Menstruation differs for each woman, so it's important to know what your cycle is telling you about your healtj
When we are tuned into our bodies, we can understand if it's trying to tell us something. There are many signs and symptoms that we might miss if we are not in tune with ourselves. One of the ways in which it tells us what's going on in the body is through our menstrual cycle, something we might resent from time to time. It tells us before it is coming through cramps and other symptoms. However, there is much more that we can glean from our cycles.
The standard for "normal" menstruation can differ from person to person. However, for most people, periods last three to eight days, and the flow might be heavier at the beginning. Usually, we lose 30 ml to 72 ml of blood but people with some conditions might experience heavier flow, as per Forbes. One of the ways to keep a track of our symptoms before, during, and after our cycle is through period tracking apps.
Things we can keep an eye out for include our flow, how painful the cramps are, spotting between cycles, and other unexplained changes. Some of the issues could be minor and benign while others could send some signals about serious ailments.
Here are seven things our bodies could be telling us through our periods:
Dr. Sherry A. Ross, ob-gyn, tells Health that if your period temporarily vanishes it could be because of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid problems. These issues can also make the period flow heavier and longer. Even stress can affect our ovulation and throw it off, and because of that, we could end up skipping a few periods. It could also be that we have lost weight considerably and drastically. "Extreme weight loss causes a decrease in body fat and estrogen production, making your periods lighter or nonexistent," says Dr. Ross.
There could be multiple reasons why this is happening. One of them could be that you have growths in and around your uterus (such as in the case of endometriosis, fibroids, or polyps). You could also have hormonal issues or some form of an STD (including chlamydia and gonorrhea). For some women, there can be a little spotting 10-14 days after they get pregnant, as per WebMD. It is recommended that you speak to your doctor to find the precise reason why this is happening to you.
If your period blood has some clots, which look like thick blobs of blood, then it's not a matter of worry oftentimes. It is only a function of your bleeding, Dr. Leah Millheiser, an ob-gyn and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University, told Cosmopolitan. If the blood clots don't appear all the time and are less than the size of a quarter, you’re most likely fine. However, if you see larger clots regularly then it could be an indicator for other issues like hypothyroidism, uterine fibroids, symptomatic anemia, or menorrhagia, which is the scientific term for very heavy bleeding, according to Dr. Millheiser.
There are multiple things that could lead to an irregular flow, and seeing a doctor could help figure these out. "When you’re stressed, your body produces more cortisol, i.e., the stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can block the signals that lead to the release of an egg that then leads to your period—so your period may come late, or you may skip it altogether," Millheiser explains. It could also be a hormone disorder like PCOS.
Heavy or light flow depends from person to person. But, if someone experiences flow that lasts more than seven days and has to change tampons every couple of hours then the flow is on the heavier side. It could mean that this is your normal or that there are some health conditions, such as hypothyroidism, adenomyosis, fibroids, or Von Willebrand disease—a bleeding disorder that slows the blood clotting process.
The color of the period blood can tell different things about our health. The bright red color shows that the bleeding is recent and it's moving down the cervix faster. People are likely to see this color at the start of the period, as per Verywell Mind. A darker red, or brown, or black tells that the blood is slightly older and the flow is slow. For most women, the blood gets darker over the course of the cycle.
Bloating during periods is quite common and it occurs due to fluctuations in estrogen levels and a drop in progesterone, as per Women's Health. "When estrogen levels are higher, our bodies tend to retain water," says Dr. Meggie Smith, an obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellow at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. "Progesterone, which is high in the latter half of your cycle, can make for a slower digestive tract, so to speak, which also may not help symptoms of bloating or fullness," she added.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Illustration by Liliia Kyrylenko