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19 Signs Your Period Might Not Be 'Normal'

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

One of the most common things you’ll hear from women with irregular, painful periods is that they thought, or were told, that their symptoms were “normal.” “It’s normal to have painful cramps,” a doctor may have said. “Every woman gets ’emotional’ around her period,” older relatives might have pronounced. And while it’s true that periods can cause some pain and discomfort, some symptoms are far from “normal” — rather, they indicate the presence of a serious medical condition, like endometriosis, adenomyosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids or another reproductive illness.

When women are continually told their period pain is “normal,” that can cause doctors to dismiss women’s symptoms and make women think they just need to “deal with it,” preventing them from getting the diagnosis and treatment they need and forcing them to live with painful symptoms. So we asked our Mighty community to share signs they experienced that indicated their period wasn’t “normal.” While you shouldn’t use their stories to diagnose yourself, if any of these symptoms do sound familiar to you, it could be worth bringing up with your doctor and starting the conversation.

  1. “Having to use a super plus tampon with a hospital pad and going through the tampon and pad in two hours. I had to have a hysterectomy at 30 because of 11 uterine tumors that were the size of grapefruits and oranges.” — Misty F.
  2. “I always thought it was completely normal to be incapacitated with cramps and heavy bleeding for a couple of days and have that be my entire period. I also thought it was a normal thing to skip periods and not be pregnant. Finally, I was diagnosed with PCOS which gave a name to the issue but no solution. Until we’re willing to have honest conversations about our cycles there will always be women who delay treatment thinking their period is ‘normal’ and possibly end up damaging their health further.” — Samantha S.
  3. “The amount of pain experienced. The frequency (multiple times a month). All the other, at the time I thought random, symptoms that came every time I had it. Endometriosis is debilitating. I missed so many days of school and always left early and no one understand why.” — Laura M.
  4. I started my periods when I was 9. I knew my periods weren’t normal because I was having periods that would hurt so badly I would cry and double over in pain. I would have periods lasting 14 to 18 when my friends periods were two to five days. When I got periods, I would cry, get fevers, vomit, dizzy, and headaches. I got my first ovarian cyst at 11. I was eventually diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. Sad thing is my doctors would say these were normal, stop being so dramatic.” — Jolie H.
  5. “Going through tons of the overnight super pads in a day. Also nonstop bleeding and dizziness was ‘normal’ for quite some time.” — Nicole E.
  6. “I was doubled over in severe pain for 10 or more days. The horrible back pain. Bowel movements that felt like I was pooping out shards of glass. Severe stabbing pain if I stood up too fast (ended up being cysts that were rupturing.) Nausea/vomiting when the pain was severe enough. Dramatic bloating. Migraines. Fevers. Diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 20 over 12 years ago.” — Kim M.
  7. “When I was vomiting and passing out when using the toilet due to the pain. The pain then started to last all month not just around my period and I can’t stand straight without pain in my abdomen. I have endometriosis which was blamed as irritable bowel syndrome for years.” — Kelly L.
  8. “In my late teens I woke up one night having such bad cramps I was crying and couldn’t tolerate anything touching my skin. It felt like my whole body was cramping, even my head. For my entire life my periods have been full body horror, and made it hard to function. Of course I just thought everyone experienced that and those who didn’t were just lucky. Decades later I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, I finally went to my doc and said, ‘I’m having extreme physical and emotional PMS three weeks out of every month’ and she was like, ‘Oh, you have premenstrual dysphoric disorder‘ and just like that we figured it out.” — Jen B.
  9. “I was told there would be cramps. Mine made me feel faint and I was always doubled over. I always thought the pain was normal. I just didn’t know any better. One time I had to sit in the bathtub for hours from bleeding so much. I wasn’t diagnosed with cysts until my 30s. I wasn’t diagnosed with endometriosis until I was 41.” — Ramona R.
  10. “I would go months without a period, and when it did come I would go through tampons like crazy. My family doc said nothing was wrong and threw me on birth control. I was diagnosed with PCOS after my ovary twisted due to oversized cysts.” — Nikki L.
  11. “Heavy periods, severe pain, huge blood clots, nausea, migraines, and general poor health. I had a plum sized tumor on my uterus, cysts and nodules on my ovaries. My family had a bad history with fibroids and cysts. The bad stuff was removed last year and I have my life back, I have to keep an eye on it but it was good to know I wasn’t ‘crazy’ after all these years.” — Jade M.
  12. “Always needing to go to the nurse in school and lay down during my period, being unable to even walk to her office without help or holding onto a wall railing or something, sometimes taking breaks on the way. Found out when I was 21 I have PCOS and endometriosis.” — Courtney H.
  13. “I just never had a regular one and only really got it a handful of times a year. Never thought anything of it and spent most of my young adult life on the pill. Went to have an ultrasound to investigate back pain and turns out I have PCOS!” — Georgie R.
  14. “I would have different levels of flow. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light. It would be short, sometimes two or three days, or long, sometimes up to nine or 10 days. It was so unpredictable. I eventually wound up with severe cramps. I ended up having endometriosis and a heart-shaped uterus. The cramps have never gone away.” — Cassie D.
  15. “Bleeding every 10 days, and clots as large as a toddler’s head. Also, really terrible cramping to the point of being doubled over crying. Turns out, I had endometriosis and a hormone level problem.” — April R.
  16. “Having to crawl across the floor to the bathroom when I got my period and lying on the bathroom floor all night because the pain was so bad. I was told that everyone had cramps and I had to ‘get over it.’ I had endo…” — Kathy Z.
  17. “Unmanageable life-stopping pain and fatigue, the need to always have back-up clothes with me, bleeding for two to three weeks every cycle. There is so much more to say, but those are the very basics (adenomyosis and endometriosis).” — Angela W.
  18. “The amount of pain. I’d be bedridden for two days with a heating pad on at all times, so much so that I’d get burns on my stomach.” – Sierra T.
  19. “I remember starting my periods when I was 12 and being so excited and scared at the same time. My periods soon became incredibly heavy to the point where I would flood constantly. I had to carry spare knickers in my school bag. One time, during a science lesson where we had to sit on wooden stools, I flooded and it stained the seat. I remember spending a two-week holiday in Florida when I was 14, spaced out on strong painkillers and curled up in bed with the pain. I’m not sure I ever had a ‘normal’ period and I was diagnosed with endometriosis at 21.” — Shireen H.
Originally published: February 22, 2018
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