What Causes Period Cramps
Cramps are caused by prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are naturally occurring chemicals and can be found in tissues throughout the body, including in the uterus.
Prostaglandins play a role in the regulation of body temperature, inflammation, cell growth, and smooth muscle constriction and dilation.
They also trigger the uterine muscles to contract, which helps expel the uterine lining during menstruation. Prostaglandins are also involved in inducing labor contractions and childbirth.
If your levels of prostaglandins are too high, it can trigger uterine contractions that are more intense. When the uterine contractions are especially strong, oxygen is temporarily cut off to parts of the muscle, which can lead to painful period cramps.
Teens can experience worse period cramps because they naturally have higher levels of prostaglandins. As they get older and these levels decrease, the intensity of their cramps can also lessen. Some people also have easier, less painful periods after they give birth.
The medical term for period pain is dysmenorrhea.
Period cramps that are caused by the normal activity of prostaglandins are called primary dysmenorrhea. This type of painful period should not negatively impact your fertility. Period cramps that are caused or worsened by other diseases or abnormalities of the reproductive system are called secondary dysmenorrhea. It’s this type of painful period that can be associated with trouble getting pregnant.
Missed Periods And Pregnancy
If youve had unprotected sex, you may have missed your period because youre pregnant. You may want to rule out pregnancy first by taking a pregnancy test, or you can see if you need to take a test with our .
Keep an eye out for any early pregnancy symptoms, like:
- tender breasts
These symptoms coupled with a missed period could mean you are pregnant
Im Not Pregnant So Why Is My Period Late
So the pregnancy test came out negative, and you still havent got your period, what then? There are many reasons why you may miss or skip a period, or why your periods may stop altogether.
If pregnancy cannot be ruled out after a negative test result, you may be late or have skipped your period due to:
There are many reasons why your period is late or skipped, and most, like stress, are no cause for alarm and your periods can return to normal with a few healthy lifestyle changes.
However, to rule out any causes for concern, if you miss more than one period you may want to see your doctor for medical advice.
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What To Expect At A Doctors Appointment
When you see your doctor about amenorrhea, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you a series of questions. Be prepared to talk about your normal menstrual cycle, your lifestyle, and any other symptoms youre experiencing.
Your doctor will also order a pregnancy test if you havent had a period in three months. If that condition is ruled out, you may need more tests to determine the underlying cause of your missed periods. These diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood tests, which will allow your doctor to check hormone levels in your body. Prolactin, luteinizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone are all related to menstruation. Determining these levels can help your doctor determine or rule out the cause of your absent periods.
- Ultrasound is an imaging test that uses high frequency sound waves to create detailed pictures of the inside of your body. It enables your doctor to view various organs, such as the ovaries and uterus, and check for abnormal growths.
- CT scan is another type of imaging test that uses computers and rotating X-ray machines to create cross-sectional images of the body. These images allow your doctor to look for masses and tumors in your glands and organs.
What Are Some Possible Other Reasons Behind My Irregular Period What Are Some Common Late Period Causes Besides Stress
There are a lot of factors besides stress that can impact your menstrual cycle and cause a delayed or late period, like pregnancy, birth control , menopause, weight loss, and too much exercise. Hormone changes could also be a cause of why your period is late that youâd wanna chat over with your doctor.
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Will I Need Any Tests To Diagnose Amenorrhea
Your healthcare provider may want to do some tests, including:
- Blood tests to check hormone levels and detect thyroid or adrenal gland disorders.
- Genetic testing, if you have primary ovarian insufficiency and are younger than 40.
- MRI, if your provider suspects a problem with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
The Question: Why Is It Harder To Sleep During My Period
It’s one of the great ironies of menstruation that the same thing that makes you so tired during the day can make it tough to sleep at night.
Lest you think you’re alone in your sleepless period nights, the National Sleep Foundation found that 23 percent of women report disrupted sleep in the week before their periods, and a full 30 percent report disrupted sleep during them.
We spoke with New York gynecologist Dr. Karen Duncan about six of the main culprits of period-related sleep loss, and the best ways to address them.
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A Change In Your Schedule
Changing schedules can throw off your body clock. If you frequently change work shifts from days to nights, or if your schedule is generally all over the place, your period can be fairly unpredictable.
A change in your schedule shouldn’t cause you to completely miss your period, but it can cause your period to start earlier or later than expected. Your cycle can also change by a few days if you experience jet lag.
What Should I Do If I Have Missed My Period
Don’t panic! In most cases there is nothing serious going on. The most important thing to do is to do a pregnancy test if there is any chance at all you could be pregnant. If you otherwise feel well in yourself, and you are not pregnant, then the chances are your periods will start up again in due course.
You should consult a doctor if:
- You have not had a period for three months and your periods were previously regular.
- You have not had a period for 6-9 months but your periods have always been infrequent.
- You could be pregnant.
- You wish to become pregnant.
- You have hot flushes or night sweats and are under the age of 45.
- You have lost weight or your BMI is 19 or less.
- You or someone close to you is concerned about your eating or weight.
- You have milk leaking from your breasts and are not breastfeeding.
- You feel unwell in yourself .
- You have not had a period for six months after stopping the contraceptive pill .
- You are worried about your lack of periods.
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Do I Need To Keep Track Of When My Periods Happened
Diagnosing amenorrhea can be challenging. If the cause of amenorrhea isnt obvious, such as pregnancy, your provider may ask you to keep a record of changes in your menstrual cycle. This history of your periods can help your provider figure out a diagnosis.
Using an app or a journal, note:
- How long your periods last.
- When you had your last period.
- Medications you are taking.
- Changes in your diet or exercise routine.
- Emotional challenges youre having, such as stress.
When To Call Your Healthcare Provider
Missing a period every once in a while is usually not cause for concern. That said, you should see a healthcare provider if you miss more than one period, or your missed period is accompanied by new or unusual symptoms.
Seek medical attention right away if you also experience any of the following:
- New or worsening headaches
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Anovulation
Being aware of the general signs of ovulation and keeping track of your menstrual cycles can help alert you to signs and symptoms of anovulation. Its important to remember that having a period doesnt necessarily mean youve ovulated. Signs and symptoms of anovulation can include:
- Having irregular periods: If the length of time in between your periods keeps changing, its considered an irregular period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it can be a couple of days shorter or longer than that.
- Having very heavy or light periods: A heavy period is defined by losing over 16 teaspoons of blood within your period and/or having a period that lasts longer than seven days. Blood loss of fewer than four teaspoons throughout your period is considered a light period.
- Having a lack of periods : Missing one or more periods without being pregnant could be a sign of anovulation.
- Having a lack of cervical mucus: Right before and during ovulation, you usually have the most vaginal discharge called cervical mucus. It usually looks like raw egg whites. If you don’t have this discharge, you may be experiencing anovulation.
- Having an irregular basal body temperature: Your basal body temperature is your temperature when you’re fully at rest. Its usually taken after you wake up and before youve done any type of physical movement or activity. Ovulation can cause a slight increase in your basal body temperature.
Can Depression Make Your Period Late
There are many reasons a woman’s period may be late or her cycle may go off schedule. An obvious one is pregnancy. Others include poor nutrition, excessive exercise, and long-term illness. A less obvious reason for amenorrhea or missing a period, however, is depression.
The link between mental health and reproductive health makes sense when you consider that nature does everything it can to create favorable conditions for reproduction.
If a woman is chronically stressed, anxious, sad, or upset, she’s really not in a physical or emotional position to go through a pregnancy and then take care of and nurture a child. Under these less than ideal conditions, the female reproductive system can shut down.
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Losing Weight From A Normal Weight
Just like weight gain, there is no defined amount of weight loss that results in missed periods when starting from a normal weight. The more weight you lose and the faster you lose it, the more likely your period will be affected.
Sudden and significant calorie restriction paired with strenuous exercise may cause a stress response that alters your hormone levels, interrupts ovulation, and causes you to miss your period. This results in a lower estrogen level in your body, which is especially harmful to your bone health.
Can I Get Pregnant With Anovulation
Lifestyle changes and/or medication can often treat anovulation, which means youll have an opportunity to get pregnant. However, many other factors are involved in successful conception and pregnancy.
If youve been treated for anovulation and are still having a difficult time becoming pregnant, be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider. They may recommend in vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination .
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You Have A Pituitary Problem
Are your nipples leaking a milky white fluid? “It’s rare but I have women come in and tell me they lost their period and have nipple discharge and a headache from time to time,” explains Dr. Dweck. She’ll give her patients a blood test to check prolactin levels, a hormone that yep prompts your body to produce breast milk. If levels are high, you may have a benign pituitary tumor called a prolactinoma. Before you freak out, know this: You’d be referred to an endocrinologist, but it’s totally treatable, most often with medication.
Stress Impacts Your Menstrual Cycle
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls your period. Its sensitive to external factors like exercise, sleep, stressor family drama. When working correctly, your hypothalamus releases chemicals that stimulate the pituitary gland, which then stimulate your ovary to release the period-inducing hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Enter cortisol, which is a hormone your body makes when youre under stress. It can wreak havoc on the hypothalamus/pituitary/ovary interaction and result in irregular periods.
When under stress, your body produces cortisol. Depending on how your body tolerates stress, the cortisol may lead to delayed or light periods or no period at all , says Dr. Kollikonda. If stress continues, you can go without a period for a long time.
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Exercise Or Lack Of Body Fat
You may be an athlete who is neither over- nor underweight . However, its not your weight that really impacts your reproductive cycleits the amount of fat.
Athletes may have a high percentage of muscle and a low percentage of body fat. This can cause their menstrual cycles to be irregular or even stop completely. Excessive exercise can also cause your periods to become irregular or stop.
Why Does Stress Cause Delayed/missed/late Periods
Even if you rarely have to deal with irregular periods, sometimes stress can throw a wrench in the works and mess up your whole menstrual cycle.
Yup, stress can actually cause your period to be late or delayed when your body is so freaked out by keeping you calm and whatâs happening around you, that makes you anxious, that your bodyâs hormones hold off on critical parts of your menstrual cycle, like ovulation. Think about it from a cavewoman perspective. Stress causes your body to go into fight-or-flight mode, and if youâre running from a giant wooly mammoth, letâs say, it makes sense that your body would be like, âOh this would be a not-so-great time to have a baby right nowâ and hit pause on keeping your reproductive systems ready-to-go. While yes, this does introduce a whole new set of stress, your body probably thinks that Cavewoman-you would likely not have time to ask, âOh crap, why is my period late?â in this scenario.
Ideally you are not so anxious that your body interprets your stress level as running-from-wooly-mammoth-high, but you get it.
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When To See A Doctor
Girls should see a doctor within a few weeks if
They have no signs of puberty by age 13.
Periods have not started by age 15 in girls who are growing normally and have developed secondary sexual characteristics.
Such girls may have primary amenorrhea.
If girls or women of childbearing age have had menstrual periods that have stopped, they should see a doctor if they have
Missed 3 menstrual periods
Fewer than 9 periods a year
A sudden change in the pattern of periods
Such women may have secondary amenorrhea. Doctors always do a pregnancy test when they evaluate women for secondary amenorrhea. Women may wish to do a home pregnancy test before they see the doctor.