The fact that we bleed from our vaginas once a month and don’t die doesn’t feel normal, but it is. So, how on earth are you supposed to tell if what your period is doing actually isn’t normal at all? Especially in the few years that follow after you get your first period, there’s bound to be tons of wonky stuff that happens that will send you straight to Google or your mom in a panic. But don’t worry. As a seasoned pro at Period Having, let me tell you what’s what when it comes to weird period stuff vs. normal period stuff–for example, it’s normal for your period to last five to seven days and happen roughly four weeks apart from each other. And it’s totally expected for you to be uncomfortable, grouchy, and have an insatiable craving for your comfort food of choice. Obviously.
Also, everyone has their own version of what “normal” is, so part of being an expert at your own period is learning what your default is so that when something’s different, you know what’s up. But, even for beginners, there can be clear signs that something’s wrong from the get-go. I have friends who full on didn’t know that periods weren’t supposed to be so painful that you couldn’t peel yourself off the bathroom floor until their doctor told them that was strange.
So, if you don’t know any different, how would you know what’s normal and what’s not? See what I mean? Having a period can be a weird, confusing thing even if we know that technically everyone with a female reproductive system has some version of a period. What are you supposed to do, go up to your friend in math class and ask her about the specifics of her menstrual cycle? Um, no. That’s why you’re here, in the privacy of your own internet browser history. Welcome to the fray, fellow bleeder, now let’s get down to business. These are nine signs your period actually isn’t normal.
Tons Of Blood ClotsIt's normal to have blood clots, AKA those red blobs of goo that are too solid to be liquid, but too liquidy to be solid during your period. You'll know one when you see one, but did you know the normal period shouldn't have too many of them? Tons of clots or even super large ones could be signs that your uterine lining isn't shedding at the rate that it should be either due to a hormonal imbalance or fibroids. If you just had a pregnancy scare, large ones could even be a sign of miscarriage. Period blood should more or less look like that - blood. So, if it's basically all clots, something isn't right. Source: iStock
Change In ColorIf you notice that your menstrual blood has changed color, consistency, or suddenly smells different in...not a good way, it could be a sign that you have an STI. Since there's menstrual blood in the way, you can't see the normal symptoms of irregular vaginal discharge, for example, so it all kind of mixes in and... okay, you get the picture. You can still get tested for an STI while you're on your period, so get to a Planned Parenthood if you don't feel like waiting for your gynecologist to have an open appointment. That's why these clinics are so great! Only you know what's normal for you, so if something's up, say something.Source: iStock
Your Period Showing Up At Irregular TimesIt shows up two weeks after your last period, then waits six weeks, then 30 days, then who knows? Especially in the beginning, your period won't be quite as regular as someone who's had it for years, but it should be more or less four weeks apart. If there's extreme fluctuation in the timing of your cycle, you should start tracking either with a calendar or a period app so you can give specific data to your doctor so that they know how to treat you. It could be a hormonal imbalance or something else, but you'll never know unless you gather some facts. If your period keeps sneak attacking or surprising you, it could just be because you're young, but if you're used to being regular, this behavior isn't normal.Source: iStock
Skipping Cycles AltogetherOther than being pregnant, missing a menstrual cycle, could be the result of a new intensive exercise routine, a low BMI, or stress. If you get your period every month then suddenly don't anymore, however, it could be a sign of amenorrhea, which is an abnormal abscence of your period. While there is no medical need to get your period every month while you're on certain kinds of birth control, if you aren't on it, you should be getting your period once a month and not skipping cycles.Source: iStock
Extreme Pain During MenstruationCramps suck. Periods can make everybody feel discomfort and pain, but if you're shackled to your couch and sometimes can't even stand up straight, it could be a sign of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or a host of other period complications. Excessive pain is the key symptom for these chronic conditions which, if left untreated, could lead to infertility. If no amount of Motrin can alleviate your pain, you might need something stronger that only a doctor can prescribe. For however much period pain the average person is in, it should not get in the way of you living your life, but if you have this level of extreme pain, you know what I'm talking about - sometimes, that's just not possible. Source: iStock
Spotting Between PeriodsSpotting is normal for girls with IUDs or girls who take low dose birth control. Everyone else should not be spotting between periods. Spotting, for those of you who don't know, is when you bleed for a day (or two) in between periods. Women who are pregnant could spot as a sign that something's implanted itself in her uterus. So, unless you're pregnant, taking preventative measures against becoming pregnant, or literally just got your period (your body's getting used to bleeding, just be patient), you should not be spotting. It could be a indicative of reproductive health issues that should be properly addressed.Source: iStock
Either A Very Long Or Very Short PeriodNo one's mad at a short period, but if it's too short, it could be a sign that you have low estrogen levels, which might not be okay in the long run. Periods lasting over seven days categorize as abnormally long. It could be due to recent medical trauma (happened to me after surgery), stress, or even an iron deficiency. The average period lasts roughly around five days give or take a few. Everybody's cycle is different, so if something's off, alert your doctor as soon as possible so you can fix it together. You only get one uterus, so keep it healthy.Source: iStock
Intense Depression Or AgitationNo one feels spectacularly amazing during their period, so it's normal to feel a little bit off yourself. Basically, feeling like you're having an off day is par for the course, but any form of severe depression, anxiety, or intense anger could be a sign that you have PMDD aka Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder. It's where these extreme changes in mood are triggered by a certain point in your menstrual cycle and can even get in the way of you going to school or really living your life. It can be treated through hormonal medication or anti-depressants, but if the way you get during your period really effects your quality of life, you should let your doctor know. Something might be up. Source: iStock
Extra Super Heavy FlowEveryone's flow is different, so how do you know when it's medically considered "too much"? Well, if you're soaking clear through a tampon or pad in under two hours, that's an example of a flow that's too heavy. If it persists for too long, it could cause anemia. The average period consists of two to three tablespoons of blood loss in total, so unless you have a menstrual cup and can actually measure your blood loss, track how many tampons or pads you use. If it's more than around five per day, that's not normal. You could have pelvic inflammatory disease, a hormonal imbalance, or another condition that needs treating because your body is definitely trying to tell you something here.Source: iStock
Have you had any of these symptoms? What kind of weird stuff does your period do? Let us know in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.