Let's face it, that special gift Mother Nature sends you every month is never one you want to open. Periods are never to be trifled with. Apart from the cramps and icky feelings it brings, your period can reveal a lot about the state of things not only in your reproductive system, but in other areas of your body as well.
Here are seven possible health concerns your period could tell you about:
Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, the disorder affects over 176 million women worldwide between the ages of 12-60. If you experience heavy periods lasting over seven days, severe menstrual cramps that prevent you from doing normal tasks, or even bowel problems, you may want to visit your gynecologist.
Unfortunately, endometriosis is misdiagnosed or the symptoms it brings (such as painful cramps) are deemed "normal" and women live with the untreated symptoms for years before an official diagnosis. It never hurts to get a professional opinion if your periods seem to be much more sinister than everyone else's.
2. Polycystic ovary syndrome
If you experience heavy outbreaks of acne, you find it difficult to maintain your weight, you have unwanted body hair, or you experience abnormal periods, you may be the poster child for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is a hormone disorder that causes enlarged ovaries covered with small cysts. Experts haven't narrowed down what potentially causes PCOS, and although it cannot be cured, it can be treated with hormone therapy and medication. Infertility and other health problems can be a result of untreated PCOS.
3. Iron-deficiency anemia
Heavy periods can have lasting effects on the iron levels in your blood. If you have heavy or prolonged periods, you may want to incorporate more iron-rich foods into your diet. Other symptoms of anemia are pale skin, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, and extreme, unexplained fatigue. An extra helping of spinach never hurt anyone.
4. Uterine cancer
It's true; your period can issue signs of cancer in your reproductive system. Painful sex, chronic pain in the abdomen, unusual bleeding between periods or watery discharge can indicate some serious problems afoot in your uterus. Risk factors for uterine cancer also include those who have family members who have had cancer, obesity, women who have never been pregnant and women who had their first menstrual cycle before age 12.
Your period is controlled and heavily influenced by hormones in the body. Your thyroid gland is responsible for producing a number of those hormones that keep your body systems running smoothly. If you notice any changes in your cycle, such as your period becoming lighter than normal or you experience unexplained weight loss, you may want to get your thyroid levels tested. One underperforming hormone can throw your entire body out of whack.
6. Cervical polyps
If you experience abnormal bleeding after sex, strange discharge, spotting between periods, or bleeding after menopause, you could be suffering from polyps on your cervix. Polyps are small, non-cancerous tumors that stem from high levels of estrogen in the body or cervical inflammation due to infection. Polyps should be removed as they are diagnosed to reduce the risk of cancer.
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for all aspects of your health. If you do not eat enough, you are underweight or you suffer from an eating disorder, you may experience spontaneous or irregular periods. Or your monthly gift may disappear entirely, which occurs when your body is severely underweight.
According to the Diabetes Community, women who are overweight or who are at risk for type-2 diabetes may experience harsher symptoms during their period, like bouts of high blood sugar levels due to increased levels of estrogen and progesterone (hormones) in the body. These two hormones can onset temporary insulin resistance that can last throughout your period. Type-1 diabetics can also be affected by fluctuating hormone levels throughout your monthly cycle.
9. Sexually transmitted diseases
Are your periods heavier, lasting longer or are you bleeding at unusual times? If your period is not functioning normally, a major change in your cycle could indicate the presence of a sexually transmitted disease or infection. Painful menstruation along with a fever and cramping can be signs of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a serious infection of the reproductive organs and can become deadly if it's left untreated.
Whatever symptoms you may or may not be experiencing, always listen to your body. If something seems out of place, or things don't feel right, it never hurts to get a professional opinion. Be responsible and visit your gynecologist on a regular basis to keep your body healthy, happy and strong.
Chakell Wardleigh has a Bachelor of Arts in English. She spends her days silently (mostly) correcting others' grammar. She adores all things nerd, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare, and anything else that whisks her away from reality. She currently works as an editor for the FamilyShare team. You can usually find her with her nose in a book, laughing too loudly, or belting out songs from Hamilton.