My period is my favourite time of the month… said no one ever.
But there is one upside to the whole period thing: because menstruation can offer a really good insight into your overall health.
“Though everyone is different – the key thing to look for is change in what you would expect in your own body, given your own cycles,” explains Ms Maria Vella, consultant gynaecologist at BMI St Edmunds Hospital in Suffolk
“A woman having regular periods is more likely to be healthy,” she continues.
“Irregular periods or abnormal bleeding patters could be a sign of a number of underlying medical conditions, such as stress and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, thyroid problems, polycystic ovaries, fibroids in the uterus, endometriosis and gynaecology malignancy.”
With that in mind here are some of the things going on in your bod that your period could be pointing to…
Wondering where your period is? Hold off taking a pregnancy test just yet as it may just be stress.
“A delayed or light period could be a sign of stress,” reveals Ian Currie, consultant gynaecologist at BMI The Chiltern Hospital in Buckinghamshire.
“Stress affects the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain which can affect your cycle! This could manifest as a delayed period, rather than a missed one.”
Happily it’s a short-lived problem and as long as there are no other issues, it should go back to normal.
According to Ian Currie if your cycle is a longer length, say 35 to 40-day cycles, it may be a sign of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is responsible for the woman not releasing an egg every month and therefore have a reduced fertility.
“The indications of PCOS are generally increased weight, acne and excess hair,” he says.
If your periods have stopped, and you are not breastfeeding, you are not on medication that leads to this and are not menopausal, then it could be a sign of a prolactinoma.
“This is a benign growth on the pituitary gland in the brain that releases a hormone that stimulate milk production and inhibits periods,” explains Currie.
Interestingly it could also cause you to produce milk!
“If your period blood is browner that unusual, this could be an element of a lighter bleed from a polyp or a small fibroid,” explains Currie.
But brown blood isn’t always an indication that something is wrong.
“When bleeding is lighter, it can tend to hang around in the cavity and discolour before it comes out,” Ian Currie continues.
“Women using the Mirena coil sometimes report that their blood is browner too – and 20% of women who use it report their periods stop altogether.”
Your thyroid plays such a large role in hormone production and regulation, so noticeable changes to your period for example a lighter or heavier flow could be an indication of thyroid issues.
“We used to test for thyroid problems if a woman had unusually heavy periods, but actually the guidelines now suggest that this is not necessary,” explains Currie.
Periods much heavier or lasting longer than usual? It could be an indicator of endometriosis.
“Heavy and/or prolonged pain coming on before the period can be due to endometriosis, where the lining of the womb grows outside the womb in the abdominal cavity,” explains Christopher Steer, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Chelsfield, Sloane and Blackheath hospitals in South London
Some of the earliest noticeable signs of uterine cancer are irregular bleeding, bleeding after menopause, and bleeding in between periods.
Pain during sex and bleeding after it can also be an indicator. But before you panic these can also be signs of other, less serious conditions, but it’s worth checking with a doctor if you notice these symptoms.
“Infrequently precancerous changes in the cells of endometrium can be the end result therefore a biopsy is warranted,” explains Mr Muhammad Iftikhar, consultant gynaecologist at BMI Winterboune Hospital in Dorset
“It’s rare that cancer of the endometrium could be the reason.”
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