What Is Your Period Telling You?
For women, periods are a tricky subject. This fluctuation of hormones is really a much longer journey than the one week of bleeding. From mood changes, to cramps, to painful conditions that solely affect uterus owners, it cannot be said enough that sometimes, being a woman is BLOODY HARD (pun intended).
Another colour to look out for is grey or off-white bleeding or discharge, as these colours are associated with complications. Grey blood is linked with infections, such as bacterial vaginosis. If you are pregnant, this colour of discharge may be a sign of a miscarriage, so call your doctor if you notice this colour in your period blood and vaginal discharge.
Particularly when your period is heavy, it is normal to see blog clots around the same size as a 10p coin, especially towards the end of your period. However, if you have excessive clotting that is bigger than normal and very frequent, you should get checked out by your GP to ensure you’re completely healthy.
When is it considered heavy bleeding?
Every person bleeds a different amount, so it is very hard for someone else to judge whether it is heavy bleeding or not. Ideally, heavy bleeding is defined as losing 80ml or more each period, or having periods that last longer than seven days, or both.
What can help you tell:
- You’re changing your sanitary products every hour or two
- You see blood clots around the size of a 10p coin
- You’re bleeding through your clothes or bedding - this is normal for most periods, but if it’s happening every night then that would be considered heavy bleeding.
- You need to use two types of sanitary products together
If you are worried about the amount of blood you are passing then check the NHS heavy period self-assessment
The most common symptoms of periods are period cramps and pain. It can be hard to tell the difference between what is “normal” period pain and what is something you should look out for, because everyone has a different pain tolerance level.
The pain can be experienced all over the lower half of your body, from pain in your back and stomach, to lightening crotch and thigh cramps. Some women get no pain at all or have the pain affect them gradually.
Now, if the pain is so intense that it stops you from being able to do your daily routine (and ladies, if we're honest, we will most likely still try to do our daily routine but take note of the pain if it causes you to catch your breath or stop in your tracks). If the pain is bad enough to make you pause, then it’s best to start noting down your symptoms and to talk to your GP as it could be caused by one of these conditions:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- And a few more
If you notice a change in your normal period pattern as well, it could be linked to one of the above conditions.
When it’s missing…
Many of us have had that sudden panic when our period is late or missing, especially when we’re sexually active. The panic still happens even when we’re not sexually active until we realise it’s most likely not a pregnancy, the most common reason for there being no period. Our hormones are easily affected by our daily lives, age, and our overall health, so we may miss a month or two, or lose it all together.
Here are the other most common reasons for a missed period:
- Stress - cortisol running through our bodies can affect our hormonal balance and cause a delay or prevent ovulation. This is where taking up an activity that helps calm our minds can help us maintain a balance, like reading a book, doing yoga, or something that simply makes us happy.
- Sudden weight loss - changes to our weight does affect our periods. If you have had unintentional weight loss and have lost your period, then check with your GP.
- Being overweight - being overweight can cause your body to produce an excess of oestrogen which can affect how often you have periods and can stop them.
- Doing too much exercise - just as our minds can get stressed, so can our bodies. Exercising too much can put stress on the body if we are not eating enough food to fuel our bodies. To keep our bodies healthy when exercising, you need to match the output of energy with the input of energy, aka food. The female body is much more sensitive to hormonal imbalances when looking at a high level of exercise with a calorie deficit.
- The menopause - unfortunately this one is natural and happens for every woman, commonly between the ages of 40-55 but some women can get earlier.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - irregular and missed periods are common with PCOS due to complications with the ovaries as they do not regularly release eggs. Alongside, another main symptom of PCOS is an increase with facial and body hair due to high levels of androgen in the body. If you are concerned that you may have PCOS, please check with your GP.