As with all parts of our bodies, during our menstrual cycle, particularly our period, there are lots of things that can go wrong. In this section, we are going to discuss what is ‘normal,’ common symptoms of something that might be wrong (this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a diagnosable period problem), as well as links to information about more serious period problems. If you are just at the beginning of your journey with having a period, you might not know what is ‘normal’ for you yet. That’s okay. This is another good reason why it can be beneficial for you to track your cycle and establish patterns. This means you are more likely to notice when something is different and be able to report on what specifically has changed if you find yourself needing to speak to a medical practitioner.
Most people with periods experience bleeding and other symptoms (such as mild cramp, irritation or fatigue) usually experience them for between 4-7 days. It is common for the length of the cycle (from when you bleed to the end of your luteal phase) to be between 31-35 days. It can be normal if you are extremely stressed or not eating particularly well, or enough for you to miss a period. Having a little bit of pain or cramp during ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg) is also normal. This is known as Mittelschmertz. This is a German word meaning 'middle pain' that refers to the pain most commonly felt in the pelvis during ovulation or a couple of days before/after
It can be a problem if you have a cycle that lasts longer than 35 days (unless you suspect you are perimenopausal or in menopause). Similarly , if you are bleeding for more than seven days, this can also be a problem.
It can be a problem if you miss your periods completely (and you are not on any type of birth control, are not stressed and are eating and sleeping well). You should speak to a healthcare professional if you miss your period for more than 3 months.
It can be a problem you find yourself bleeding or spotting while you are in your follicular phase, while you are ovulating or during your early luteal phase. It is normal to see increased cervical fluid (clear discharge from your vagina) during ovulation. This is usually clear/white and sticky.
It can be a problem if you notice that your periods are much lighter or heavier than usual for a couple of months (and you have not changed birth control).
It can be a problem if you find yourself in extreme pain (feeling nauseous, feeling unable to concentrate, being unable to sleep, not noticing a difference with over-the-counter painkillers).
It can be a problem if you experience pain in your pelvis/abdominal area during your cycle while not on your period and it impacts your quality of life.
Do you experience pain often in your lower back or pelvis, that's usually worse during your period to the extent that it stops you doing normal activities (school, work, sleep)? Pain while going to the toilet (peeing or pooing) which might be worse during your period? Often heavy periods with lots of clotting?
Do you experience heavy periods that might be longer than 3-7 days? Very heavy flow (lots of blood) and painful periods, bloating in your abdomen (your tummy feels big) during your period or at any time during your cycle?
Do you experience irregular, random periods that are hard to track? Weight gain even if you are eating healthy and exercising. A growth of hair where you might not want it (your face, your chest, etc) Hair thinning on your head, oily skin which is prone to acne
Do you experience heavy or painful periods? Pain in your tummy, pelvis or lower back? Find yourself needing to pee a lot, but not very much is coming out (trouble emptying your bladder) or experiencing constipation?
Do you experience extreme mood swings during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle? This might include feeling happy one minute and feeling really sad the next. Do you experience extreme anger? Do you experience feeling extremely anxious, on edge or out of control? Feelings of wanting to harm yourself?
A note on period problems: It is extremely important that if you feel you are experiencing symptoms of a more serious period problem that you speak to your GP or other healthcare professional as soon as possible. Your symptoms might not be caused by these problems but it is so important to get the checked out. It still takes a very long time for period problems to receive a diagnosis in Scotland (some taking 7-10 years). It can be helpful for your healthcare practitioner if you can track your symptoms and speak about how they are impacting your life.