Photo credit: Bodyform

Is Your Period Pain Normal, Or Could It Be A Sign Of Something More Serious?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who enjoys their time of the month. Most of us become bloated, tired and hormonal. All we want to do is curl up in our duvet cocoon and hide away until it’s over. If you don’t feel like this when your period arrives, that’s great! I’m not jealous at all… honestly.

But if you find this description of a period far too tame, keep reading. Because whilst period pain is normal, severe pain combined with other symptoms could be your body sending you warning signals. The following symptoms are signs that your period pain might be a cause for concern.

Nothing eases the pain

Feeling period pain to some degree is normal. But if you can’t ease your cramps with painkillers and a hot water bottle, this is something to look into. This may be a sign of endometriosis — a condition in which tissue is found in places it shouldn’t be, like the fallopian tubes and pelvis. Although doctors do prescribe pain killers for this condition, they’re often just a temporary solution and cannot fix the condition itself. In fact, sufferers become more and more reliant on painkillers each month, but they lose their effect and so stronger medication is needed.

If you suspect that you may have endometriosis, it’s vital that you see your doctor. If it goes undiagnosed, it will likely lead to fertility problems in the future. If you don’t think you have the condition and you want to give over the counter medicine one last go before seeing your doctor, make sure you’re taking the highest safe dosage. Did you know that you can take ibuprofen and paracetamol at the same time? A lot of us aren’t aware of this tip, but it can be a lifesaver when it comes to painful periods. Just make sure to read the directions on the packet first.

If you’ve tried the double-up method and you’re still struggling with the pain, try taking Solpadeine. This is one of the strongest over the counter medications available, because it contains a small amount of codeine — a drug which is prescribed by doctors for strong and persistent pain. Be particularly careful when taking this pain killer though, as taken in the wrong way it can become addictive.

You’re bleeding more than you should

Everyone’s period is unique — no two are the same. Some people barely bleed, whilst others bleed heavily all the way through. This isn’t always a cause for concern though. Some people bleed heavily every month, but can still carry on with their day to day activities. But if you’re bleeding so heavily that you struggle to go about your day as normal, this is something that should be looked into.

Menorrhagia is the term for unusually heavy periods, which are classed as anything more than 80ml of blood per cycle (around 16 teaspoons). There are a number of menorrhagia signs to look out for, such as bleeding heavily for longer than a week, passing large blood clots and needing to change your pad every hour.

There are a number of things that a heavy period can indicate, depending on the length and severity. If your period comes on very heavy for just one month, this could be a sign of either an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. If you have the symptoms of either one of these, it’s absolutely crucial that you contact your doctor as soon as possible. They’ll be able to diagnose you, ease your pain and get you the emotional support that you need.

However, if your period is regularly heavy, there are a number of conditions that you may have. These include endometriosis, fibroids (non-cancerous womb growths) and pelvic inflammatory disease. If your period is regularly heavy but you can carry on with your normal daily life, then you probably have nothing to worry about. But if the bleeding becomes disruptive and hard to control, make sure to seek medical advice.

Your period is irregular

Sometimes I wish that I could have a month’s break from my period. But if it doesn’t arrive on time, I instantly panic. Irregular periods can be alarming. Sometimes they’re triggered by lifestyle changes, such as weight fluctuation or stress. Whilst this is frustrating, these changes are reversible and we can return to our regular cycle.

But irregular periods can be caused by medical conditions too. One of the most common medical conditions related to irregular cycles is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). People with this condition have underdeveloped sacs which are rarely able to release eggs, meaning that ovulation and menstruation occur far less frequently. Although it is not often discussed, this condition is widespread. In fact, it affects 1 in 10 people who menstruate.

Your irregular period could also be triggered by thyroid disease. Irregular periods are one of the key symptoms of an underactive thyroid for people who menstruate, so this is definitely something to look out for. Other underactive thyroid symptoms to look out for include tiredness, weight gain, depression and heavy periods.

It can be hard to figure out whether your period is irregular if you’re only estimating your dates. The only sure way to determine whether your cycle is irregular or not is to track your period. Not only is this helpful for understanding your cycle, but it can be great for taking care of your health. Once you’ve been tracking your cycle for a few months, you’ll understand both your cycle and yourself much better. So if something seems off but you can’t put your finger on it, your tracker will help you determine what this may be.

You can track your cycle the good old fashioned way with pen and paper. But for a more detailed breakdown of your cycle, use a period tracking app. Clue is my go to app for tracking my periods. It doesn’t just track menstrual bleeding, but a whole host of other symptoms too, such as severity of pain, emotions, skin health and even cravings. And the app is completely free too, so you have nothing to lose.

Your cramps and bleeding aren’t isolated to just your period

It’s not even your time of the month, but you still have to suffer from those god-awful cramps. It’s definitely not fair, but it’s not always a sign of something sinister. You may get cramps when going through ovulation. This pain is called mittelschmerz, which literally translates to ‘middle pain’ in German, as it lands in the middle of your cycle. Although this can be painful, it should go away with over the counter painkillers, and shouldn’t last more than a few days.

But if you regularly get severe pain throughout your cycle, this could indicate a problem with your ovaries. This may be an ovarian cyst, which can cause cramp like pains as well as bloating, frequent urination and painful sex. Or it could be a symptom of IBS, which can make period cramps start earlier and last longer.

Whilst cramps outside of your period can be painful and concerning, vaginal bleeding outside of your period can feel even scarier. If you take a contraceptive pill or patch, you will likely experience regular spotting throughout the first few months of using it. This is normal, and not something to be concerned about unless the bleeding is heavy and painful. If you have vaginal bleeding and you don’t take a hormonal contraceptive, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible. There are a range of conditions which may be the root cause of this, including STIs, PCOS and cancer.

What to do if you’re worried about your period pain

First and foremost, there is nothing more important than seeing your doctor. There is no one else who can diagnose you, so this is the only way to be sure of what’s wrong. And once you have your diagnosis, your pain will finally begin to ease. So please, see your doctor!

But there are also a few things you can do for yourself. Most of them are the obvious ways to look after yourself; drink enough water, eat a balanced and nutritious diet and move your body regularly. There are a couple of extra things that you can do to keep your period pain under control…

Written by Siobhan Kelly
WellBe is spearheading the way to a brighter future for corporate wellness. Our innovative portal is scientifically designed and tailored to each individual employee to improve their wellbeing. We specialise in a range of services from coaching and therapists, to meditation and reading materials. Our aim is to reduce workplace stress that costs UK businesses £42 billion per year. Get in touch with us by visiting our site wellbe.global for more information.

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