Menstruation can cause unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, mood swings, and breast tenderness.
Mild symptoms can usually be expected, but anyone with severe or unusual symptoms should seek medical attention.
In this article, we focus on 12 health problems and explain when to see a doctor. We also explore treatment options and some strategies to prevent these symptoms from returning.
Serious or unusual health problems during menstruation may indicate a hormonal imbalance or underlying condition. These require lifestyle changes, home care or professional treatment.
If you experience one or more of the 12 symptoms below, you should see a doctor.
- Heavy bleeding
Menorrhagia is heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding. According to a trusted source at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people experience heavy bleeding when:
Menstruation lasts more than 7 days
Bleeding with a pad or tampon within 2 hours
need to change pads or tampons at night
more than a quarter of a blood clot, or another large coin passes
Heavy bleeding can indicate a hormonal imbalance or medical condition that affects the uterus.
Spotting or vaginal bleeding between periods may indicate the following conditions.
benign uterine cyst
pelvic inflammatory disease
Hormonal changes occur during puberty, perimenopause, and menopause
Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus to grow in other areas.
In rare cases, vaginal bleeding between periods or after menopause can be a sign of cancer of the uterus, cervix, or ovaries.
Learn more about detection here.
- Skipped periods
Stress, excessive exercise, and some forms of birth control can disrupt the menstrual cycle and lead to missed periods. If the cause is temporary, menstruation may return to normal next month.
Pregnancy causes periods to stop, which may not continue until a woman finishes breastfeeding.
The medical term for the absence of menstruation before menopause is amenorrhea. A trusted source from the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) explains that you may not have a period if:
they miss more than three generations in a row
They did not menstruate until they were 15 years old
OWH notes that other causes of amenorrhea may include:
eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa
gain or lose too much weight
severe and long-term stress
polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Breast tenderness
Mild breast tenderness can be expected during menstruation.
However, if a person has breast tenderness, they should consult a doctor.
occurs at other times of the menstrual cycle
accompanied by other symptoms such as breast lumps, nipple and skin changes.
Some have stomach aches and diarrhea during or around their period.
This can be associated with the release of chemicals called prostaglandins from the uterus, which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness.
If the diarrhea is severe or you have abnormal menstrual symptoms, see your doctor.
- Blood clots
Some blood clots are a regular symptom of menstrual bleeding, especially on heavy flow days. Less than a quarter of blood clots can occur, especially at the beginning of menstruation.
If a person notices that the clots are larger than usual or occur more often, this may indicate an underlying health problem, such as:
adenomyosis, the lining of the uterus grows through the wall of the uterus
Also, if a woman who is pregnant or who suspects pregnancy develops a blood clot, it can indicate a loss of pregnancy or a miscarriage. If this happens, it is important to see a doctor immediately.
- Extraordinary persistence
The consistency of the period can change from the beginning to the end of the period, with more flow at the beginning and then less at the end of the period.
People should see a doctor if the abnormality of their menstrual blood is different from normal.
Pink, watery menstrual blood or unusually thick blood can indicate an underlying condition, such as menorrhagia.
The medical term for menstrual pain is dysmenorrhea, and cramps are often the cause of this pain.
Mild abdominal pain can be an unpleasant but expected part of the menstrual cycle.
Excessive or unusual cramping can be severe dysmenorrhea, which can indicate the following underlying conditions:
- After ovulation and before the start of a period, many women experience a combination of physical and emotional symptoms. These, collectively, are known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The OWHTrusted Source notes that changes in levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause low mood, which is a common PMS feature.
However, severe changes in mood, which may keep a person from daily activities, could be a sign of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. People with this issue often benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
It is also important to note that any mood changes related to regular hormonal shifts can worsen symptoms of existing mental health conditions.