Periods are full of awful symptoms, but when do these symptoms go too far? When are period cramps “just cramps” or a sign something worse may be going on? Many people shrug off their abnormal or extreme period symptoms every day since we never fully learn how to identify what’s “normal” and what isn’t. Read on for a list of period symptoms that warrant a doctor’s visit:
Bleeding during a period is fine, and everyone’s flow is a bit different. However, hemorrhaging during a period goes way beyond just a heavy flow. When someone hemorrhages during their period, they may go through several pads or tampons within an hour, pass large blood clots (the size of a quarter or greater), and they may feel dizzy or tired during their period as well. With our technology today, a period should not prevent someone from going about their day or even getting a full night’s rest.
Hemorrhaging is often accompanied by cramps and dizziness since those who experience hemorrhaging during their period most often pass many blood clots and lose lots of blood. While this symptom may not always be linked to another underlying condition, it is always best to consult your doctor if you experience severe bleeding during the menstrual cycle.
Fevers are a common symptom among many illnesses but are not often associated with periods. Since fevers are mainly caused by bacteria or viruses, having a fever during your period may be a sign that something else is wrong. Sometimes, pelvic infections or cysts can cause fevers, as can toxic shock syndrome. However, it may also be likely that stress and a weakened immune system have contributed to a fever, and the culprit may be a cold.
Regardless, having a fever during your period—especially every time you have your period—is not good. The best thing to do if you regularly get fevers during your period is to record them and contact your doctor.
Just like bleeding, cramps are a normal part of periods. They are a sign your uterus is contracting to help shed its lining, and having cramps a few days before your period and during your period is to be expected. However, if these cramps don’t subside with pain medication, or are accompanied by heavy bleeding or clotting, there may be something wrong, and it is best to speak with your doctor immediately. Another concern associated with cramps lies in your ability to function. If your period cramps prevent you from doing your daily activities, or any other symptoms associated with cramps do the same, always call your doctor.
There are quite a few common causes for intense pain and cramps during a period. These include:
- Endometriosis, in which the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus. This can create scar tissue and exasperate cramps, along with causing debilitating pelvic pain.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is a common hormonal imbalance that is often accompanied by irregular periods and heavy bleeding.
- Fibroids, which are non-cancerous and not always painful, but can cause cramps in some cases.
Painful cramps should always be taken seriously, and if you experience debilitating cramps during your period, contact your gynecologist immediately.
Irregular period schedules are another often-overlooked symptom since it’s common for most people’s periods to be one or two days off. An irregular schedule, though, is not defined by a couple of days, but instead by several weeks. For example, missing an entire period or bleeding heavily for over eight days is irregular. Having periods over 36 days apart is also considered irregular, as is bleeding after intercourse, bleeding in-between periods, and bleeding after menopause.
Stress is one of the most common culprits behind an irregular period, but should never be overlooked. Stress messes with the entire body and periods are no exception. When visiting a doctor regarding an irregular period, doctors may ask if you’ve been experiencing anything new in your life. Chances are, your stress levels may inadvertently be affecting your menstrual cycle. Irregular cycles can also be caused by medications, eating disorders, untreated diabetes, or complications with the uterus and ovaries.
Being a little lightheaded during your period isn’t the end of the world—it’s a free excuse to eat candy, after all—but dizziness is often accompanied by several other conditions that may be affecting your period. For example, hemorrhaging during a period causes large amounts of blood loss, which can lead to lightheadedness. Toxic shock syndrome or hormone imbalances may also cause dizziness, as can dehydration as well. If the dizziness doesn’t go away after bleeding lessens or after a meal and some water, contact your doctor.
One more often overlooked cause for dizziness during periods is body dysphoria. For people in the transgender community who experience dysphoria, especially with the vagina, periods are a major cause for concern. Dysphoria is often accompanied by headaches and dizziness and is not something to be taken lightly. To help reduce dysphoria during periods, consider speaking with a gynecologist to find the best methods to make each period as comfortable as possible.