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What your period can tell you about your body

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Subtle clues that your cycle is trying to give you

Your period is more than a monthly nuisance. Pay close attention to your monthly symptoms to gain a better understanding of your health.

We spoke with the doctors at Walnut Hill Obstetrics and Gynecology in Dallas, Texas, to learn what your period is really saying about your health each month. Listen up.

1. Your period is lagging behind

The doctors at Walnut Hill said that a couple things could be going on if your period is slower and slower to arrive each month—or doesn't show up at all. "For a few years pre-menopause, menstrual cycles may become longer and symptoms may change," they said. That's right, if your normal 28-day cycle slows to a 32- or 33-day rate, menopause might be just around the corner. You might also want to grab a pregnancy test if your period suddenly goes missing.

2. Your period is too enthusiastic

Of course, a Speedy Gonzales period isn't a great thing, either. "If your period is on a cycle that's less than 21 days, that could signal that something is abnormal," reported Walnut Hill. Go to your doctor if your period shows up too rapidly each month, as a rapid period might mean a thyroid, pituitary or bleeding disorder problem.

3. Your period is more than you can handle

"Each woman's menstrual period is going to be as different as they are, so if something feels off to you, it may very well be," said Walnut Hill. One of the things for women to keep an eye on is the level of their menstrual flow. The doctors at Walnut Hill said you may have a problem if you bleed through a pad or tampon in 2-3 hours. Heavy bleeding might mean uterine fibroids or endometriosis.

4. Your period is accompanied by tummy troubles

Bloating, diarrhea and even nausea are normal symptoms of a woman's menstrual cycle. But if you don't usually deal with monthly tummy troubles, pay close attention if you feel queasy or nauseous. "Toxic shock syndrome may occur during menstruation," our experts said, "and it's usually characterized by high fever, nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea." Toxic shock syndrome can be life-threatening, so seek medical attention immediately if you experience intense and unusual tummy symptoms.

5. Your period makes your head spin

Feeling dizzy? Surprisingly, period blood loss can trigger the onset of anemia, which can make it difficult for red blood cells to effectively deliver oxygen to your brain and lungs. The Walnut Hill docs said that you're especially at risk for anemia if you bleed heavily or pass blood clots. See your gynecologist first, but you may want to consider adding an iron supplement each month to address fatigue and dizziness.

6. Your period makes you double over

There's nothing quite like the special hell of period cramps, but unusually intense cramping can signal something is wrong. Severe cramping around the onset of your period could mean a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or a pelvic infection. "You know your period better than anyone else," the doctors said. "If you're concerned about your symptoms, including intense cramping, talk to your doctor."

7. Your period is confusing

"A woman's period can tell her a lot about her fertility, which can come in handy when planning for pregnancy," said Walnut Hill. Also, it's helpful when not planning on pregnancy. If your period is confusing and all over the map, you're missing out on helpful clues to your fertility. Talk to a doctor about your questions and concerns so you can approach your childbearing years wisely.

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