Popular culture is doing its best to destigamise discussions around menstruation and menstrual problems, but a lot of women – especially in India – continue to have trouble discussing these and addressing them. There is definitely a growing number of women who are confident, global citizens, and make it a point to undergo regular gynecological check ups – these women are therefore able to spot and address menstrual and overall gynecological issues. However, the majority would still see a routine gynecological checkup as unnecessary inconvenience and discomfort.
Whichever category you fall in – but especially if you do not undergo an annual checkup – it is necessary to be mindful of menstruation patterns.
Any changes, or abnormalities should be considered as a good reason to undergo a gynecological checkup. For some women, it might be possible that certains symptoms or patterns you might suffer, thinking they are ‘normal’ or ‘routine’, are not actually so, even if the said patterns are common.
Consider the 9 health problems associated with menstruation below:
2. and PCOS
We have grouped these two because their manifestation is fairly similar and in both cases there are higher than normal levels of androgen released. Additionally in both of these menstrual disorders, menstrual bleeding might carry on for longer than usual, or may not stop at all. In a few cases, there might be no menstruation at all.
Other symptoms include sudden weight gain, combined with oilier skin and acne breakouts, abnormal hair growth and hyperpigmentation.
A physical exam, ultrasound and a blood test to check the levels of androgen in your blood might be used to diagnose PCOS and PCOD.
PCOS is a more severe form of PCOD, one might say. In PCOD, the ovaries release too many immature eggs that go on to become cysts. This results in the ovaries becoming enlarged and a spike in androgen production. PCOS is a metabolic problem where higher than normal levels of androgen are released and results in follicular cysts. It’s subtle, but there’s a difference.
3. Abnormal Uterine Bleeding
Any bleeding that occurs outside of your period cycle, or a change in pattern where bleeding becomes heavier, could be signs of abnormal uterine bleeding/ AUB. Medical professionals recommend seeing a doctor if you have 3 consecutive periods where the bleeding is unusually heavy.
An AUB diagnosis will determine which of the following is the actual reason for unusual bleeding:
- AUB – I/ Iatrogenic AUB: Relax, it’s just because of some medication that you are taking
- (AUB-A): Again, relax, this is common in menopause and goes away after
- AUB – E/ endometrial AUB: This might mean an infection in the lining of the uterus
- AUB -O: This means some ovulatory dysfunction
- AUB -C/ coagulopathy AUB: This could be linked to a more serious bleeding condition
There is also
- Very critical and serious diagnosis like AUB-M (which indicates presence of malignancy)
- Moderately serious Polyps (AUB-P) and Leiomyoma/fibroids (AUB-L)
4. Painful menstruation – Dysmenorrhoea
This is the most common menstrual health problem, affecting a good majority of women. It is caused by uterine contractions. It does not indicate any larger underlying problem necessarily, but your gynecologist might be able to offer medication to reduce the symptoms of dysmenorrhoea.
6. and PMDD
Affecting over one third of women, PMS is a psychological menstrual health problem with a wide range of symptoms. It emerges from ore menstrual hormonal changes. The most common symptoms include depression and self loathing, irritability and anxiety, mood swings, fatigue and also physical symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness.
PMS is temporary in the sense that it comes on no more than a week prior to your period goes away after, but it can affect your life, especially if you are not mindful of the symptoms.
Your gynecologist can perhaps recommend anti inflammatory medication to deal with PMS
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, is a far more severe form of PMS. The symptoms are the same, just far more extreme. PMDD should definitely be addressed, not just with medication but – if necessary – also with cognitive behavioral therapy.
If no menstruation occurs beyond the age of 16 or menstruation stops abruptly during reproductive years, it is termed as amenorrhea. (Provided you aren’t pregnant if course)
This menstrual health problem should not be ignored. It could be linked to hormonal problems or (in women yet to witness their first menstrual period) it could indicate an underdeveloped pituitary gland. See a dermatologist.
8. Overly heavy periods
If you cannot function as you normally do during your menstrual period, you are part of 20% of women who suffer from especially heavy bleeding. That’s a sizable chunk of the population but it is still important to get to the root cause of heavy bleeding because it can be a sign of a bigger issue – especially if it comes on suddenly.
Heavy bleeding might indicate thyroid problems, hormonal imbalances, liver or kidney disease, IUD malfunction, or even an infection.
9. Menstrual migraines
If you suffer from migraines only during your periods, you have menstrual migraines. These are even more common than heavy menstrual bleeding, affecting over half the female population. Regular migraine medication may be prescribed to allow you to function normally.
For some women menstrual migraines are a dull throbbing pain while for others the menstrual migraine may also come with sensitivity to light, smell and sounds. Some womenight also experience fatigue and dizziness as part of a menstrual migraine.