Ever been curious to find out just how “normal” your period is compared to other women, but too shy to ask anyone?
Do you feel like the duration and frequency of your period might not be regular? And what about those blinding menstrual cramps, ever wondered what it signified?
Irregular or unusual period symptoms are usually the first sign of a health issue and often an indication of how fertile you are.
If you’re trying to conceive you might want to finally get all your nagging questions regarding Aunt Flo answered. SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital tackles them here.
1. How often do you get your period?
a) Like clockwork, every 28 to 30 days
b) Sometimes it comes a week early or a week later
c) I can never keep track, it shows up when it feels like it. Sometimes I don’t get it for months.
DR CHONG SAYS: The average menstrual cycle is between 28 and 30 days. Between 25 and 32 days is still considered normal. Anything outside this range may need a follow-up from a doctor.
If the duration of your period is too close together, there might be a risk of growths or cancer. If they are too far apart, then the lining of the womb may thicken, and if left untreated, cells may swell and lead to abnormal cells changes which might result in several health problems, including cancer.
If your period is irregular sometimes, your cycle may be upset by a change in diurnal rhythm (body clock) say from travelling, stress, illness, prolonged exercising (marathoners), sudden weight gain / loss, eating disorders and severe depression. Another reason could also be hormonal problems, such as abnormal thyroid hormones and abnormal prolactin hormones that can cause milk secretion from nipples.
If your periods stop suddenly, it could be a result of the aftermath of procedures such as an abortion, or dilatation and curettage (D&C). These procedures can cause severe scarring of the lining of the womb. If your menses get lighter and further apart, eventually disappearing, it could be a sign that you’re entering menopause.
2.What kind of pre-menstrual symptoms do you get?
a) The whole shebang – sore boobs, bloating, cramps and mood swings.
b) Mild symptoms, nothing that affects my daily lifestyle.
c) I get very anxious and moody. Getting through the day is difficult.
DR CHONG SAYS: Symptoms such as breast tenderness, abdominal bloating, slight cramps, water retention and mood changes are all considered common. Symptoms are only considered abnormal if they affect your normal life and day-to-day functions. If that’s the case, see your doctor at once.
3. How many days does your period usually last, not counting spotting?
a) Typically between two to seven days
b) It feels like forever, usually more than a week
c) Just a bit of spotting for a few days, it doesn’t get heavy.
DR CHONG SAYS: A regular period can last anywhere between four and seven days, give or take a few days. Shorter periods may be due to immature eggs from a hormonal imbalance and this is often linked to fertility issues.
4. How often do you need to change your pad or tampon on your heaviest day?
a) On my heaviest day, every two to four hours
b) Almost every hour!
c) I could use a panty liner all day because it’s that little.
DR CHONG SAYS: Soaking through pads every hour or two is no, not normal. See your gynae at once as you need to have a pelvic scan to make sure there are no fibroids, ovarian cysts or womb enlargement from adenomyosis. Your doctor will assess the lining of the womb – a thickness of more than 1cm needs further management and monitoring. Sometimes a D&C is performed to collect lining cells for examination. However, if everything else is normal and the patient is younger than 40 years old, is not sexually active and has never had children, then oral medication and hormones are prescribed first, before the invasive D&C test.
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5.What about cramps – how bad do they get?
a) Mild cramps right before it arrives and some pain during the first few days.
b) SERIOUS pain, often the “can’t-get-out-of-bed” kind.
c) Not much cramps at all. My friends are always envious.
DR CHONG SAYS: As mentioned before, mild cramping before and during your period is normal. But if they are intense or debilitating it could be a sign of growths, endometriosis, or an infection. See you doctor at once.
6. Do you get any vaginal odour during your period?
a) Smell, what smell? Nothing I’ve noticed before.
b) Maybe some “bloody” smell, but nothing overpowering.
c) I would probably describe it as a fish market.
DR CHONG SAYS: Vaginal odour depends on the individual. It’s only considered abnormal if it has a strong fishy smell and is associated with itchiness, heavy discharge, abnormal bleeding and intense abdominal pain.
7. Do you spot in between your periods?
a) I spot sometimes a week or so before my period arrives, but not every month.
b) My spotting lingers for a few days before I get my actual period.
c) I spot throughout the month, in-between periods.
DR CHONG SAYS: Technically, there shouldn’t be any spotting, but one or two days of light spotting is not an issue. Anything longer is considered abnormal till proven otherwise. Common reasons include a polyp (benign) growth, or an infection in the lining. Cancer and abnormal cell changes may also need to be ruled out.
8. How long is your luteal phase?
a) 14 days, all time, every time. I have used it accurately to conceive and have been successful.
b) Anywhere between 10 and 16 days. It varies according to the month.
c) My period is so irregular I never know
DR CHONG SAYS: Your luteal phase – the time period between ovulation and your menstrual period – should be between 14 to 16 days – give or take a few days. If it’s on the shorter side, your timing of ovulation may not be so accurate for conception, and you might need hormonal support or ovulatory pills.
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