PERIODS are normal – but for some people they can be extremely painful.
Aunt Flo knows how to make a fuss, causing cramps and heavy bleeding.
Most periods last between three and eight days and on average will continue for five days – with bleeding being heaviest in the first two.
The length of a cycle will vary from person to person and most will lose between five and 12 teaspoons of blood – but some will bleed more heavily than this.
But if you have painful periods, don’t have them at all or have never had one, it could be down to a particular condition.
Dr Bella Todd says if you have persistent issues then you should always speak to a medical professional.
She’s urged women to not suffer in silence when it comes to bleeding and says disruptive cycles could be down to three main reasons.
If you’re struggling with painful periods and don’t know why then it could be down to dsymenorrhea and there are two different types of this illness.
The first is when the cramps and pains are caused by really strong contractions in the uterus, which cause areas of the uterus to not get enough blood flow for a short period of time.
The second is when the pain is caused by another disease, not just really intense contractions, like endometriosis, adenomyosis or fibroids.
Dr Todd, who is working with period underwear brand Modibodi said that if your pain doesn’t go away with medication, or is affecting other aspects of your life then you should see your doctor.
She said: ” Usually, primary dysmenorrhea gets better as you get older. There isn’t really a cure, until you stop having periods altogether.”
For the primary illness, easy treatments can include exercise, heat packs and warm baths.
Other options include anti-inflammatory medications and a form of contraception such as the pill or the Mirena coil.
Similar to dsymenorrhea, there are two types of amenorrhea.
The first is when someone has never had a period by the age of 15 or hasn’t had a period nor shown any signs of physical sexual development (such as breast development or public hair growth) by the age of 13.
If this happens – then you will need to see your GP for assessment.
Dr Todd said: “They may well suggest you just wait a bit longer, or, if there’s no evidence of other sexual development, tests might be recommended.”
The second type is when someone has had a period at some point – but it has since stopped.
“If you’ve previously had regular periods, but haven’t had one for three months, or if you’ve previously had irregular periods and haven’t had a period for six months, then see your doctor to find out why.
“The first obvious cause that we need to rule out (or in) is pregnancy, and this is actually the cause MUCH more often than people realise.
“Other common causes are weight loss or gain, over-exercising, being extremely stressed, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), other hormonal problems, such as thyroid issues.”
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths of muscle that develop inside the wall of the uterus.
Dr Todd said that they can grow in different layers of the uterus wall, and some might be very small (like a pea), while others can grow very large, even as large as a rockmelon.
“By the age of 50 (around the time of menopause), 70 per cent of women will have had fibroids.
“Since female hormones stimulate fibroids to grow, they are common during reproductive years when these hormones are higher, especially in your later reproductive years before menopause.
“After menopause, when these hormone levels drop, fibroids tend to shrink or even go away completely.”
She added that if you have had a family history of the condition, are obese, have polycystic ovary syndrome, had your first period young and have never given birth then you are more at risk.
When it comes to treatment, if the fibroids are not causing problems then your GP won’t usually do anything about them.
Dr Todd added that if fibroids are causing painful periods then they will be treated in the same way as dysmenorrhoea.
Other hormonal therapy using a GnRH agonist can be used to shrink fibroids, this is something to be discussed with your gynaecologist, she added.