People who don’t get periods probably think it’s a pretty standard experience. You bleed for about five days every month, and you might have abdominal cramps and crave chocolate. (Goodness, it is so hard not to laugh at that. OK, ok, y’all can laugh a little.)
Most of us who get periods know the drill. Periods typically last for two to seven days on an average 28-day cycle, and anything that diverts from that is considered abnormal or irregular bleeding and should probably get checked out by a doctor because other health conditions might be messing with your body.
But there are some period symptoms you might not realize you should look out for because they could have some serious implications for your body. These are just five unexpected period symptoms you should never ignore.
It’s Painful To Go To The Bathroom
The period poops are a pretty infamous part of menstruation, but they shouldn’t be painful. If you’re in serious pain while pooping on your period, that could be a sign of bowel endometriosis, which Medical News Today says is “when tissues similar to endometrial tissue grow on the bowel or intestine.”
Endometrial tissue usually grows inside the uterus in preparation for ovulation and fertilization, says Medical News Today, but when it grows abnormally outside the uterus, it still thickens and grows in response to hormones. In addition to pain while going to the bathroom, Medical News Today says symptoms of bowel endometriosis include deep pelvic pain, pelvic pain during sex, constipation, diarrhea, and sometimes rectal bleeding.
You Have A Fever Or Feel Dizzy
It’s normal to feel a certain level of discomfort with your period, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re sick with the flu or a cold. If you’re running a fever, having the chills, and have lower abdominal pain, that could be the sign of an infection like pelvic inflammatory disease. According to Mayo Clinic, pelvic inflammatory disease is a sexually transmitted infection that doesn’t usually show any symptoms until you need treatment. So if you spike a fever of 101 degrees F (38.3 C) while on your period, find a bad-smelling discharge in your underwear, have severe abdominal pain, and are nauseated or are vomiting, Mayo Clinic recommends seeing your doctor as soon as possible.
You’re In Severe Pain From Top To Bottom
If you’re having abnormal bleeding and pain from your pelvis all the way up to your shoulders, you should get medical attention right away, according to Bustle. "These could be signs of an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg attaches and grows somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube)," data scientists for Clue told Bustle. "Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening and should be treated as medical emergencies."
Fertilized eggs can’t develop outside the uterus, and ectopic pregnancies can cause life-threatening complications, according to Mayo Clinic. Depending on how soon the ectopic pregnancy is discovered, Mayo Clinic says it can be removed through medication, laparoscopic surgery, or abdominal surgery.
You’re Bleeding Through Pads Or Tampons
It’s totally OK to need the heaviest-flow option when it comes to your period products, but Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D., a board-certified physician, told Redbook that needing both a pad and tampon to manage your menstrual flow or having to change your period product during the night are “red flags.”
"[A heavy period] can be a sign of fibroids (benign tumors in the uterus), hormonal imbalance (typically an abundance of estrogen and not enough progesterone), stress (which reduces progesterone), [or] thyroid dysfunction (typically hypothyroidism). If you've always had very heavy bleeding, it could be a sign of a clotting disorder,” Dr. Abrams told Redbook.
Dr. Sherry Ross, women's health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. told Redbook that if your period lasts longer than seven days and you’re changing your menstrual product more than every two hours, your flow is heavier than average. That’s probably a sign you should have a chat with your doctor.
You’re Spotting. Like All The Time.
Occasional spotting — which is seeing “a few spots of reddish-brown blood at unexpected times of the cycle,” Dr. Ross told Redbook — is fairly normal, but Dr. Ross said if spotting continues for two to three months, you should talk to your doctor to find out what else might be going on. There could be a lot of different things causing ongoing spotting, Dr. Ross said, like weight changes, stress, or even thyroid disorders, so it’s best to talk to your doctor instead of turning to Dr. Google.
You know your body best, so the key here is if you notice any changes to your period that just don’t seem right, talk to your doctor. At the end of the day, you’re the best advocate for your own health.
Image via Broadly.