For eons women from all over have commiserated with one another about their periods and mood swings (usually over a glass of wine or some chocolate). How well does a glass of wine and chocolate bar sound, right now?
Anyways, a period, so affectionately referred to as “leak week” in some circles, affects almost every woman on this planet to the point that talking about periods and what are top 5 period symptoms makes the topic almost cliché.
We all still find our menstrual cycle absolutely fascinating, a marvel even – because it is – and it’s important we keep talking about our periods with each other. Sharing information, comparing symptoms and talking about the general effect of our periods.
Because it unifies us as women, and sometimes that “period” symptom ( or premenstrual syndrome) can actually be a sign for something else.
Table Of Contents
- 1 A Quick Guide to Your Menstrual Cycle
- 2 Days 1-5
- 3 Days 6-14
- 4 Days 14-25
- 5 Days 25-28
- 6 What if my period comes every few months or a few times a year?
- 7 The Top 5 Period Symptoms
- 8 #1. Cramps
- 9 #2. Fatigue
- 10 #3. Mood Changes
- 11 #4. “Muscle Cramps” (Dysmenorrhea)
- 12 #5. Diarrhea
- 13 When Period Symptoms Are More Than Period Symptoms
A Quick Guide to Your Menstrual Cycle
I am sure there are a lot of women who know this inside and out by now, but it never hurts to have a little refresher – so let’s have a quick run-down of a “typical” woman’s cycle.
- The first day of menstrual bleeding is considered “day one” of your cycle.
- A “typical” period lasts anywhere from 3-8 days.
- Bleeding is usually at its peak on day two.
- Once bleeding stops, your uterine lining begins to prepare for the possibility of a pregnancy.
- It becomes thicker, enriched with blood and gathers nutrients.
- Sometime around day fourteen, an egg is released from one of your ovaries. It begins the journey down the fallopian tubes and onto the uterus. If sperm is present, fertilization can occur. Sometimes during fertilization, you can experience a light spotting of blood which some women mistake for the beginning of their next period.
- Now, if the egg was not fertilized or implantation of a fertilized egg doesn’t occur, hormonal changes signal your uterus that it’s time to prepare to shed the lining.
- This is what your period is – the shedding of your uterus lining. Then the cycle begins again.
What if my period comes every few months or a few times a year?
Well, you have an abnormal cycle, then!
Now, if you have an abnormal cycle (like myself), this process doesn’t often look that different, it just happens over a longer period of time.
Now that we know a bit of the general outline of what happens to us throughout a month, let’s look at the typical signs that our Aunt Flo is making her monthly round of uncomfortable and annoying visits.
The Top 5 Period Symptoms
And by “top”, we don’t mean “best” – because I am sure you can attest to how truly awful some of these symptoms are. But – you asked and we’re delivering.
So, what are most physical symptoms women dealing with while on their menstrual period?
Well, well, well…if it isn’t my arch nemesis! Like any of us are surprised that this one is at the “top” of our list.
The cramps we feel before or during our menstrual cycles may vary; it can be a small “ping!” in our general uterus area or, on a really bad month, it can be one of those awful, constant dull aches.
As if that doesn’t sound like the worst – it can even be a grinding pain that no ibuprofen can relieve for the entire duration of your period.
For me, it varies. I feel like I have had everything from those teeny “pings” of pain to hour-long cramps that feel more like the contractions I had while in labor!
Quick personal story:
For me, about once or twice a year, I get the grinding, hair pulling, makes me vomit kind of pain. It will normally last 3-6 hours constant.
NOTHING helps but whining and rolling around the floor. Its heaven when that pain subsides.
If you have a Percocet on hand, take it!
One doctor recently likened period pain to a “heart attack” and has said that the pain that we feel needs to be taken more seriously.
Some nations like Japanese even grant “period leave” at work, recognizing that women should not be forced to be on the job in pain. In case you’re wondering, my bags are already packed and I’ve got my plane ticket.
Goodbye, see you never!!!
If you feel more sleepy and sluggish during your period, here is an excuse to not blame that extra glass of red wine from the night before.
The reasoning behind your fatigue is quite simple: the bleeding causes a loss of iron, which leads to exhaustion.
It isn’t uncommon for you to feel tired during the day and have a more difficult time getting up in the morning.
If you’re looking for some ways to fight this specific female fatigue, try some of these tips:
- Get outside for some sunshine and fresh air – nothing better to awaken your senses than a slow walk outside in the fresh air. Whether it’s sunny and warm or cool and crisp – getting your body moving and breathing in some fresh air will help you feel more alert!
- Consume food high in magnesium. We’ve talked about it before (in this post) – but magnesium helps provide sustainable energy for your body!
- Switch to smaller meals more frequently instead of bigger meals a few times a day. Much like when you’re pregnant, a menstruating woman needs to keep her energy levels up and maintain a balanced mood; eating regularly will help! (Always nice to have a reason for nibbling all day!)
- Eat foods high in healthy fats. According to this article, healthy fats found in food such as oily fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil, and grass-fed/lean meats can often help reduce inflammation in the body. And that’s music to my ears considering how bloated and puffy I get during my period!
#3. Mood Changes
This may in part be because of the fatigue I mentioned above, but it is not uncommon for women to feel more “emotional” during the days leading up to and during her period because of (dun-dun-duuuun)…
As if the bloated, upset tummy, the sore muscles, and the headaches weren’t enough – we also have our own hormones to contend with.
Some of the most common psychological symptoms which your darling period may be responsible for include:
- Feeling upset
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling restless
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling anxious
As if that mine-field wasn’t enough – our hormones tend to go crazy even before our periods start!
So this means that you start to feel (for no apparent reason) more vulnerable, more anxious, more depressed and more restless for days leading up to your period.
The good news is that these symptoms typically lessen as soon as your period starts and they will completely disappear within days after it has come to its wonderful conclusion.
#4. “Muscle Cramps”
A handful of unfortunate ladies may suffer from something known as “dysmenorrhea”.
What in the world is that? (You might be asking.)
Dysmenorrhea quite literally means “difficult monthly flow.”
It’s normal for women to experience mild to strong abdominal cramps on the first day (or first few days) of their periods – however, about 10% of women experience severe pain that can last the entire duration of your period.
For more information on what dysmenorrhea is, watch the video below!
Video by: CanadaQBank
Dysmenorrhea can be likened to feeling tight muscular cramps in the lower tummy, but these cramps can also spread to your back and thighs.
These cramps are not like your typical period cramps…they are far more intense (though they can sometimes dull) and they choose just the right time to begin: once you begin to bleed.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea:
Primary dysmenorrhea is more common in women in late adolescence or in their early 20s and actually eases as women mature.
Generally speaking, you could “grow out of it” as it does get less severe as a woman matures (especially after a pregnancy).
Secondary dysmenorrhea, on the other hand, is a menstrual pain related to some kind of gynecologic disorder and isn’t likely to ease or go away.
For more information, I highly recommend you talk to your gynecologist or doctor about concerns you might have.
Often times women don’t really know what they are struggling with and speaking with a doctor can help clarify what is common and what might be unique to your situation.
Think you poop more while on your period?
You are not alone.
Think those poops are…well, bad?
Again, not alone.
The “period poop” is real (as in really awful) and just add to the annoyance and all-around-icky feeling we have during our periods.
Doctors are not sure that this happens but they do believe that it may be due to something called “prostaglandins”, some chemical which is released during your period which tells your uterus and intestines to squeeze contract.
Now, when your body is given the order from prostaglandins to “contract and squeeze”, it doesn’t really take the time to argue about which parts that order was meant for.
Which is why everything in that region contracts – which explains why women tend to poop more while on their periods.
If you want to read more about this, read this article to get a bit more of a clearer explanation.
Apparently, this same chemical is linked to dysmenorrhea too. To any women suffering from both, we are so sorry.
When Period Symptoms Are More Than Period Symptoms
Some discomfort during your period is normal. Most women can survive on ibuprofen and a hot water bottle.
But if you’re laying in bed curled tightly in the fetal position when “that time of the month” rolls around, there might be a bigger problem.
Women who have specifically dreadful and painful periods might actually be suffering from something called “endometriosis”.
For some, this condition shares no symptoms.
For others, women may suffer from a plethora of painful period-related symptoms such as:
- Extremely painful menstrual cramps
- Very heavy bleeding (if you are needing to change your tampon or pad any more than once every couple of hours at first, your periods are extremely heavy)
- Painful bowel movements
- Painful urination (it may not be that UTI you thought you had!)
- Painful sex (the furthest thing from your mind…)
If you and your shnookums are hoping to make a baby, you may also find that you are having difficulties becoming pregnant.
You may be able to point the finger at endometriosis, which is fortunately treatable.
image source: helloflo
I think a lot of the women might struggle with seeking medical attention for period symptoms that might be more than what they seem, simply because we just kind of assume this is what it’s like.
Periods are horrible, and the level of horribleness often varies depending on a lot of factors.
And for some women I know, they just accept that and struggle through a hard week of being miserable.
But really, if you think your period symptoms seem a bit “over the top”, please do not hesitate to talk to your gynecologist or doctor about it.
Because you might think it’s Aunt Flo when really it’s a message about something bigger going on in your body.
- Cramps, sore boobs and bloating are normal.
- Taking more than one ibuprofen a day is normal.
- Let’s not skirt around the issue of periods or downplay the amount of pain we experience on a monthly basis.
Periods, although a very natural part of womanhood…well, they suck.
And we’re not just complaining when we talk about our symptoms – we’re talking, passing information and sharing tips on how to survive our dreaded Aunt Flo coming into town.
If you, your daughter, or a friend are writhing in excruciating pain each month for any reason, seek medical assistance.
Chat with your doctor and share any questions or comments you may have here.