When Myra first came to see me she listed her number one concern in all caps at the top of her intake form: PERIOD PROBLEMS.
For as long as Myra could remember her periods had been incredibly long and heavy and made it impossible for her to leave her house or engage in anything fun at least one to two days out of every month. Her periods were painful. And like upwards of 20% of women, she was suffering from some severe cramping that was interfering with her daily activities.
The only time she found relief from her period problems is when she was taking the birth control pill, but that came with its own set of problems, including depression and recurrent yeast infections. She was experiencing significant birth control side effects that were also interfering with her life.
Myra was in my office because she didn't want to be dependent on the birth control pill in order to enjoy the kind of easy periods some of her girlfriends had been telling her about. And she also didn't want to have to deal with heavy periods, Midol dependency, or the giant clots that she had been seeing.
As a women’s health expert who helps women balance their hormones, I see cases like Myra in my clinic every day. It’s common, but it’s not normal to have period problems.
I assured Myra that it is possible to balance her hormones, create easier periods, and get back to her normal naturally.
Like many women, Myra had been put on the birth control pill in an attempt to help her get relief from her symptoms. And while it can work very well for suppressing those common period problems, it also masks the underlying cause, which can lead to disease progression and other symptoms arising.
Not to mention, the birth control pill comes with a pretty hefty amount of side effects, which were impacting Myra's life. Myra explained that while on the pill she felt “flat.” “I’m used to feel motivated at work and really enjoyed hanging out with girlfriends, but while on the pill I couldn’t do any of that.”
Myra had thought the solution was to just quit the pill. But even off hormones her mood still didn’t feel right. She found her left with the linger mood symptoms she had with the pill and a wicked period that made her feel hopeless.
Look, period problems are common, but it doesn't have to be the norm for you. In fact, it shouldn't be the normal for any woman. In this article, I'm going to review some of the common period problems women experience and give you some tools to help those period problems disappear.
4 Common Period Problems + What Causes Them
Period Won't Stop
If your period won't stop or seems to just go on for days it may be time for a trip to the doctor. On average periods are about three to five days in length. In my medical clinic, if a woman’s period last more than 7 days we go looking for the root cause.
If your periods are long, or heavy, or you just seem to be losing too much blood then you likely have what is called Menorrhagia. Here are some common reasons for longer periods.
One of the most common causes of a long period that gets missed by doctors is thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism can cause all kinds of period problems for you, and long periods or a period that won't stop is definitely one of them.
This is also a common reason women get put on the pill. I’ve literally had hundreds of women in my office tell me that their doctor’s first recommendation was to start the pill. But as we dig into their story it becomes clear that what they were struggling from all along was a thyroid disorder. Overlooked hypothyroidism is also the reason women come to me for infertility and recurrent miscarriages. So you definitely want to get this checked.
Good news! A simple blood draw and thyroid panel can help you identify if your thyroid is the issue.
Fibroids and uterine growths can cause long periods that are often painful.
Menorrhagia or long periods can also be because of Endometrial Hyperplasia, which is a thickening of the uterine wall. In this condition, your uterus is being stimulated to grow too much of the endometrium, which is what you shed during your period. This is common in estrogen dominance, especially when progesterone is too low.
For Myra, she had elevated estrogen levels and no signs of ovulation. Without ovulation, her progesterone remained low. One of the first things we started with was helping her clear her estrogen with a few diet and lifestyle tweaks, and targeted supplements, which included Balance—a hormone supporting supplement.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia can also be the cause of long or heavy periods. Having your iron tested, especially if you’ve been losing more blood is an important step in evaluating your health.
Maybe for you, you have no idea when your period is going to show up, or maybe those periods are sometimes 30 days, sometimes 45 days, and completely unpredictable.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
For women with irregular periods, one of the first things that we investigate is PCOS. In this metabolic disorder, women develop irregular periods and other hormonal symptoms like hair growth on their chin, chest, and abdomen.
Women with PCOS are at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. It is important to have blood sugar and insulin screening to understand if this is your issue. And because it is a metabolic disorder, if your periods are very irregular you should definitely investigate why before you start a hormonal contraceptive which will only mask symptoms.
You can read more about how to support PCOS naturally here.
You may have heard that periods are just painful or downright awful and that’s what being a woman is all about. The reality is they don't have to be.
I shared this with Myra and I'm sharing it with you too. There are plenty of lifestyle, nutritional and supplement interventions that can help you ease period pain, so that you don’t have to dread that time of the month.
Extremely painful periods, like the kind that have you doubled over in pain, vomiting, or feeling like you can’t get out of bed need to be investigated. Endometriosis a common cause of painful periods that drop women to their knees on a monthly basis.
The first line of treatment in conventional medicine is to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) to treat the pain. That's because it specifically blocks hormone-like chemicals known as Prostaglandins, which cause your uterus to cramp.
Unfortunately, NSAIDs have also been shown to delay ovulation, which can result in lower Progesterone levels, leaving you at the mercy of Estrogen dominance. Which believe me, causes a whole lot more pain and bleeding during your period, not to mention a hefty amount of PMS symptoms. So in my practice, we try to avoid those NSAIDs and instead get some symptom relief using herbs, nutrients like magnesium and topical heat while we work on the root cause.
Fibroids and other uterine growths can also be a reason why periods are incredibly painful. This is something that your doctor can help you investigate to understand if this is your root cause, but I recommend taking a look at some of the tips I'm providing you with today to help you get some relief and get it quick.
So what if your period's gone missing altogether? This is what is known as Amenorrhea in medicine. It is diagnosed when your period has been absent for more than three months. And there can be a few reasons for that.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (aka early menopause)
However, if you're younger than 40, this may be a sign of early menopause and warrants an investigation with your doctor.
Post-Birth Control Amenorrhea
If you've recently discontinued birth control pill, IUD, patch, or any other forms of hormonal contraceptives this may be a sign of post-pill amenorrhea, which is one of the ways post-birth control syndrome can present. If this is true for you then definitely want to get to an expert ASAP and start addressing this.
Within my birth control hormone reset program we help women who've lost their period, are having period problems, or are struggling with their skin as a result of coming off of hormonal contraceptives. If that's true for you then you're going to want to to check out how me and my team can help.
Now if there's even any chance that you could be pregnant then you need to take a pregnancy test. If you’re experiencing abdominal discomfort, pain, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and no period has come around then this could be a sign of ectopic pregnancy. This requires immediate medical attention and can be life threatening.
When in doubt get it checked out!
If you're in your later 40's or early 50's this may be a sign that you're moving into menopause.
Other Causes of Amenorrhea
Other reasons we may have period problems like a period gone missing include adrenal disease, low body weight, high amounts of stress, traumatic brain injury, malabsorption disorders like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, pituitary tumors, and thyroid Disease. So as you can probably tell from that list it's a good idea to check in with your doctor if your period hasn't come around for over three months.
When to Visit a Doctor
Here are a few of the “must seek immediate help now” signs:
- Severe pain.
- Pressure in the pelvis.
- Extremely heavy bleeding going through more than a tampon, pad, or a Diva cup every hour.
- Your period has recently become irregular.
- Your period has been missing for more than 3 months.
If at any point you become concerned definitely contact your doctor.
So what can you do about period problems?
Here's some of what I shared with Myra to help her set a foundation of hormonal health while we investigated her root cause.
Drop Your Stress
I know, I know, we’re talking about stress again. But real talks, it will hijack your hormones and make your miserable. So drop that stress!
For as long as you're stressed your body is going to push cortisol production and dampen your progesterone, which means estrogen dominance is just around the corner.
It also means you're going to sleep less, you're going to feel more stressed out, and you're going to be a whole lot more irritated with the people in your life when your period's coming.
Myra set a goal to walk 10 minutes on her lunch hour daily. Over time, she increased the number of walks daily, started incorporating yoga, and was using her Five Minute Journal every day.
Track Your Cycle
One of the most powerful things you can do right now is to start tracking your cycle and your symptoms so that you and your doctor can understand if there's a pattern or clues your period is giving you. You can download my free audio on how to track your menstrual cycle.
Now if you just started your period and this is only your first or maybe third cycle it may be that your body is taking some time to find its own rhythm. Tracking can help you identify early if problems are starting to arise. After all, no one knows your body better than you.
Leverage Your Labs
If you're experiencing period problems then definitely consider lab testing to understand what the root cause is for you.
Magnesium inhibits prostaglandins, you know those little hormone-like substances that like to make those cramps so bad, yeah that's the stuff I'm talking about. If you're a gal who has headaches that come along with your period, magnesium can also work wonders.
Typically we would recommend in my clinic that women begin with 150-300 mg of magnesium nightly. Then increase to anywhere from 300-600mg the week before their period. Here's the magnesium we use in my clinic.
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and supports healthy liver detox. It's also fantastic for gut health, which is an essential foundational piece in creating hormonal balance. Turmeric can reduce pain driving prostaglandins and supports healthy estrogen levels. Here's the turmeric we use in my clinic.
Blood sugar balance
This is a crucial piece to creating amazing hormones, and if you're a gal who experiences irregular periods this is definitely essential for you. Make sure you're eating regular meals throughout the day.
And don't be skipping meals or eating on the go. Yeah, I know you’re busy, but your body needs this.
Include fat and protein with each of your meals as this will help with your insulin and blood sugar levels so that the rest of your hormones can get back into balance.
Ready to banish those period problems for good, but don't know where to start? You can check out my 5 week hormone programs that give you access to the protocols I use in my clinic at your own pace. If you're looking for more one-on-one support, consider booking a Hormone Strategy call with one of my Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle practitioners.
Discover how to get off birth control, kick your unwanted hormone symptoms, and ditch those period problems for good!
In this 5 week program, you'll receive daily guidance to help guide you and your body back to better hormones. Within this program we support women who are on hormonal birth control, coming off hormones or struggling with the long-term side effects associated with hormonal birth control.
You'll receive the right information at the right time to help your skin clear, moods lift and energy elevated.
I invite you to explore all the benefits that come with blissful hormones that are in balance. Learn more about the Birth Control Hormone Reset.