Menstrual Maladies: What's Normal & What's Not
Many women are under the impression that experiencing debilitating symptoms is a normal part of menstruation—something they just have to get through every month. While periods often cause discomfort, experiencing severe symptoms means there’s a problem. Discover when you should visit your doctor.
It’s normal to experience mild cramps when you’re on your period; however, experiencing severe cramps is not. Uterine fibroids, endometriosis, cysts, and other conditions can cause dysmenorrhea (severe cramps and pain during menstruation). If you suffer from intense lower abdominal or lower back pain during that time of the month, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN to determine the underlying cause.
Heavy bleeding during your period is not normal if you soak through feminine products every hour or two for several consecutive hours, pass blood clots the size of quarters, or bleed for longer than a week. If you experience any of these symptoms, you might have menorrhagia, which affects about 1 in 5 women in the United States. Seek medical help sooner rather than later to catch potential causes and prevent anemia.
A missing period—or amenorrhea—is a normal occurrence during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. Extreme physical activity, certain medications, and cancer treatments can also disrupt menstrual cycles. Gynecological conditions that can cause amenorrhea include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and genetic abnormalities. Other medical conditions can also impact the occurrence of periods, including eating disorders, neurological conditions, and thyroid problems, all of which call for medical attention.
Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) before their periods start. Oftentimes, lifestyle changes can help women manage PMS; eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and increasing your intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 can ease symptoms. However, if your symptoms won’t go away, restrict your ability to function, or cause suicidal thoughts, visit your doctor immediately. These are indications of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. If you’re feeling suicidal, call 9-1-1.
Headaches can occur during menstruation, and over-the-counter pain relievers can usually alleviate them. Migraines are a different story. These intense headaches are more common in women than men due to their link to a certain hormone. Women who experience a more extreme drop in estrogen levels right before their periods are more likely to suffer from migraines because of it. Your OB/GYN or endocrinologist can address this hormone imbalance.
If you are concerned about your menstrual symptoms, schedule an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group OB/GYN. Using advanced treatment options, such as NaProTECHNOLOGY offered at Caritas Women’s Care in Sugar Land, our doctors can identify the cause of your symptoms and provide a solution.