The human body has a way of alerting that something is wrong, in the form of signs and symptoms, which should always be heeded.
When it comes to menstrual health, Dr Dhivya R, consultant — obstetrician and gynaecologist — at Kauvery Hospital Electronic City (Bengaluru) says that one is familiar with the way their body naturally functions.
“What you may be unfamiliar with, is new flare-ups and looming results of certain medical conditions. They turn out to be some period ‘red flags’ that you must not hesitate to speak with your OB-GYN about,” she says.
The doctor lists five such period red flags that one ought to be aware about; read on.
1. Period cramps
“Some are lucky with minimal cramps that rarely slow them down. For most, it can last for about 5 days. In case your cramps are so bad that they affect your daily routine, then it is a problem. Even after painkillers, if it is not bearable, you may have conditions like fibroid, adenomyosis or endometriosis, which needs medical attention,” the expert says.
2. The colour and consistency
The colour of your periods indicates a lot of things about your health. The ideal colour, says Dr Dhivya, is cranberry red.
“If it is darker, with thicker clotty features or too many clots, you need to watch for a hormonal disturbance, or even uterine fibroids. Do not panic, most of them are benign, but can be painful. On the other hand, if the colour is pinkish, watery, you may have nutritional imbalance or be at risk of PCOS. Best to check your doctor.”
3. Flow of periods
The average flow during periods is approximately 60ml-80ml; if women experience heavy flow (anything more than 80ml, one that lasts for more than 7 days, or both), and if it is consistent, it can cause anemia and fertility issues, says Dr Dhivya.
Uterine fibroids, problems with clotting, problems with lining of the womb or endometriosis, etc., can be a cause. A very light period could be because of a variety of reasons, ranging from hormonal imbalance, PCOS or nutritional imbalance. If these changes are seen in women over 40, with irregular flow, they should seek medical advice as chances of endometrial cancer, cervical polyps or precancerous conditions like hyperplasia are high, she adds.
4. Frequency of periods
Average periods last about 21 to 35 days; irregular periods past your teens could be due to polycystic ovaries, extreme weight loss, pregnancy, use of certain drugs. Birth control pills can cause light spotting between periods. If you are spotting without taking pills, bleeding after sex or in-between periods, it needs evaluation as it could be symptom of cancer or pre-cancer, infection or hormonal imbalance, says the doctor.
5. Missed periods
“Missing periods are usually based on the assumption that a woman is pregnant. But, it is not the only reason. Stress, PCOS, athletic activity, sudden weight loss or gain, certain contraceptive pills may sometimes stop periods. Most women go through menopause in 50s, though early menopause can occur in 20s or 30s due to some medical conditions or lifestyle factors, like autoimmune disease, smoking or premature ovarian failure,” the doctor concludes.