London: Women have about 450 periods in their lifetime but menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman. Many suffer from a range of problems associated with their period, including bloating, mood swings, and pain. But how do you know if yours is normal and when should you see a doctor?
FEMAIL spoke to Dr. Natasha Andreadis to find out all the things that your cycle can reveal about your body. ‘A regular menstrual cycle is a sign of good gynecological health,’ Dr. Andreadis said.
What Your Menstrual Cycle Means
‘It allows us to see if there are any glaring issues or subtle issues. ‘The most powerful thing a woman can do for herself is to be aware of her menstrual patterns.’ According to Dr. Andreadis, we should all be monitoring our cycle every month.
‘Tracking your cycle can help you stay in tune with your body. It also helps your doctor make a diagnosis,’ she said. ‘For example, vaginal spotting around the time of ovulation is normal. However, if spotting occurs just before a period it can indicate endometriosis or luteal phase issues.
‘Not existent or irregular periods can be due to over-exercise, stress, ill health, undernutrition, low body weight. ‘I like using my Fitbit as it helps not only log my menstrual cycle and any symptoms, but it also tracks and logs my sleep,’ she added.
Dr. Andreadis said many women have issues with their sleep in the week before their period or around the menopause transition and through menopause. ‘Often a lack of sleep can explain why we are more moody and irritable at certain times in our cycle,’ she said.
Tracking your cycle can also reveal problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), excess weight and ovarian insufficiency. ‘An irregular cycle can also indicate normal physiological processes such as the menopause,’ she said.
‘Heavy periods (more than 80mls blood loss in a period) can be due to structural issues such as fibroids, polyps, adenomyosis, endometriosis, or normal hormonal changes such as the perimenopause. But what if you’re experiencing intense pain or PMS along with your periods?
Dr. Andreadis said this could be because of a number of conditions. ‘Pain with a period can be due to endometriosis [where cells similar to those that line the uterus – the endometrium – grow in locations outside the uterus] or adenomyosis [a condition in which endometrial tissue exists within and grows into the uterine wall],’ she said.
Dr. Andreadis said if you’re concerned or have any questions related to your cycle, to see your doctor. ‘If your periods are painful, when you have pain with sex, pain outside of your period, heavy periods, irregular periods, see a gynecologist. Don’t hesitate,’ she said.
What every woman should know about her menstrual cycle:
Time of ovulation: Ovulation occurs 12 – 16 days before the next period starts. PMS-like symptoms: These can include bloating, fatigue, cravings, mood swings, headaches, back pain
Periods and the pill: You don’t get your period when you are on the pill because you are stopping your cycle
Absence of periods: This is a condition known as amenorrhoea and is usually the result of hormonal disturbances
Painful periods: Women suffering from severe, incapacitating pain may have a condition known as dysmenorrhoea
Severe period pain: This level of pain might signal the presence of conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis