Your period. The sometimes annoying process that’s been making its visits since you hit puberty. But it’s not actually there to make us sigh once a month (if it bothers to show up), it’s a window into our health and sometimes its weird behaviour is actually trying to tell us something. Here are four things your period could be trying to tell you right now…
It’s really heavy
“Having a light period is generally not a problem; the more important thing is regularity,” explains family-planning specialist Dr Deborah Bateson. On the other hand, see your GP if you have a heavy flow. How heavy is heavy? Changing your sanitary protection every two hours, passing blood clots the size of a R5 coin or regularly bleeding through your clothes or bedding. According to the National Health Service in the UK, no underlying reason is found in around half of women with heavy bleeding, but it could be a sign of a condition like fibroids or endometriosis.
There are lots of potential culprits – a key one is endometriosis, thought to affect one in ten women. If your period leaves you doubled over, taking sick days or mainlining painkillers, it’s not something you have to accept and put up with. “Seek help,” urges Bateson. “It may just be a matter of understanding how best to manage your pain, but it might be that more investigations are needed to work out the cause.”
It surprises you
If you’re bleeding in between periods, especially after sex, take note: “That can sometimes be associated with a problem with the cervix, or it can be an indicator of an STI, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea,” says Bateson. Book in a check-up to put your mind (and body) at ease.
It’s gone AWOL
“Pregnancy aside, sudden weight loss, over-exercising, stress and medications, as well as some serious medical conditions, can stop periods,” says Bateson. Another cause? Premature ovarian insufficiency (or premature menopause), which is thought to affect one in 100 women under the age of 40. This can happen if you undergo cancer treatments or surgery, but can also be caused by autoimmune and genetic conditions.
“Getting to know your bleeding pattern is important, as some women might only have a period every three or four months, which can be an indicator of polycystic ovary syndrome,” says Bateson. “If the regularity of your period changes, talk to your doctor about it.”