What Your Period is Telling You About Your Health

By Alison Ferrell

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What Your Period is Telling You About Your Health

A menstrual cycle is an intricate harmony of hormones in which the brain and the ovaries orchestrate a natural, recurring rhythm. This process, the hallmark of fertility, is joined to our survival as a species. Although it serves this essential purpose in reproduction, it can also provide hints toward understanding overall health. 

Many period symptoms are considered normal, but what symptoms might be signals? Could your period be telling you something else that’s going on with your body?

The characteristics of your cycle, which are unique to you, contain details about your overall health. Paying attention to your period is one way to get a warning that you might want to heed. 

Consider Color

Period blood can present in a range of colors. Bright red color indicates a fresh and steady flow, and this is the most commonly observed color. However, women can experience pink, orange, brown, even black or gray shades. Each color can mean something specific going on inside the body. While most colors are not warning signs of a dangerous health issue, it’s good to be observant and knowledgeable.

  • Dark brown to black color can occur at the beginning or end of a period. It is an indication that the blood is older and has taken longer to leave the vagina.
  • Pink color means the blood could have mixed with other vaginal fluid. Pink is also an indicator of changing estrogen levels and could be linked to significant weight loss or an insufficient diet.
  • Orange color is similar to pink in that it is blood mixed with other vaginal fluid.

Colors can even change during menstruation, particularly from dark brown to red and back to dark brown. Usually, though, a color will be accompanied by other symptoms when it comes to something concerning.

When to reach out to your healthcare provider:

  • If black blood is accompanied by fever, foul smell, difficulty urinating, or itching/swelling
  • If pink blood is accompanied by symptoms of anemia such as fatigue, dizziness, or an escalated heart rate
  • If orange blood is accompanied by itching and a foul smell
  • If grey discharge is accompanied by painful urination or itching around the vagina

Frequency of Your Flow

Average menstrual bleeding typically lasts 3-7 days and recurs every 21-35 days. Periods that occur more often than every 21 days may be cause to take notice. A sporadic cycle can also be telling. A frequency that varies more than seven days or is more infrequent than every 38 days is considered abnormal.

If these changes are temporary, they can often be attributed to stress, natural hormonal changes, and the effects of beginning or ending a birth control regimen. Consider these factors and whether or not they connect to your period’s behavior. A good way to stay in tune with your menstrual rhythm is to Track your cycle

When to reach out to your healthcare provider:

  • If you experience bleeding between periods that are usually very regular 
  • If you are pregnant and you experience spotting or bleeding of any kind
  • If you want to get pregnant 
  • If you have other symptoms like pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • If your period produces consistent bleeding for longer than seven days
  • If you experience abnormal discharge
  • If you experience pain during sex

Somatic Signs

Primary dysmenorrhea, or pain during periods, commonly known as cramps, is a feeling of discomfort that accompanies the menstrual cycle for many. Those who experience cramps endure an uncomfortable yet regular and, by most accounts, normal occurrence associated with their menstrual cycle. 

A hormone produced by the uterus, prostaglandin, is the culprit behind cramps. As a woman nears the menstruation phase of her cycle, the production of this hormone elevates, and it causes the muscles of the uterus to become inflamed, and they expand and contract. This is the source of discomfort in the abdomen. Typically, simple pain-relieving techniques can successfully alleviate the pain associated with cramps. Due to its anti-inflammatory and pain mitigating qualities, HEMP period products can be an effective and welcomed source of relief for sufferers of period pain.

Other sources of comfort are:

  • a heating pad or water bottle 
  • getting exercise
  • relaxation techniques 

Period pain that begins a few days before a period and lasts a few days is normal; however, some period pain can signal a more serious underlying condition.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is the term for period pain that is caused due to abnormal circumstances. Conditions like endometriosis or fibroid cysts can be the source of pain, particularly if the onset is immediate, severe, or occurs suddenly for the first time.  

When to reach out to your healthcare provider:

  • If your cramps suddenly intensify
  • If you are experiencing abdominal pain that is not associated with the timing of your cycle
  • If you experience fever or vomiting in tandem with cramping
  • If the pain is so severe, it regularly interferes with your daily life
  • If you are over 25 and experience pain associated with your period for the first time

Hypermenorrhea and Menorrhagia

These are the two scientific terms referring to a light or heavy flow. Having one or the other may be a common characteristic of your period. 

For some, a very heavy period, Menorrhagia, starts from the onset of the first menstrual cycle, and for others, it can increase in intensity over time. 

Menorrhagia is characterized by:

  • The need to change a pad or tampon every hour during the day
  • The need to change a pad or tampon at night
  • The need to wear multiple sanitary products to manage the flow

When to reach out to your healthcare provider:

  • If you feel weak or lightheaded during menstruation
  • If the bleeding prevents you from carrying out normal activities
  • If the bleeding lasts longer than seven days
  • If the problem is new for you

Light menstruation, Hypermenorrhea, can also occur. Factors like age, stress, type of birth control, and breastfeeding can all contribute to light periods.

Hypermenorrhea is characterized by:

  • A period that is shorter in duration than usual
  • A lack of a usual heavy flow on the first days and then consistent light days
  • Bleeding that seems more like spotting

When to reach out to your healthcare provider:

  • If they are uncharacteristically light or stop altogether
  • If pelvic pain accompanies an unusually light period

Chart any Changes

If you’re accustomed to what you consider a normal period, a change in any part of it should be observed and acknowledged. The most crucial factor is listening to your body and what your period might be trying to tell you. Be aware of what feels normal and natural, and regard anything that feels different or abnormal as a potential signal.

___________

Alison Ferrell is the co-founder of Red Moon and has a passion for helping others discover peace and comfort amidst reproductive health issues. Alison draws on her deep empathy for those who’ve suffered from Endometriosis and reproductive illnesses as inspiration for her business. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

 

Resources
Your Period
Medical News Today
Medline Plus
WebMD
Medical News Today

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