Symptoms of a Period
Most females endure a period each month from the age of about 12 until menopause. Periods are a minor nuisance for some woman or a major problem for others. Some women may have irregular periods and may suffer from PMS or PMDS. Others may have debilitating cramps. Unfortunately, many of the these symptoms are just a fact of life, but some medications may help to alleviate symptoms so that the period is more tolerable each month.
Women of child-bearing age have a menstrual cycle that allows their body to prepare for pregnancy each month. Menstrual cycles usually last 21 to 35 days, with 28 days being the average length of the cycle. When the menstrual cycle begins, estrogen levels go up. That triggers the uterus lining to expand and thicken. Around the same time, an egg is maturing within the ovaries. At the midpoint of the cycle, ovulation occurs, and the egg is released from the ovary. The egg waits in the fallopian tubes for sperm to arrive. If the egg is fertilized, it will burrow into the uterine wall; the pregnancy process will then begin. However, if the egg is not fertilized, the uterus begins to get rid of its lining, which results in menstrual bleeding. Menstruation typically lasts 3 to 5 days. Menstruation can begin as early as the age of 8 or as late as 16, but the average adolescent girl beings menstruating at the age of 12.
Not every female will have a regular menstrual cycle. Some may experience amenorrhea when periods stop all together. Some may skip periods, bleed between periods or have an extremely heavy period. All menstrual irregularities should be discussed with a doctor to make sure that no underlying conditions are causing the menstrual irregularities.
Typical Period Symptoms
Bleeding is the main symptom associated with menstruation. However, woman many also experience bloating and abdominal cramping. Some may have tender breasts, headaches, irritability, mood instability, fatigue, and food cravings during their periods. Severe symptoms are considered to be premenstrual syndrome.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 75% of all women suffer from PMS. Menstruating women may have varying PMS symptoms. PMS symptoms usually affect a woman for a few days preceding the start of her menstrual period. Symptoms of PMS include fatigue, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression, insomnia, breast tenderness, and cravings for certain foods. Some may also have headaches, bloating, acne, and muscle aches. Some may have diarrhea or constipation.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10% of all women suffer from PMDD. This condition is a the most severe kind of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and can be disabling. The symptoms of PMDD usually begin about a week before a woman’s period is due and end a few days after the period begins. Symptoms of PMDD include anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, and tender breasts. Some women many have insomnia while others may sleep more than usual. Also women may experience cravings and some may eat more than usual while others will have a poor appetite. Women affected by PMDD may be treated with antidepressant medications and anti-inflammatory medications. Some may take oral contraceptives to control hormones.