What are the signs that something is not right with your menstruation?

  • Menstruation is a natural process that can be hard, even under normal circumstances
  • It's, however, important to know the difference between a normal and abnormal menstruation cycle
  • From irregular periods to pain to heavy flow – here are a few indications that you need medical attention

Once a month, women of childbearing age are blessed with a bloody vaginal discharge called menstruation. 

Our families cower in fear while hormones battle it out with our sanity, and we replace our nice lingerie with the oldest, most resilient panties in our underwear drawer.  

Generally, this is all considered a pretty normal state of affairs – but how do we know when it's not?

According to a study, 14% of women of childbearing age suffer from irregular, painful or heavy bleeding during their periods. There are various conditions that can make this monthly torture even worse than it should be – many of which can be managed with contraceptives, painkillers and other medications.

Sometimes, however, you do need to see a doctor.  

READ | Causes of menopause 

Keep a menstrual diary

If you're wondering if there's something wrong with your cycle, start keeping a diary of when your period starts, how long it lasts and the symptoms you're experiencing during your period. 

You can easily do this with the help of various health apps on your phone that will for example alert you when your period should be starting. 

When pain medication doesn't work

Pain can be normal with menstruation, especially in teenagers, but if your usual over-the-counter painkillers stop working and the pain stops you from participating in life, it might be a sign that something is wrong. 

READ MORE | 'Period flu' might be why you feel so crappy right before your period 

Irregular period

This can differ from person to person, but generally, when the time from the first day of your last period to the start of your next period is less than 21 days or more than 35 days, you should get it checked out, according to the UK's National Health Service.

The same applies if the difference in cycles from month to month exceeds 20 days.

Bear in mind, however, that in teenagers and women transitioning to menopause, irregular periods are normal.

Heavy periods

There might be something wrong if your period lasts longer than seven days, the flow is so heavy that it goes through a pad or tampon in less than two hours, or you pass menstrual clots bigger than 2.5cm in diameter. 

Signs of anaemia

If during or after your period you experience the following symptoms, you might be suffering from a lack of iron:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing

READ | 4 things your period could be trying to tell you right now

Bleeding outside your menstruation cycle

Don't just chalk up bleeding outside your normal menstruation time to irregular periods, especially if it happens after sex or if it takes the form of spotting.


Whether or not you're prone to migraines, if you start getting severe headaches every time you're having your period, head to the doctor. Hormone levels may trigger migraines in women, and if you're experiencing this while on contraceptives, you might be at risk of heart disease, according to a study.

Even if you already know you're prone to menstruation migraines, see your doctor if there are any changes in the headaches, your usual medication isn't working, or if it feels worse when you lie down.

Missed period

Missing one period is no cause for concern, but if you've missed three in a row after checking for pregnancy, you definitely need to have it checked out.

Most of all, it's important to listen to your body, understand your menstrual cycle and always check for pregnancy if things suddenly start going weird.

READ MORE | Treat PMS the natural way

Image credit: iStock

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