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8 Common Period Symptoms — And How to Get Relief

04.15.2023 / Hannah Berman
8 Common Period Symptoms — And How to Get Relief

Hormone changes during your luteal phase can cause many period symptoms before and during your period. Symptoms like insomnia, weight fluctuations, and vocal changes can be related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Ah, PMS, the unwelcome monthly visitor. Due to the flush of hormones accompanying your menstrual cycle, you may be used to being bedridden with cramps once a month, at turns irritable and inconsolable. However, not all period symptoms get the same amount of press. Several lesser-known symptoms of your menstrual cycle are more subtle or seemingly unrelated, and there’s a chance you’ve never noticed them happening in your body. 

Luckily, not all of these period symptoms will negatively impact your life, but for those that do, we have advice about how to get relief.

8 common period symptoms 

Your weight might fluctuate

People often talk about feeling bloated during their period, but did you know that your weight fluctuates depending on your menstrual cycle? 

Progesterone, which surges during your menstrual cycle, activates a hormone called aldosterone, which controls kidney function and influences your kidneys to hold onto all the salt and water you put into your system. That water retention can lead to bloating, which can cause your body weight to fluctuate up to five pounds.

Although the fluctuation of body weight might feel disorienting or triggering, it’s a regular part of your cycle. 


You might not be able to sleep at night

Maybe you’ve never noticed it before, but you have likely had at least one sleepless night because of your menstrual cycle. Many people struggle with serious insomnia the night before their period begins. This is because when your progesterone surges, it bumps up your basal body temperature, making it harder to sleep. 

>>RELATED: Oova 101: How to Create a Healthy Sleep Schedule

If one of your period symptoms is insomnia and it only hits once a month, consider taking melatonin pills to ease your body into sleep. If you’re new to sleeping aids, doctors recommend not taking them more than 2 to 3 nights a week to avoid building a dependency. However, using a sleeping aid occasionally may help alleviate PMS without risking becoming dependent on it.

Your vagina might get yeasty

Yeast infections, or vaginal candidiasis, can occur naturally in areas of the body that remain moist, such as your vagina. It is a fungal infection that can cause itchy irritation on your vulva and white, chunky discharge. Although pain and itching can be stressful, yeast infections are nothing to be ashamed of. Seventy-five percent of women have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. 

If a yeast infection is one of your period symptoms and it coincides with your period, it will still cause itchiness, but the change in discharge might be harder to detect. To stay clean and allow your vagina to breathe, limit the use of pads and panty liners when you have a yeast infection. You can still use vaginal suppositories to treat yeast infections during your period.

To prevent getting yeasty, wear cotton undies, stay away from baths and hot tubs, and remember to swap out your feminine product of choice, whether tampons, pads, or panty liners, often. Yeast feeds on sugar, so if you’re particularly prone to infection, it can also help to limit your intake of sugar-heavy foods.

Your voice might change

Hormones have the power to change a voice. Just think of people taking gender-affirming hormones whose voices dramatically drop or jump higher after a few months of treatment. When you’re on your period, your estrogen levels decline. This means that your voice can drop noticeably at your lowest estrogen point. This change can also make your speaking voice feel hoarse at times. However, if you’re on hormonal birth control, this funky change won’t occur.

No steps are necessary here to return to normal. If your vocal cords are hurting, try giving them a rest. If you’re not feeling any vocal strain, maybe take advantage of your new capacity to hit those low alto notes!

You might not feel particularly vegetarian

When tissue exits your body during the luteal phase of your cycle, you lose a considerable amount of iron. Interestingly, this can cause a shift in appetite preference: many people have observed that during their periods, they start to crave meat, no matter what their usual diets are (blame our omnivorous ancestors.)

Research suggests that iron deficiency may also contribute to worse PMS symptoms overall. So consider talking to a doctor and possibly investing in iron supplements if you have less iron in your diet. 

>>RELATED: Oova 101: How Your Diet Can Affect Fertility

Your boobs might be sore… or even have lumps?

As we’ve established, PMS is set off because your hormone levels fluctuate. The flood of estrogen that accompanies your period makes your breast ducts swell up, while progesterone does the same to your milk glands. All that enlargement can cause soreness. 

As a side effect of this period symptom, you might even notice some small bumps in your breasts that are more sore than usual and easily movable if you push them around. While it can be scary to feel a lump in your breast, these hormone-related bumps are non-cancerous and should disappear after the end of your period. However, if the lumps don’t go away or seem to be only on one side, or there’s discharge from the breast, you should talk to a doctor.

The good news is that this temporary tenderness usually doesn’t affect your everyday life too much. However, you might want to wear a bra with more support if it does.

Your muscles might take a while to recover from working out

Muscle damage is harder to recover from when you’re about to get your period. So for the week before your period arrives, you may have noticed that any soreness you’re experiencing is more intense and longer-lasting. The same applies to wounds and bruises — your body is preoccupied and not focused on healing you.

For this reason and others, many athletes report performance decreases in the week leading up to their period. If you’re dealing with heightened soreness, spend extra time warming up before your workout. You can also attempt to avoid soreness by staying hydrated or just giving yourself a break.

You could start pooping more… and more uncomfortably

During menstruation, your body produces tons of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are responsible for stimulating the uterus to contract. If the body makes too many prostaglandins, they go into the bloodstream and start messing with other smooth muscles, like those in the anal canal. 

That, of course, leads to the dreaded phenomenon of period symptoms known as period poops. A quarter of the women in this 2014 study experienced diarrhea right before or during their periods. The odor of period poops may also be more pungent than usual.

Taking ibuprofen 24 hours before your period can stop prostaglandins from being released into the bloodstream. This won’t just prevent pain and cramping but could also help ease the awful poops.

Is it my period symptoms or am I pregnant?

When you’re trying to conceive, period symptoms can look a lot like signs of pregnancy. Some of the ones we’ve mentioned, like sore breasts and cravings, can feel like pregnancy signs, and they might be — but they can also just indicate your period is about to start. 

The biggest sign that you’re pregnant versus period symptoms will be a missed period. So instead of trying to decipher whether your symptoms are one versus the other, you’ll need to wait until your period (or first day of your missed period) to see which one it is. The two-week wait can be stressful and frustrating, and it’s crucial to connect with your support system instead of worrying and symptom-spotting before you can take a pregnancy test.


The takeaway

Whether your menstrual cycle comes with offensive (smelling) perioc symptoms or benign ones, knowing what you might experience is essential. Understanding your cycle can prepare you to prevent any problems. Keep an eye out next time you’re about to get your period — maybe you’ll notice a new symptom that hasn’t even made this list.



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