While we accept that periods are a natural part of life for women, let’s be honest—most of us would prefer to pretend they don’t exist. We don’t like dealing with that monthly visitor, much less do we like talking about it (unless it’s after a few pinots with our girlfriends!). But as uncomfortable as it may be, there’s one person you absolutely need to talk to about your period to—your doctor. Not only does opening up about what’s going on ‘down there’ give your GP important insights into your hormonal and overall health, but it can help catch potentially dangerous issues early. Don’t forget, your doctor has seen and heard everything—and if they make you feel weird about period stuff, it’s time to find a new one. Read on for 5 ’embarrassing’ period problems you should always tell your GP about.
1. You have a heavy flow
Hands up if you can’t hear the words ‘heavy flow’ without thinking about this scene in Mean Girls:
While you don’t have to be quite so open about the velocity of your flow, it is worth talking to your doctor if you’re find you constantly soak through tampons. “Any and all abnormal bleeding issues should be discussed with your physician at your annual visit,” Dr. Cindy Basinski told Bustle. “Your physician can detect clues about a potential serious underlying problem just by listening to you and offer further evaluation/treatment.”
While in many cases, a heavy period can be perfectly normal, it can also be a sign of something else going on in your body. “Abnormal bleeding could be related to just hormonal imbalances that are common but could be serious issues like unintended pregnancy or STDs,” Basinski says. Make sure you flag it with your doc so you can rule out anything serious.
2. Your periods last for ages
If your periods feel longer than a season of The Bachelor (aka. reaaalllly long), it’s a good idea to bring it up with your GP. According to the Mayo Clinic, a standard menstruation flow occurs every 21 to 35 days and lasts between two to seven days.
“Periods lasting longer than seven days could be a sign of something more significant, “Dr. Angela Jones, OB/GYN told Bustle.”Whether it be something such as a polyp or a fibroid (both structural things that can cause severe bleeding or even spotting in between cycles), [it] could lead to anemia, pain, or could be a sign of abnormal/precancerous cells.” It’s always better to be safe than sorry (plus, who wants their periods to drag on forever?), so give your GP a heads up.
Ahh, menstrual cramps. As much as we loathe them, they’re a normal part of our cycle. That said, if they last more than a few days or are so debilitating that you can’t go about your normal day-to-day life, it’s essential to let your GP know. “There are a number of issues that could be the cause, including a hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis (displaced endometrial tissue), a non-hormonal IUD, and in some cases, cancer,” Ann Mullen, director of Health Education at Cycle Technologies, told Bustle. “These are serious conditions and you should not hesitate to consult with your doctor if you experience heavy bleeding or extreme pain.” Don’t be afraid of being seen as a crybaby—pain is a warning signal that needs to be listened to.
4. You’re missing them or they’re constantly late
Yes, periods are annoying AF. But even more concerning is when they constantly arrive late or vanish altogether. This is known as Amenorrhea.
“Amenorrhea… is when you miss cycles or have very long cycles—maybe only having six to nine periods a year. While it might be welcome not to be bothered with periods so often, it’s not a good sign,” says Mullen.
This is especially true if you have other out-of-the-ordinary symptoms like hair loss, headaches, excessive facial hair, pelvic pain or acne, “There are a number of conditions that can cause these symptoms, which include certain medications… stress, [and] hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalances can be triggered by PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), issues with your thyroid, or with your pituitary gland,” says Mullen.
Other causes are when your body fat is too low, you’re over-exercising or under-eating or yes, you could be pregnant. Make sure you chat to your doc so you can get to bottom of it.
5. It’s a different colour or texture
Inspecting your period blood is a task that’s about as fun as doing your taxes or scrubbing your shower. However, the look and texture of your menstrual blood can give you valuable insights into your hormonal and overall health. Not sure what’s ‘normal’ or what you should be looking for? Check out our guide here.