Do more exercise, drink less alcohol, lose some weight and stop smoking. Most of January’s good intentions have to do with health. That’s why we add one more to our ‘to do’-list for 2021: make an appointment with your GP if you’re suffering from one of these menstrual complaints.
1. Sudden menstruation stop
You’ve always had a normal menstrual cycle, but then suddenly your periods stop. There can of course be a logical reason for this secondary amenorrhea, like pregnancy or menopause. If you’re sure that isn’t the cause, then there’s probably a problem with your health. Hormonal imbalance, thyroid disorders, premature menopause, excessive exercise, rapid weight loss (anorexia nervosa) or sudden stress can all cause a sudden menstruation stop. Even though it might be quite nice to have a break from your monthly bleeding: not menstruating when you actually should can lead to all sorts of other complaints, like osteoporosis.
2. Extreme pain
How many women suffer from menstrual pain? Estimates range from 50 up to even 90%. It also depends what age group has been interviewed: young girls complain about it more often. Long story short: experiencing a nagging pain or cramp that’s caused by contractions of the uterus isn’t uncommon. But extreme pain can be a sign of a serious problem. Heavy menstrual pain is one of the symptoms of endometriosis. That’s a serious condition where tissue that lines the uterus is also found outside the womb, for example in the abdomen. This can lead to infections and/or cysts. Endometriosis is one of the main causes of female infertility.
3. Breakthrough bleeding
Blood loss between two menstrual periods is called breakthrough bleeding or, if it’s a light bleeding, spotting. Usually, the cause is harmless. But sometimes it’s a sign of something more serious. Breakthrough bleeding can be caused by stress, medication or small wounds (for example as a result of rough sex). But also by uterine polyps, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), vaginal infections, cervival cancer, thyroid problems or for example by endometriosis. If you often suffer from mid-cycle bleeding and aren’t sure what causes it, go and visit your GP.
4. Extreme PMS symptoms
It’s estimated that 3 to 6% of all menstruating women suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). This condition that’s related to hormonal changes during your cycle can be described as PMS’ extreme sister. The symptoms are severe: depression, irritability, fear, panic attacks, mood swings, anger, trouble sleeping, crying spells, all kinds of physical complaints, and even sometimes suicidal thoughts. No wonder that women who suffer from it are sometimes misdiagnosed as having a bipolar disorder. However, the difference with mental disorders is that PMDD is directly connected to a woman’s menstrual cycle, so not ‘all in your mind’. Do you suspect you’re suffering from PMS or PMDD? Keep a menstrual diary for a couple of months. This allows you to keep track of the symptoms and discover monthly patterns – very helpful in a conversation with your doctor or GP.
5. Heavy blood loss
Of course ‘heavy’ is very subjective. What one woman considers an extremely heavy period, another might view as a completely normal monthly bleeding. But if you have to change your tampon or sanitary pad every hour during the heaviest days and often need double protection, it’s likely that you’re suffering from menorrhagia. This is also the case if your menstruation often lasts for more than 7 days and/or your cycle is shorter than 21 days. Although the cause of menorrhagia can’t always be determined, it’s important to get it examined. Help your GP by keeping a menstrual diary for a few months. Heavy blood loss isn’t just inconvenient; it’s a medical problem which sometimes can be solved with simple solutions such as hormonal therapy.