Here they come, clawing up your back and hunching you over— period pains. Cramps can make you feel crummy and act irritable, and if that’s not bad enough, mood swings, nausea, and headaches sweep over you as your period kicks in. The struggle of maintaining day-to-day life while juggling Aunty Flo’s visit can be complicated— which is why careful tracking and monitoring are essential to managing unwanted symptoms.
When you diligently monitor your period, you gain a better understanding of personal bodily rhythms, which helps you know when you are fertile, when to ditch the white trouser, and how to manage your mental health and self-care during “shark week.”
What does cycle tracking look like, and what symptoms are abnormal? To monitor your period, write down start dates, end dates, and any irregularities. Signs of irregular cycles can include heavy or non-existent flows, multiple weeks of bleeding or long stretches in between periods, and extreme, long-lasting pain.
Many things can impact your period.
Below are several common causes of period irregularities. But first, take a look at what’s considered normal.
An inside look into the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle phases begin with menses— when the uterus’ lining sheds and bleeding occurs. A normal menses phase lasts between two and seven days, although sporadic extended periods may occur.
Next is the follicular phase, when the body creates a soft plush lining, called the endometrium, on the walls of the uterus. This stage prepares your body for ovulation, the third phase of the menstrual cycle, where the ovary forms an egg.
During the luteal phase, your egg travels through the fallopian tubes to the uterus, where— should it be fertilized by a sperm— it will attach itself to the uterine wall and induce pregnancy. This cycle takes approximately 21 to 35 days. If your periods come more or less frequently, you may have irregular period patterns and should talk to your preferred physician for solutions.
Birth control works by releasing hormones into your bloodstream, preventing your ovaries from releasing eggs. When on hormonal birth control, you may experience lighter flows, less-intense cramping, and regulated moods. However, the opposite is also true for many period-havers, with birth control potentially aggravating already uncomfortable period symptoms. Research different birth control methods and speak with a trusted physician to find the best fit for you.
If you’re breastfeeding, you may also have irregular periods because your body is creating hormones that suppress your reproductive system. Once you cease breastfeeding, your period should resume as normal. Carefully monitor your period while breastfeeding to pin-point any irregularities or cause for concern.
It’s no surprise that your mental health impacts your physical health. When going through emotional upheaval, your cycle can temporarily irregulate as your hormones fluctuate and fight off stress, depression, or anxiety. Once you’ve stabilized your mental health, your period should return to its regular programming.
Endometriosis is when your uterus’ endometrial lining begins to grow elsewhere in your body, such as around the ovary or fallopian tubes. This disease can cause excessive bleeding and extreme pain in and out of your time of the month, making it difficult to manage symptoms and mitigate pain. Talk with your doctor if you suspect an endometriosis prognosis to review possible solutions.
Keeping track of your cycle allows you to know your body and follow-up on inconsistencies or changes. Recording your monthly periods can also help you predict when your period will come again, so you know when to treat yourself to some extra self-care.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.