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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?

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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?

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?

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