Common Period Problems

From the outside, periods can sound amazing. You're born with hundreds of thousands of eggs. After puberty, a gland in your brain sends a monthly message that says, "Hey! Release an egg!" to your ovaries. The process happens about 450 times over your lifetime.

From the inside, periods don't feel as awesome. For a few days every month, you can feel like a different person, both physically and emotionally. And not in a good way.

Don't let those days derail your life. You can still do everything that you would during the rest of the month, if you know how to manage the baggage your monthly visitor may bring.

Blood Loss and Clots

Though it can vary from month to month, periods usually start off with a light flow, get heavier, then taper off.

On average, women lose about 2 to 4 tablespoons of blood during each period. In terms of pads or tampons, that means changing them out every 2 hours or more. If you need to change out less than every 2 hours -- or have quarter-size or larger clots -- let your doctor know.

Small clots of blood are common. Your body releases anticoagulants to keep the blood from clotting as it moves through your vagina. But on days when you're bleeding or cramping heavily, it may not be released in time.

Cramping

To get the blood out of your uterus, the muscles tighten and relax. That's the sharp ache you feel between your stomach and lower back.

Cramps can start before your period and last throughout the bleeding process. If they feel mild, like someone's giving your ovaries a solid squeeze, it's normal. Try an over-the-counter medication for pain relief. If they take your breath away or have you doubled over in pain, check in with your doctor.

Moodiness

You love everybody. You can’t stand anybody. All at the same time. Hello hormones.

Before and during your period, hormones are hard at work moving your body through each phase. When those hormones rise and fall, so does your mood.

Continued

During PMS and your period, expect to feel everything from crabbiness and anger to feeling more anxious or down than normal.

You can't avoid the mood swings that come with your period, but it does help to get good sleep, stay active, and steer clear of caffeine and unhealthy foods to keep the lows from feeling too low. These choices can also cut down on breast tenderness, acne, bloating, and food cravings that come with the menstrual cycle.

Cycle Issues

Your menstrual cycle begins the first day of one period and ends on the first day of the next. The average is 28 days, and anything between 21 and 35 is normal.

But it may not always happen like this.

Lots of things can affect your cycle, such as stress, illness, body weight, and diet, including eating disorders.

It also depends on ovulation, or when your ovaries release an egg about halfway through your cycle. This may not happen every month, especially at first.

Tracking your period can help you understand your own personal pattern. Chart out every day for a few months, including symptoms (mood swings, bloating) and when your period starts and ends. Be detailed about your blood flow: is it light, normal, or heavy?

Skipping a Period

A missed period doesn't always mean you're pregnant. It's normal not to have one once in a while, especially if your body is dealing with something big, like stress, sickness, or heavy exercise.

If you miss more than one period, and you’ve taken a pregnancy test to make sure that’s not the reason, talk to your doctor.

Nausea

PMS can make you want to eat the house down. But nausea is a normal part of your period.

One of the hormones released during your cycle is called prostaglandin. Though most of it sheds with the uterine lining, some gets into your bloodstream. This can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches.

Many over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen cut down on prostaglandin production and may help ease these symptoms as well.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on March 9, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Center for Young Women's Health: "Menstrual Periods."

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: "Women & Their Menstrual Cycles."

Center for Young Women's Health: "Menstrual Cramps."

Cleveland Clinic: "Menstrual Cycle."

National Health Service UK: "Heavy periods."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Heavy Menstrual Bleeding."

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: "Using Foods Against Menstrual Pain."

Mayo Clinic: "Menstrual Cycle: What's normal, what's not."

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