On average 1 in 6
women in the UK feel uncomfortable talking to their GP about their period, with
31% of women feeling inconvenienced by their monthly cycle. We look into the
issues surrounding menstruation, discuss the “norm” and highlight signs and
symptoms you must not ignore.
alldayDr want to break the stigma attached to periods and open up discussion with regards to the health of a female’s reproductive organs. It is essential you are aware of your monthly cycle. Your period can be a good reflection on your health in many aspects, from reproduction through to diseases and vitamin deficiencies. It is time to get to know your aunt Flow!
What Causes Period Pain?
The most common
question asked regarding periods is, “What causes period pain?” Period pain is
caused by the contracting of your womb. The womb contracts in order to remove
the lining of your uterus. This contracting causes cramping pains throughout
the pelvis area.
Other areas of the body often affected by period pain include your breasts and back. It is normal to have pain in your back and chest area, this is due to hormonal changes.
When on your monthly cycle, your breasts will increase in size, become tender and even have visible veins. The reason for being at your biggest cup size is the influx of Progesterone. Progesterone is a sex hormone released by your ovaries during your menstrual cycle, you also have this to thank for your mood swings and PMS symptoms. This hormone also interferes with nerves and pain receptors, which causes the sense of back ache.
How much Blood is “Normal”?
Keeping an eye on
the amount of blood you lose is a good way of recognising any health concerns
early. The average woman will lose between 60ml and 80ml of blood per cycle,
this is the same amount as a small bottle of perfume. As our body constantly
produces blood, this is replaced and will not cause any health issues.
If, however you do lose more than the average 80ml of blood this may be a cause for concern. Women who lose more blood than average may have underlying health issues, for example; Fibroids.
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths made up of muscle and tissue, they can be found within the uterus and vary in size. Most women will not have any symptoms; however, it is important to keep an eye on the amount of blood you lose as larger amounts could be a sign of Fibroids. If you notice you are losing large amounts of blood with clots and pressure pain within the pelvic area, we recommend contacting your GP for further investigation.
The average woman will be on her menstrual cycle for anything between 2-8 days. Should your period last longer than 8 days and is a frequent occurrence, it is best to speak with your GP about the reasons behind the period of time. There are certain types of medicine to control the flow of your period and control the length, however these must be prescribed by your GP.
Does Colour Matter?
The colour of the
blood you lose can indicate everything from pregnancy through to sexually
transmitted diseases. It is important to know what is healthy and what may be a
cause for concern when it comes to the colour of your menstrual blood.
What is deemed “normal” for one woman could be completely different for another and often links to the flow and longevity of your cycle. We have broken down the often mentioned colours of blood and given you some simple reasons;
Brown – This is blood that has oxidised. This blood is not fresh and is often seen towards the end of your period. This is completely normal and is not a cause for concern.
Red – Red blood is fresh blood that has not oxidised, you can usually have this colour of blood at the beginning of your period. If you are pregnant this could be a sign of miscarriage and you should contact your GP.
Pink – Pink discharge is usually a sign of ovulation and can be spotted at the beginning of your menstrual cycle. The pink colour is due to the blood mixing with cervical fluid. Pink discharge can also be a sign of fertilisation and implantation in early pregnancy.
Grey – This colour is something to be concerned about. Grey discharge can be a sign of
If any of the issues below are paired with other symptoms and you are unsure or concerned, it is recommended you discuss this with a practice nurse or GP.
Why do I Crave Chocolate?
Cravings on your
period indicate your body’s energy levels and vitamin deficiencies. Listening
to your body’s cravings during your cycle is extremely important in order to
stay energised and healthy.
If you find yourself craving sugary foods such as chocolate, fruits and sugary drinks you may have low blood sugar levels. When levels of oestrogen and progesterone are at their highest point, this affects your insulin levels making you crave sugar in order to balance your energy. Your blood glucose levels are at their lowest point during your period, so if you do crave that chocolate bar, treat yourself!
Craving salt is a sign of adrenal fatigue, this causes tiredness, mood swings and even body aches. Adrenal fatigue is closely related to PMS and has a negative affect on your mental and physical wellbeing. Craving salt could mean you simply need to rest! Make sure when you are on your period you are getting your recommended daily amount of sleep and rest when you feel you need it.
Overall, it is completely normal to discuss your period with your GP if not integral. Your menstrual cycle can be an insight into how your body is feeling and should you have any concerns you must discuss these with your GP.
Periods are extremely important, especially with regards to reproduction and fertility. By catching any concerning signs and symptoms as soon as they occur this could increase your chances of fertility, help with your nutrition and even assist your mental health.
Endometriosis, hormonal imbalances, fibroids and even certain cancers will show signs through your period. Getting to know your cycle and what is normal for you could potentially save your life.
alldayDr provide up to date information and safe, secure advice should you ever need it. You can see a GP with the click of a button in the comfort of your own home should you be too embarrassed to talk to your family GP. alldayDr can prescribe fast effective medication to control uncomfortable side effects of menstrual cycles. For more information visit our Women’s Health section.