Period Know-How: 5 Menstrual Complications All Women Should Know About - Homegrown

Period Know-How: 5 Menstrual Complications All Women Should Know About

All the people who menstruate know that Aunt Flow can be as barmy as it gets. It is imperative to understand the teeniest of changes in menses as they may be telling you about an underlying condition or complication.

Here’s a quick list of some of the more common medical conditions associated with menstruation to help you understand your body better. It’s important to remember that we all function differently and our period patterns can be different. However, if you have been sensing irregularities and do suspect your symptoms to be closely identifying with any of the symptoms listed below, do consult your gynaecologist as soon as possible. You can find a crowdsourced list of non-judgmental gynaecologists in India here.

I. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition that mainly results in irregular periods and elevated levels of androgens (male hormones). The elevated levels of androgens cause excessive facial hair growth, acne, male-pattern scalp thinning of hair. While it has been difficult to pin-pointedly highlight a particular cause, it has often been attributed to abnormal levels of hormones in the body, most prominently, insulin. Polycystic ovaries wherein the ovaries become enlarged and get filled with fluid sacs (follicles) surrounding the eggs, is also one of the major symptoms. Don’t go by the name, however. Having polycystic ovaries is not the same as having PCOS. Similarly, each of the symptoms mentioned above should not be read in isolation. PCOS is usually easily identifiable through an ultrasound.

While the disease in itself can’t be treated, the symptoms are easily curable.

Further details can be found here.

II. Dysmenorrhea

In simple terms, it is menstrual pain/cramps, the most common type of menstrual disorder. There are two types of dysmenorrhea identified—

Type A - This is the primary type of dysmenorrhea. One can experience recurrent pain that might not be caused by any disorder/disease. The pain begins one or two days before the menstrual cycle, whereas, during the bleeding, the pain is mostly felt in lower back, abdomen, and thighs. Type A the most common menstrual cramps are caused by uterine contractions (tightening of the uterus) due to prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) that are produced by the uterine lining cells and circulate in the bloodstream. The higher the levels of prostaglandins, the more the pain.

Type B - Secondary dysmenorrhea can be named the more evil cousin of Type A. A disorder of the reproductive organs, the pain begins earlier and also lasts longer than the regular pain. It usually happens later in life and unfortunately, gets worse with time.

According to a health website, type B can occur due to many reasons like

a. Cervical stenosis - Narrowing of the opening to the uterus

b. Fibroids - Growths on the inner wall of the uterus

c. Adenomyosis – A condition where the lining of the uterus grows into the muscle of the uterus

d. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - An infection of the female reproductive organs, usually is contracted through sexual contact

e. Endometriosis - A disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside the uterus starts growing outside of it.

More information about the condition can be found here.

Graphic menstrual cycle
Credit: Medcomic

III. Amenorrhea

Spoken simply, it is the absence of regular periods.

Type A - Primary amenorrhea is the absence of the first period for young women by the age of 16. It could be possibly due to failure of ovaries in holding eggs, problems with hormones secreted by the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland, poorly formed reproductive organs. In most cases, the cause is not identifiable.

Type B - Secondary amenorrhea is when a woman who has had normal menstrual cycles stops getting her monthly period, for 90 days or more. It could be due to natural reasons, such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause or due to birth control pills, certain medications, stress, malnourishment, excessive exercise, hormonal imbalance etc.

Read more about it here.

IV. Endometriosis

The tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the interiors of the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. This endometrium-like tissue acts like the endometrial tissue and it breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. But because this tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. Found in the ovaries are cysts called ‘endometrioma’ that produce inflammation and disruption in the ovaries. Endometriosis can cause menstrual pain which is far worse than usual.

More information can be found here.

V. Oligomenorrhea

It means having infrequent menstrual periods. Some variation in menstruation is normal but going more than 35 days without menstruating or having less than nine menstrual periods in an entire year can ring bells for oligomenorrhea.

Symptoms range from a change in the bleeding pattern, lighter flow, cramps, bloating, change in colour of blood, and clots or mucus on underwear, tampons or pads.

It isn’t serious on its own as menstrual periods can be adjusted with a change in hormonal birth control use and lifestyle, but sometimes it is due to some other underlying problem such as an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, which needs to be treated or control engagement in sports activity or heavy workout. It can also be due to underlying health conditions like thyroid, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, pelvic inflammatory disease etc. Read more about it here.

For the rest, remember to drink lots of water, avoid caffeine, use heating pads to soothe cramps, try lighter exercises to cut down on cramps, sleep well and take medication under doctor’s advice during your periods.

If you enjoyed reading this article, we suggest you read:

The Red Spot Campaign: Delhi NGO Celebrated Happy Period Day to De-Stigmatise Menstruation

The Pain Of Living With Menstrual Disorders – 8 Indian Women Share Their Stories

Indian Artists Battling The Menstruation Stigma Through Their Powerful Work


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