What Your Period Symptoms Say About You

| Women's Health

A woman who is adjusted to her cycle will probably notice her periods lasting between three and seven days. During those regular cycles, it's normal to see one or two days of a heavier flow, and then see it tapering off toward the end. Light flows and heavy flows are subjective to every woman, so it's important that you are in tune with what is normal for your cycle. Let's break down the flow and see what your period symptoms say about you!

NO FLOW could mean polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), low body fat, thyroid dysfunction, or stress

If you've missed your period for three straight months (and there's no way you could be pregnant or going through menopause), it could be any of the above factors. You could have a problem with your thyroid, or a hormonal imbalance that causes cysts to grow on your uterus, or you're way too stressed. If you're underweight for your height, it could be possible that you don't have enough body fat to sustain a healthy cycle. This is especially true in active women.

Manage your symptoms: Consult your doctor when you've been without your period for three to six months.

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A LIGHT or INFREQUENT FLOW could mean fibroids, hormonal imbalance, or polyps

For most women, a light flow comes toward the end of her period. There will be very little blood in your sanitary products, and you won't have to change them as often. Depending on age and weight, some women have lighter periods in general. They won't need to change the pad or tampon every four hours, but should still change them to keep clean and ward off infections.

By the way, Mother Nature doesn't visit exactly every 28 days. In fact, it's completely normal to have as few as nine periods a year. Your flow changes as you age, so you could see a drastic difference from the time you were 30 to the time you were 40. Hormone imbalances and fibroids (noncancerous tumors) can be reason to blame on your infrequent period, but polyps could also be at fault. Polyps are benign growth on the inner wall of your uterus.

Manage your symptoms: If you have fewer than nine periods a year, see your doctor. She might give you medication that regulates your hormones, or she might recommend a minimally invasive surgery to remove any polyps.

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A HEAVY FLOW could mean fibroids, hemophilia, hormone imbalance, blood thinners

This type of bleeding usually soaks through one or more sanitary products every hour for several hours. During the entire period cycle, a woman with a heavier flow could bleed out about 80 milliliters, and her period can last for longer than nine days. The medical term for this type of heavy bleeding is menorrhagia. During early teenage years and perimenopause, women tend to have higher estrogen levels, which influence this heavy bleeding. About one in every five women deal with menorrhagia. Your body relies on a balance between progesterone and estrogen; too much of one can increase how much you bleed and how many clots you see in the menstrual blood. (via WebMD)

An imbalance between progesterone and estrogen could also mean you have fibroids (noncancerous tumors). If you are on a nonhormonal form of birth control (like IUDs), that could also be the reason for your heavy flow.

Manage your symptoms: Excess bleeding in the case of menorrhagia can be worrisome, but is more likely to be annoyingly inconvenient. Cramps so painful that it is nearly impossible to focus on anything else, worrying about blood soaking through your sanitary products, and all-around havoc imposed on your life, on the other hand, are causes to see your doctor.

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A PAINFUL FLOW could mean endometriosis, fibroids, or vaginal scarring

You know what a "regular" period should feel like. After all, every woman is going to feel some pain when her uterus muscles contract and release to push out blood. It's only a problem when common meds like ibuprofen and Mydol don't work, or when you regularly skip work or outings with friends due to pain. In this case, endometriosis could be a possibility. Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue you shed with each period to grow outside your uterus in places like your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and lower abdomen. Endometrial tissue that grows outside your uterus still breaks down and bleeds during each menstrual cycle, but because it has no way out of your body, the tissue builds up and can cause pelvic pain.

Scarring from previous surgeries in the uterus or other structural abnormalities (like fybroids) could cause pain, as well.

Manage your symptoms: If you've had particularly painful periods for three consecutive months, see your doctor. While there is no cure for endometriosis, surgery or pelvic floor physical therapy have been known to help women manage the symptoms.

>> Click here to view your guide to birth control.

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