What your period is telling you about your health.

What your period is telling you about your health.

Let’s talk about our bloody periods.

When we talk about our periods, we tend to focus on the cramps, the angst, irritation and bloat we feel during PMS, how it’s such a burden—or that it’s just plain gross. As women, we are all probably guilty of complaining, fussing over—and even resenting—our periods for the longest time.

So much is focused on the negative aspects of our monthly bleeding that we hardly pay attention to what is actually happening in our bodies every month. In fact, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, as a woman, your period (i.e. menstrual cycle) is considered a vital body sign, alongside things like blood pressure, pulse, temperature. [1]

A normal period lasts on average 5 days, or 3 to 8 days. [2] Like other vital health signs such as your temperature and blood pressure, falling outside the ‘normal range’ will warrant a closer check and diagnosis from a doctor.

So the point is, our menstrual cycles can tell us a lot about what’s going on in our bodies and our health. In her new book In the Flo, author Alisa Vitti breaks it down into five period types that she calls V-Sign Types (V for Vital Signs!).

Why we bleed

Track your monthly bleed!

When an egg is not fertilised, your hormone levels drop, signalling to your body that there is no pregnancy. Your uterus starts shedding its endometrial lining and comes out, hence the bleeding. Our energy levels are at its lowest here and we may feel like we want to rest more or feel more withdrawn than usual.

If our monthly bleed is abnormal, it could mean that something is wrong with our endocrine system. Comprising a network of glands that secrete hormones to regulate our body functions, our endocrine system regulates our mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism as well as sexual function and reproductive processes. [3]

If this system doesn’t function well, it could give rise to more serious problems like diabetes, osteoporosis and thyroid disorders (where the body produces too much or too little of the hormone thyroxine). Women are five times more susceptible to thyroid disorders than men. [4]

Your Period V-Sign Type

Red V-Sign Type

If your monthly bleed is cranberry or cherry red and the blood is clot-free, it’s a good sign that your hormones are balanced and your body’s healthy. All’s good!

Purple V-Sign Type

Your monthly bleed is a deep purplish-blue colour with clots and clumps. This is a sign that your estrogen levels are too high in proportion to progesterone, which causes the uterine lining to be thicker than usual. This results in heavier periods and also more severe PMS symptoms, i.e. bigger mood swings and cramps.

Excess estrogen can be dangerous as it can lead to period problems like fibroids (benign tumors in the uterine), cysts or endometriosis (a painful condition where the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus). When left unchecked it could give rise to more serious problems like breast or ovarian cancers and thyroid disorders.

Brown V-Sign Type

If your bleed is an oxidised brown, it may be due to low progesterone levels. Without enough progesterone, the uterine lining doesn’t shed completely. This increases chances of irregular menstrual cycles. Over time, your uterine lining may build up abnormally, leading to a condition called endometrial hyperplasia, which may lead to uterine cancer. If this is you, you may experience anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance or headaches.

Pink V-Sign Type

If your blood is pale pink at the start and end of your period, it may be a sign that your estrogen levels are too low. Shorter periods are a common side effect of low estrogen levels. In sufficient estrogen can fast track your ageing and is also associated with osteoporosis and heart issues later in life. Low estrogen levels is also associated with perimenonpause, loss of skin elasticity, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, hair thinning, anxiety and difficulty conceiving.

Missing V-Sign Type

If you’re the sort who always misses her period or have very irregular periods, these are signs that your hormones are not healthy. If your period goes MIA for months, it’s a major red flag that there’s something wrong.

An MIA period can be a sign of medical conditions such as PCOS and amenorrhea, and you should schedule in a check-up with your gynaecologist.

In a perfect world, your menstrual cycle should always be consistent, not fluctuate and your bleed color should be a deep red cranberry juice that lasts for five days.

Here’s what a normal period looks like:

Cycle length: 28 to 32 days. It should be regular and consistent for you, i.e. if your cycle is 29 days, it should always be at the 29-day mark.

Color: A deep red cranberry juice or dark cherry juice.

Flow length: 4 to 7 days

Flow consistency: A strong flow with no clots. It should not be inconveniently heavy, i.e. bleeding through 5 to 6 sanitary pads a day.

Physical sensations: You shouldn’t be feeling any kind of pain that would have you reaching for medication.

Unfortunately, we’re not living in a perfect world; we’re living in a busy one where we often take our bodies for granted without giving it the nourishment it needs.  Cramps, missed periods and PMSes are really our body’s way of telling us it’s unwell—it’s up to us whether we want to listen to our bodies and make changes.

References

[1] Kwak, Y., Kim, Y., & Baek, K. A. (2019). Prevalence of irregular menstruation according to socioeconomic status: A population-based nationwide cross-sectional study. PloS one14(3), e0214071. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214071

[2] NHS. (2020). Periods. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/

[3] Singhealth. (2020). Endocrinology. https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/specialties-services/endocrinology

[4] Singhealth (2020). Hyperthyroidism. https://www.singhealth.com.sg/patient-care/conditions-treatments/hyperthyroidism

Jolene

View all posts by Jolene

Jolene lives for avo toasts, yoga and is a little more OCD than she cares to admit. She never fails to start her day with her morning coffee and is very partial to flat whites. She also has gone a little too far down the rabbit hole with interior design and dabbles in styling her own home at @februarynest.

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