In this article:
It is important to keep in mind that each woman experiences a unique menstrual cycle. (1) What is normal for one woman may not be normal for the next. It’s crucial to listen to your body and speak with your doctor if your menstrual period changes significantly.
Common Menstrual Problems
Menstruating women usually grapple with the following discomforts and issues:
Feeling pain before or during your menstrual cycle is very common. More than half of women and girls with periods experience some pain for 1–2 days each month. (2)
If your menstrual discomfort is moderate or extreme, you should seek assistance from your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care provider. It’s particularly critical to get treatment if the pain is serious, hurts worse than normal, or makes your life difficult every month.
Problematic heavy menstrual bleeding is called menorrhagia. It is normal to have heavier periods than your normal from time to time, but they should not be disruptive to your life.
It is time to call the doctor if:
- Your bleeding lasts for more than a week.
- Your period flow is so heavy that you need to change your tampon or pad every hour for several hours at a stretch.
- You have to wear multiple pads at a time to soak menstrual flow.
- You have to change your pad or tampon in the middle of the night due to heavy periods.
- You notice blood clots the size of a quarter or larger in your period blood.
Spotting in between cycles
Bleeding between periods isn’t a normal part of the menstrual cycle and can have several causes: (3)
- Ovulation – This type of bleeding is typically light and usually occurs midcycle for no more than 2 days.
- Pregnancy related – The unplanned pregnancy rate in the United States approaches 50%, (4) so many women have no idea that they are pregnant and may attribute bleeding between their cycles to another cause. Bleeding due to pregnancy may be from implantation, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy and needs to be evaluated as soon as possible.
- Hormonal birth control – All forms of hormonal contraception (pills, patch, rings, implants, IUD) may have irregular midcycle bleeding as a consequence. Most cases are self-limited and not a sign of a problem. See your doctor if this persists for longer than 3 months. However, if you are sexually active, it is always prudent to take a pregnancy test first and call your physician immediately if the result is positive.
- Infection – Vaginal infections may cause spotting secondary to inflammation in the vagina and cervix. Often, this type of bleeding is associated with pain, discharge, or a foul odor. You need to see your physician immediately.
- Cancer – Not as common, cancer of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries can all be a source of bleeding between cycles and requires immediate evaluation.
A menstrual cycle is counted from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next period. The normal menstrual period lasts 28 days on average, but this varies from month to month and from woman to woman. (5)
If the cycles occur every 24 to 38 days, they are still considered normal. If the gap between periods keeps changing and your periods come earlier or later, then your periods are considered irregular. Treatment for irregular periods depends on the cause.
Ways to Manage Period Pain and Other Period Problems
The following measures are helpful in dealing with problems related to periods:
1. Regular exercise
Exercising triggers the release of hormones or chemicals in the body that inhibit pain sensation. So, the myth that you must give up all activity during your periods should be put to rest. Instead, you must try to get a bit of exercise on most days of your period to ease the discomfort.
The idea is to opt for light aerobic activities and steer clear of rigorous weight training, which can prove deleterious. Going for a walk, light jog, or bike ride can work your body out without overexerting it.
2. Heat therapy
Topical application of gentle heat can help relax your abdominal and pelvic muscles to reduce menstrual cramps. This can easily be done by taking a warm bath or placing a warm compress (heat pad or hot water bottle) on your abdomen.
A well-rested body is better equipped to deal with the pain and discomfort associated with menstruation. Thus, it is especially important to get 7–8 hours of sound sleep when you are on your period since this is the time when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself.
4. Relaxation techniques
Try deep breathing, meditation, and yoga to calm your mind and body during this uncomfortable time of the month.
Certain nutritional supplements such as vitamin B1 and magnesium are believed to be useful in easing menstrual symptoms, but there isn’t enough research to back this claim. Still, you can consult your doctor about the prospects of using this therapy.
6. Alternative therapies
Acupuncture, acupressure, and nerve stimulation therapies involve manipulating certain trigger points in your body to block pain signals. These techniques can be particularly useful for those suffering from painful periods, provided they are performed correctly.
So, you must get these done by a professional to avoid any undue complications.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first-line treatment for managing menstrual discomfort. These are a class of medication that inhibits the production of prostaglandins in the body.
Prostaglandins are directly responsible for your period pain and cramps. By limiting the release of prostaglandins, NSAIDs can lessen the severity of your menstrual symptoms. You can easily buy common NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen over the counter, but try not to become too dependent on them.
8. Apple cider vinegar
Oral intake of apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been a popular remedy for managing irregular periods in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, but its efficacy and safety are still subject to scientific scrutiny.
It is believed that ACV may help correct the hormonal imbalance associated with PCOS to stabilize the menstrual cycle, besides facilitating weight loss, better sugar control, and improved insulin levels. All of these suggested benefits can help reduce the problem of erratic periods.
9. Blackstrap molasses
Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, but it is not considered to be the best nutritional source of iron (which menstruating women need more of) due to its high sugar content.
Menstruation is central to female reproductive health, but it has a bearing on other bodily functions as well. Since every woman is built differently, the menstrual experience remains unique to each person.
The basic process is the same, but the regularity, flow, and symptoms associated with it may vary. It can be painless for some, but a nuisance for others. However, it is completely normal to experience menstrual discomfort, which can be managed through medication and home treatment.
The important thing is to ensure that you get your periods on time. An irregular menstrual cycle can make it difficult for you to conceive and can sometimes be a sign of a serious ailment. If you often skip your period, get yourself evaluated by an ob-gyn.
The ideal scenario is to get a period every 28 days. Medical attention is needed if you experience other abnormalities regarding your menstrual cycle such as unusually heavy or sparse bleeding. The same goes for the cramping and pain that are unbearable despite the recommended treatment.