I’m a women’s health doctor- here are the period symptoms you should never ignore

Each month, millions of women push through their periods, dealing with symptoms that range from annoying to downright debilitating. 

Many women recognize the hallmark cramps, weird cravings and irritability that comes accompanies their time of the month, but there are three period symptoms women should pay closer attention to, according to Dr Raj Arora, a UK-based general practitioner who specializes in women’s health. 

She warned on TikTok that if you’re suffering from sharp back pain, dizziness or pain that makes it difficult to function, you ‘must go speak to your doctor.’

These three symptoms are ‘not normal and you should never ignore’ them because they could be signs of underlying conditions, including some linked to depression and infertility, she explained. 

Dr Raj Arora specializes in women’s health issues and has been open about her own endometriosis diagnosis

Extreme pain that makes it difficult to move could be a sign that you're dealing with an underlying condition like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Extreme pain that makes it difficult to move could be a sign that you’re dealing with an underlying condition like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Each month, if the egg a woman releases from her ovary isn’t fertilized by sperm to develop into a fetus, the body naturally sheds the lining of the uterus, resulting in a woman’s period. 

Some unpleasant symptoms are normal during a period – including bloating, cramps, breast tenderness and irritability. But there’s a limit to the amount of suffering that’s normal. 

Sometimes, Dr Arora said, the symptoms you have each month are a sign of something more serious.

‘I often tell my patients that periods are a normal part of life and that they should be generally pain free and manageable,’ she explained on her TikTok. 

But she issued caution over three.  

First, sharp back pain during your time of the month could be a sign you have a condition called endometriosis, Dr Arora, who deals with the condition herself, said.

Endometriosis affects roughly 11 percent of American women – about 6.5million people, according to the US Office on Women’s Health (OASH)

It’s a condition where the tissue that normally grows on the inside of the uterus begins growing outside of it – on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or other internal organs. 

The tissue inside your uterus is shed each month with your menstrual cycle, but the extra tissue on misplaced parts of your body has nowhere to go when responding to monthly hormonal changes, leading to a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. 

This can include painful sex, bloating, nausea, fatigue, depression and infertility. Between 30 and 50 percent of people diagnosed with the condition may experience infertility, according to Massachusetts General Hospital.  

Experts don’t know what causes endometriosis, but it’s likely an interplay of your genes, hormones and immune system, or could have to do with trauma from surgery, according to OASH. 

Because it’s so poorly understood, it takes an average of eight years after developing symptoms for someone to be diagnosed with endometriosis.

Next, there’s the concern about lightheadedness during your period. 

Dr Arora said if you pass out or feel dizzy or lightheaded on your period, it could be a sign you’re bleeding much more than your body can handle. 

This could be a sign of an underlying condition – like a hormone imbalance, uterine fibroids or uterine polyps – and may require treatment, Dr Arora said. 

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow within the uterus. It is not known what causes them, but prolonged exposure to estrogen may increase the risk of fibroids. They can be removed or be treated with medication. 

Uterine polyps, also called endometrial polyps, are growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus that form from an overgrowth of cells. They can also be treated with removal or medication.

Finally, Dr Arora warned  if your period cramps are so painful you struggle to leave bed during your cycle, you should see a doctor. 

This could be a symptom of a host of reproductive conditions that might affect your fertility or quality of life – including uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, adenomyosis, or cervical stenosis, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

None of these conditions are life threatening, but if you see a doctor and discover that you have any, you might be a good candidate for treatment that dissolves your painful periods. 

For example, if a doctor discovered you had uterine fibroids they may be able to alleviate your symptoms by treating the area with surgery, medication or targeted ultrasound radiation, according to Mayo Clinic. 

Other conditions, like PCOS, are sometimes treated by taking hormonal birth control. 

No matter what the cause may be, if you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, Dr Arora urged making a trip to the doctor. 

‘You shouldn’t have to just put up with it,’ she said. 

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