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5 Things Your Period Could be Telling You

Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.

Written on 8/5/21

5 things your period could be telling you

Keep reading to learn more about why your period is important, including 5 things it could be telling you.

While it may seem like your period decides to come at the most inconvenient times (seriously, right before a beach vacation?!), it’s important to pay attention to your period. It could be giving you valuable information about your cycle and even your overall health.

Keep reading to learn more about why your period is important, including 5 things it could be telling you.

Why is my period important?

First and foremost, your period is considered your fifth vital sign. According to the American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics (ACOG), menstruation and your cycle can give insight into your overall health, similarly to the other vital signs (body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, etc.).

Furthermore, the guidance from the ACOG states that periods should be an important topic during routine checkups with your doctor. Changes in your period can be a sign of many different health issues, from hormone imbalances to thyroid malfunction and even blood clotting disorders.

Tracking your cycles and getting familiar with your period can help catch changes in your period early so that you can keep being your best, healthiest self.

5 Things Your Period Could be Telling You

1. If it’s really heavy…

Heavy periods, also known as “menorrhagia,” are defined by needing to change your tampon or pad every hour (or more!). While some women may naturally experience heavier bleeding, menorrhagia becomes a concern when you can’t do your normal daily activities because you are losing so much blood and experience cramping.

While the cause of some cases of menorrhagia are unknown, others may be caused by uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or a hormonal imbalance. When estrogen is too high in comparison to progesterone, it causes the uterine lining to be thicker than normal meaning there’s more for your body to shed during your period. Many conditions, such as (polycystic ovarian syndrome) PCOS, insulin resistance, or thyroid problems, may cause such an imbalance.

5 things your period could be telling you

While the cause of some cases of menorrhagia are unknown, others may be caused by uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or a hormonal imbalance.

2. If it’s painful…

Mild menstrual cramps are often caused by the uterus contracting as it sheds its lining and are bearable for many women. However, severe menstrual cramps (sometimes accompanied by nausea, headaches, fatigue, or dizziness) are experienced by 1 in 10 women and may affect their daily life.

Menstrual cramps are likely caused by excess prostaglandins, which are hormone-like lipids that help the uterus contract and relax as it sheds its lining. They are necessary to help your uterus shed its lining, but if you have too many they may cause strong contractions or reduced blood flow to the uterus (1).

Aside from excess prostaglandins, severe menstrual cramps may be a sign of endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Endometriosis is one of the most common causes as in this case, tissue from your uterine lining grows outside of the uterus but still grows and sheds similar to your uterine lining. For many women with endometriosis, severe cramps are debilitating.

3. If you experience spotting before it…

Spotting before your period is pretty common. Often, it’s caused by ovulation-related hormonal changes.

Before ovulation, estrogen is high and progesterone is low. After ovulation occurs, estrogen drops and progesterone rises, which can cause a little bit of spotting.

You may also experience spotting if your progesterone levels are low. This causes your uterine lining to break away sooner than when your actual period begins. Low progesterone can cause other unwanted symptoms and make it more difficult to conceive.

If you have a hormonal contraceptive, this also may be the cause of your spotting. Spotting is an especially common side effect in the few months directly after starting a new hormonal birth control (2). It is especially common in women with a hormonal IUD, the implant, the shot, or the progestin-only pill.

4. If your period is brown…

Brown period blood usually occurs near the end of your period when the blood takes longer to leave your uterus and therefore is older. The older the blood, the darker it may be as it has been exposed to oxygen for longer. Oxygen causes blood to change colors.

In this case, brown blood is totally normal! The color and consistency of your period blood can change throughout your period. Brown periods may also be caused by birth control or PCOS.

5 things your period could be telling you

Brown period blood usually occurs near the end of your period when the blood takes longer to leave your uterus and therefore is older.

5. If your cycles are long or irregular…

Long or irregular cycles (longer than 35 days) are generally a sign that you might not be ovulating. After ovulation occurs, the empty follicle from which the egg was released produces progesterone which later will drop in order for your period to arrive.

If you never ovulate then you won’t have any progesterone either, your period won’t come, and your cycle will be longer. The most common cause of consistent anovulation and irregular cycles is PCOS.

The best way to understand whether or not you’re ovulating is to confirm successful ovulation with Proov Confirm, the first and only FDA cleared PdG test kit. PdG is the urine marker of progesterone that only rises after ovulation has occurred. Having enough PdG production for long enough after ovulation is critical to a healthy cycle.

We recommend testing PdG levels on day 7, 8, 9, and 10 past peak fertility (i.e. a positive LH test). While a single positive Proov PdG test confirms ovulation, it is only considered “successful” when we see 3-4 positive PdG tests during the testing window (with a positive result on day 10 past peak).

If you never get a positive Proov PdG test, this could be a sign that you are not ovulating which may cause long or irregular cycles. In this case, we recommend consulting your doctor.

The more you know about your period and you cycle, the sooner you can identify issues that may be impacting your overall health!

(1) Dawood MY. Primary dysmenorrhea: advances in pathogenesis and management. Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Aug;108(2):428-41.

(2) Dickey RP. Managing Contraceptive Pill Patients (15th edition). Emis Inc. 2014.