Your period comes and goes every month, but periods are considered one of the most taboo topics to talk about. Well, it’s time to talk about it openly.
Most often, women think that their period only indicates whether or not they are pregnant. Cramps, bloating, heavy flow and backaches are often thought of as just part of the cycle that simply must be endured.
But in reality, your menstrual cycle can reveal a plethora of information about your health.
From regularity to flow and from frequency to duration, paying attention to your period can save you from major health issues.
Here are the some health problems that your period may indicate.
1. Excessive or Prolonged Bleeding may Indicate Fibroids
A fibroid is a benign, non-cancerous growth that occurs in or around the uterus, which can affect your menstrual cycle and lead to excessive or prolonged bleeding.
In a 2012 study published in BMC Women’s Health, researchers surveyed 21,479 women across eight countries. Among the findings, women with a diagnosis of uterine fibroids reported the following bleeding symptoms significantly more often than women without a fibroid diagnosis: heavy bleedings (59.8% vs. 37.4%), prolonged bleedings (37.3% vs. 15.6%) and bleeding between periods (33.3% vs. 13.5%).
Another study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Women’s Health concludes that heavy and prolonged bleeding is the most commonly reported symptom among women suffering from fibroids.
If suddenly you are having longer cycles than normal, see your doctor to find out the reason behind it.
2. Irregular Periods may Indicate PCOS
Though you may be happy to have irregular periods, it is definitely not a good sign for your body.
An irregular menstrual cycle along with other symptoms, such as obesity, excessive facial and body hair, hair loss and acne, is a strong indication that you may be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
In PCOS, cysts form in the ovaries due to the activity of excess testosterone in the body. These cysts affect the entire menstruation process, leading to missed periods.
A 2014 study published in Human Reproduction confirms that irregular periods during the teenage years are positively associated with PCOS and infertility in the future.
Whether you have missed your period for the first time or it has become a common trend, take it seriously and consult your doctor.
3. Lighter Flow may Indicate Excess Stress
A lighter blood flow is common in women who are entering perimenopause or menopause, or those who use hormonal birth control methods.
However, if you are suddenly experiencing a lighter flow compared to previous periods, it could either be due to hormonal changes in the body or excess stress.
You have a light period if you bleed for fewer than two days. Your bleeding is considered very light, such as spotting, if you miss one or more regular-flow periods or you experience more frequent light periods than the typical 21- to 35-day cycle.
Once your stress level is under control, your periods should return to normal.
If you’re feeling stressed, ask for help. Try exercising most days, practice meditation and seek talk therapy to reduce your stress level.
4. Irregular Menstrual Cycles may Indicate Diabetes
Unusually long, extremely irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles may be linked to insulin resistance and the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
In fact, overweight women who have irregular menstrual cycles are probably suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance also affects the ovaries, which in turn affects the menstrual cycle.
A 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed over 100,000 women who had reported usual menstrual cycle patterns from 18 to 22 years of age. After thorough analysis across the 10-year study period, it was found that women with long or highly irregular menstrual cycles (40 days or more) were more than twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as compared to women with usual cycles.
Also, women with very short cycles (21 days or less) were 1.5 times more likely to develop the condition as compared to those with normal cycles.
Another study published in 2003 in Diabetes Care reports that Type 1 diabetes is an independent risk factor for menstrual disturbances in young adults. However, further studies are needed to determine whether addressing menstrual disturbances improves the quality of life and health of these women.
5. Unbearable Period Cramps may Indicate Endometriosis
Unbearable and extremely painful cramps during menstruation can indicate that you are suffering from endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue, which lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. The tissue then gets ‘trapped’ in the pelvic area and lower abdomen, leading to swelling and extreme pain.
During periods, the endometrium produces prostaglandin, a hormone that induces inflammation and pain. In a 2013 study published in Yonago Acta Medica, Japanese researchers found that the body produces a higher and abnormal amount of prostaglandin in endometriosis.
Such pain is different from normal period pain and usually gets worse before the period and typically lasts the duration of the period. The abdominal pain is often accompanied by lower back or pelvic pain.
6. Early or Delayed Puberty may Indicate a Thyroid Problem
Since your menstrual cycle is driven by hormones and your thyroid plays a big role in hormone production and regulation, early or delayed puberty could be an indication of thyroid issues.
In fact, noticeable changes to your period, such as a lighter or heavier flow all of a sudden, can indicate thyroid problems.
Heavier, more frequent, prolonged and more painful periods are often linked with hypothyroidism, while shorter, lighter and infrequent or absent periods are linked with hyperthyroidism.
If you are seeing a little change in your periods, you need to consult your doctor and get your thyroid levels checked. Thyroid tests can tell you if that may be behind your irregular flow.
7. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding may Indicate Cervical Cancer
Irregular vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of cervical cancer, which used to be the leading cause of cancer deaths for American women. However, now it is considered the easiest female cancer to prevent.
Irregular vaginal bleeding may occur between menstrual periods or after sex. Sometimes, it shows as blood-streaked vaginal discharge, which is referred to as spotting.
Women of all ages are at risk of developing this cancer after they begin having sexual intercourse, and vaginal bleeding can also occur in postmenopausal women who no longer have menstrual periods.
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience bleeding between menstrual cycles or following sexual intercourse.
8. Abrupt Absence of Your Period may Indicate a Low BMI
When your body mass index (BMI) falls below 18 or 19, you may start experiencing missed periods due to too little body fat.
Body fat is important for creating estrogen, which regulates your menstrual cycle. Low body fat puts the body into an emergency mode, where its main focus is on performing only the most crucial and life-sustaining functions. Maintaining a regular cycle does not fall in the crucial category.
To have regular periods and be able to conceive, you must have a BMI of at least 22.
If you are having irregular periods, check your BMI. Aim to keep your BMI within the normal range to promote regular and healthy menstrual cycles.