Most women know when their period is coming. They calculate the date, and they know when they can expect their monthly bleeding cycle. When your period comes, the lining of the uterus is shed and released through the vagina. Women experience their first period as young girls, and it can happen anywhere between 8 and 15 years old. Sometimes, it starts as irregular cycles of bleeding. In the United States, the average age for the first menstruation is 12. To be sure your period is coming, you need to recognize the symptoms.
Before we get to the symptoms, let’s explain briefly why it happens. Your body’s hormones are controlling the menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for the thickening of the lining of the uterus. On the other hand, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are responsible for the release of eggs and production of estrogen. By working together, these hormones stimulate your period. That being said, let’s take a look at the symptoms of your period that indicate it is on its way.
The most common symptom of your menstrual cycle is cramping. In medical terms, menstrual cramping is called dysmenorrhea, and it starts as low abdominal cramping. Menstrual cramps start one or two days before your period, and can last anywhere between two and four days. The severity of pain is different for each individual. According to Medical News Today, 15% of women describe their menstrual cramps as severe pain.
If you cannot handle the pain, over-the-counter medication will help you put them at bay. Painkillers help as well. In rare cases, when the cramps are extremely severe, you should contact your doctor.
Another of the common period symptoms is food cravings. Every woman craves a different food. Some crave chocolate, some crave pizza, some French fries. And some just crave fatty food in general. There is no general rule of thumb. However, I’ve read that most women crave chocolate, the sugary substance that you just cannot get enough of.
Estrogen is again responsible for the cravings, as the hormone released in your body kicks in the cravings. Now, while it is all right to satisfy your cravings for sugar, try not to go overboard.
There is a saying that men suffer from periods as well as women. The explanation is simple: mood swings. You just cannot understand women during their period. Now, we can never put these two “pains” on a scale. Women will always win. So, if you are a guy, just try to be as patient and as caring as possible during those days. And pray that they last for a maximum of three days.
Mood swings are sometimes an excuse for women feeling “too emotional” before their period. But let’s just say it is completely normal to express your emotions.
In addition to menstrual cramping, you might experience body aches, especially in the breast and lower back region. Again, painkillers and over-the-counter medication should be your countermove. Just make sure to relax a day or two before your period, and during the cycle as well. Sleep and relaxation are essential to take care of the pain you might be feeling.
During the teenage and young adult years, both women and men are prone to hormonal acne. As you reach puberty, acne breakouts are normal. Once puberty is over, women experience acne breakouts before their period. It can get nasty, as acne can destroy your self-esteem. Hormones are fluctuating, and that’s what causes the acne breakouts. Now, some women experience acne, some do not. There is no way to prevent acne breakouts if that is the case for you. The best way to treat acne is by using salicylic acid. And make sure to wash your face two times per day.
There is simply no scientific explanation why you’re feeling fatigued and exhausted before your period. But logic suggests that all that pain, aches, and irritation hamper your sleep and relaxation. With so many mood swings and pain, it’s normal to feel fatigued, both physically and mentally. Some women have trouble getting to sleep a day or two before their period. Visit your doctor if the fatigue is just way too severe to let you sleep.
Last, but not least of our period symptoms, is bloating. There is a simple explanation: fluid retention. You feel full and swollen around the waist area. For many women, bloating can be extremely bothersome. You can’t prevent bloating, but you can limit the factors that contribute to it. One of those factors is your diet, and you should avoid salt, sugar, and caffeine before your period.
Exercise is a known factor that helps with bloating. Regular exercise increases blood circulation and prevents bloating. Some women even say regular exercise reduces the severity of all their period symptoms.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Period symptoms sometimes can be extremely severe. In medical terms, when you experience a severe form of PMS, it is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. Symptoms associated with PMDD include:
- Concentration difficulties
Period symptoms vs. pregnancy symptoms
What you need to know is that some of the symptoms of your period are very similar to those of pregnancy. In order to determine the difference, we will explain how period symptoms feel and how pregnancy symptoms feel.
During PMS, or before your period, swelling and tenderness of the breasts occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle. Women in their childbearing years experience more severe symptoms. Tenderness is the most severe just before your period, and it improves during and after the period. As your progesterone levels decrease, the pain reduces as well. The breast tissue feels bumpy and dense in the outer areas.
During early pregnancy, on the other hand, breasts feel sore and sensitive. They are tender to the touch. But they also feel heavier and fuller. Tenderness starts one or two weeks after conception, and lasts for almost half of your pregnancy as your progesterone levels actually increase.
During PMS, or before your period, there is no bleeding at all. When you get your period, the blood flow can be heavy. Cycle bleeding can last up to one week.
Vaginal bleeding is also one of the early signs of pregnancy. It happens 10 to 14 days after conception, and you notice it as pink or dark brown spotting. The bleeding is not enough to fill pads or tampons, and lasts for just a few days.
Nausea is not one of the period symptoms. If you are feeling nauseous or you’re vomiting, it is not due to your period.
On the other hand, morning sickness is a classic pregnancy symptom. Nausea and vomiting start as early as the third week of pregnancy, and can last until the second trimester. However, not all women experience morning sickness. Some are just lucky. It is important to remember that morning sickness can hit at any time of the day.
Food cravings are a common symptom for both pregnancy and PMS. The difference is during PMS, you crave sugars, sweets, chocolate, carbs, and salty foods. And the cravings are not to the same extent as pregnancy.
When you are pregnant, the cravings are just unstoppable. And you have highly specific cravings. In addition, you feel an aversion to certain smells, tastes, and even foods. What is interesting is that you might start hating foods that you once liked. The food cravings and aversions lasts throughout the entire pregnancy.
As mentioned at the beginning, cramping is one of the common period symptoms. But it happens 24 to 48 hours before your period, and the pain decreases from the moment your period kicks in. The pain eventually goes away by the end of your flow.
During pregnancy, on the other hand, you experience mild or light cramping for weeks or even months. Additionally, the cramps are felt in the lower stomach.