Periods are just about as diverse as the women who experience them.
Some are heavy, some are light. Some last three days, while others last eight. Some are irregular and some appear like clock work. Some women are left debilitated for seven days a month, while others don’t feel so much as a twinge. But is it just luck of the draw?
We spoke to Dr Brad McKay, a respected Australian doctor who appeared on the television series Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, to try and determine what our periods are trying to telling us about our health.
“Why is my period irregular?”
“Irregular periods are normal at the start and end of your fertile years, when you’re going through puberty or approaching menopause,” Dr Brad McKay said.
“They can also become irregular if your weight changes, if you have thyroid problems, take contraception, have other medications that interfere with your cycle, and even stress can throw your periods out of a regular cycle.”
Although 30 per cent of women experience irregular periods during childbearing years, they could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is thought to affect between 12 to 18 per cent of women of reproductive age, can cause irregularity along with excessive body hair growth, weight gain, and acne.
“Why aren’t I getting my period?”
The first thing you should do, according to Dr Brad McKay, is obvious.
Get a pregnancy test.
If the test is negative, then it could be down to hormonal changes, weight loss, a period of illness, thyroid problems, medication changes, or forms of contraception that stop your periods altogether.
Ever wondered what it would be like if your period was a person?
“Why is my period lasting so long?”
“It’s unusual if your period lasts for more than a week,” Dr Brad McKay said.
“It’s important to see your doctor and consider checking for sexually transmitted infections as inflammation of the cervix or womb can cause prolonged bleeding. Change of the uterus can also cause your period to last a long time,” he explained.
“You might need to have a pelvic ultrasound to check for a thickened uterine lining, fibroids, or other abnormalities.”
“Why is my period so heavy?”
Most of the time, a heavy period is quite normal.
But Dr Brad McKay explained that if your period is a few weeks late and particularly heavy when it begins, it could be a miscarriage.
With one in five pregnancies not progressing beyond 12 weeks, miscarriage is far more common than we might imagine.
“Why does my period hurt so much?”
For some women, bad period pain is just a case of bad luck. Fortunately, Dr Brad McKay said, there are lots of effective medications that can address these issues in a majority of cases.
He did add, “If you’re missing school or work due to painful periods, then you need to start thinking about endometriosis.
“This is a terrible problem that can be tricky to diagnose, but causes misery and suffering for years.”
Endometriosis affects one in 10 women, and symptoms include pelvic pain that may worsen during menstruation, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements or urination, irregular menstruation and excessive bleeding.
If anything about your period is worrying you, or there has been a sudden change, it’s always best to visit your doctor and get some answers.
Although occasionally uncomfortable and inconvenient, your period shouldn’t be seriously interfering with your day-to-day life. If it is, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition – and it’s time to get it sorted.