syndrome and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder."

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