We all know that periods can come with some pretty awful side effects like pain and a lack of energy, but have you ever noticed a few other strange period symptoms going on around that time of the month? I was recently reviewing some toothpaste for my other blog and I arrived just before my period was due. Just before my period, I usually get increased gum sensitivity, which made me a bit nervous to try a new toothpaste. That got me thinking of all of the other random/ strange symptoms I get before my period and I decided to ask you guys too! About two weeks ago, I posted a tweet asking for your own symptoms and in this post, I’m going to be sharing them, along with my own.
If they’re really strange, I’m going to attempt to find out if there’s a medical explanation. I feel like ‘just hormones’ is going to be the most popular result, but we’ll see.
Strange Period Symptoms
Sore/ Bleeding/ Irritated Gums
I’m starting with one that I suffer with myself, but I know a few of you have also experienced this. The first time I saw a little bit of blood while brushing, I was sure that I had gum disease; a dental check up and some googling later, I found out that it was something else I could blame my period for. Did you know women are more likely to get gum disease than men because of the hormonal changes we go through? I did not. When I was looking into this, I found this quote and it made me laugh.
“There are five situations in a women’s life during which hormone fluctuations make them more susceptible to oral health problems – during puberty, at certain points in the monthly menstrual cycle, when using birth control pills, during pregnancy, and at menopause.”
So, to clarify, pretty much our whole lives then? The rapid change of hormone levels during pregnancy causes the most problems. As a result, pregnant women in the UK are entitled to free dental care.
This one is also one of mine. I suffer from a serious deuteriation of vision during the first 3-4 days of my cycle. I always brushed it off as me being more run down/ weak/ tired etc. Apparently, estrogen is the problem.
“During the first week of menstruation the typical elevated estrogen level can cause blurred vision, trouble focusing, and watery eyes.”
My eyes also get more watery and struggle to focus, but I’d put that down to tiredness too.
Apparently, eye problems are also a potential issue during pregnancy and the early stages of menopause, but how the hormone changes impact vision depends on the particular life stage.
This one cropped up a few times in my replies and I almost didn’t include it because I feel like most women have experienced this one at least once. Even if not ‘pain’, I think we’ve all been ‘a bit achy’ when on our periods. Although it’s a common one, it did make me wonder why it happens. Sure, a stomach ache is predictable. But why *everywhere* else?
One article I saw when researching this post suggested that it’s because women aren’t equipped to handle pain. I’m going to leave you to process that for a minute…
Another suggestion blamed our old friend estrogen. The decrease in estrogen just before we start our periods could be making us more sensitive to pain. One doctor who specialises in pain management claimed women with conditions such as lupus and fibromyalgia report an increase in joint pain just before or during their periods. He also suggested that the increase in estrogen during pregnancy is to help a woman’s body prepare for birth. He didn’t offer any studies to back that up, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Panic Attacks/ Depression/ Anxiety
It makes me very sad to say that this was by far the most common answer I got. Some people offered more insight into the specifics they experienced from the general feeling dark for a few days to a heartbreaking DM from someone who feels suicidal for a few days a month.
Hormones are of course the answer to this one, antidepressants and anxiety meds are often hormone balancing drugs. Why periods in particular cause these issues is because the changes in estrogen and progesterone levels also influence serotonin levels.
The drop in serotonin is suspected (the lack of research in both female and mental health is astonishing so don’t expect a concrete answer to this) to be what causes a lot of the symptoms of PMS. Things like insomnia, irritability, impulsive behaviour and more. For the average person, this results in a rubbish few days, but for others, it can result in more serious issues like the ones spoken about above.
I’m not getting into this one as anxiety is discussed above, but someone said health anxiety specifically and I found that interesting. I wanted to quickly mention it here as an example of how broader symptoms like the ones spoken about above can manifest in different ways for different people.
This one really caught my attention; it came from a dancer, so balance issues have a more significant impact than being a bit wobbly for a few days. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much information about this one. Googling ‘why do I get bad balance on my period’ or ‘balance issues on my period’ came up with lots of suggestions about balancing your hormones if you’re having irregular periods or explanations of how hormones balance themselves during your cycle – but results for actual balance issues weren’t so fruitful.
I found one article about dizziness on your period which I thought could be useful. Erm…I was wrong. It blamed blood loss, heavy periods and lower iron levels, but that doesn’t give any insight on why you’d experience balance issues during PMS/ at the very start of your cycle.
It shocked me that there wasn’t more out there for this one as I think this is quite common? Maybe not to the extreme of this situation, but I’ve definitely struggled with special awareness issues and dizziness around mine.
I didn’t know what this was. It sounds horrific to have to deal with. Hemiplegic means on one side of the body, and because migraine symptoms include things like weakness of the body, numbness in the face, temporary paralysis etc, this kind of migraine can feel like the symptoms of a stroke.
And when I googled ‘Hemiplegic Migraine on period’ the first thing that came up was this article. Once again estrogen is thought to be the problem; once again, there’s no research to confirm this. The article is from The Migraine Trust, and it includes this sentence:
“There are no tests available to confirm the diagnosis, so the only accurate way to tell if you have menstrual migraine is to keep a diary for at least three months recording both your migraine attacks and the days you menstruate.”
…I’m so shocked right now.
At this point, I feel like I could say many things about the lack of research, but that feels like a post in its own right. But before I sign off, I’d like to remind everyone that these issues were presented by real people (possibly some of you). While some are far more serious than others, they’re all disruptive to daily life. And it’s never okay to dismiss someone’s health complaints as ‘just a period’.
As I mentioned above, the research in this area is incredibly lacking. And a lot of theories are just that, theories without evidence. I did find one post on the NHS website that links inflammation with most of the above issues, which you can check out here.
Thank you once again to everyone who suggested things for me to mention in this post. Have you experienced any of these strange period symptoms before or do you have another to add to the list? Were any of them a surprise?
Until next time,