When 'that time of the month' ticks around again, women experience a whole set of symptoms that reflect a change in the body's hormonal state.
While some sort of change is not only completely normal but also absolutely expected, every woman experiences menstrual symptoms differently. While it's important to know what patterns are normal for you, it's is also vital to know enough about other women's habits and what is the norm -- so you are not putting up with more than what you should be.
Three of the most common things that occur when a woman is menstruating are bleeding, pain and a change in emotions. It's normal to experience some or all of these and while they might be a subtle change for most people, some women's lives are changed drastically when their period comes on. If your menstrual symptoms are too severe, it's important to make a visit to your GP.
Some women don't feel any different in regards to what their hormones are doing and other women can be more sensitive to those hormonal changes and that can vary from woman to woman.
So, this one is experienced by pretty much everyone with their period and is perhaps the most obvious symptom of the monthly hormonal change. Your body will generally regulate how often it bleeds. On average this cycle is 28 days, but women can experience cycles between 20 and 40 days.
Blood flow can also vary during your period, where it could be heavy some days and lighter the next. It can also change from period to period.
If bleeding is too heavy it could be a sign that something other than a hormonal change is occurring and so it's important to see your doctor to sort it out. One way to check if you are bleeding normally is to note how often you are changing your tampon or pad.
"If you're needing to change a tampon every two or three hours or if you are leaking through a tampon, especially if you are leaking through a super tampon and then you have to wear a pad as well, that's not normal bleeding," Dr Amanda Newman told HuffPost Australia.
"There could be a number of explanations as to why that is happening and the consequences of having heavy bleeding is that you could be iron deficient and become anemic."
Another well recognised symptom of hormonal change is pain. Some will experience period pain when they have their period, and while it's usually very uncomfortable, for most it's nothing that can't be fixed with a paracetamol or a hot wheat bag. Period pain should be considered normal when it only occurs in the first two days of your period and that it disappears when you take the contraceptive pill or period pain medications.
If the pain is stopping you living your daily life however, that is when it can become a problem.
"The bottom line is that if you have got so much pain that you can't go to a party or certainly if you can't go to school or go to work then that absolutely needs to be sorted out. That is a significant and very real medical issue."
Dr Newman told HuffPost Australia that there are a variety of treatments available for women with pain that can be tailored to meet individual needs.
Changes in emotions can be another way that hormones show themselves. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is experienced by about 30 percent of women who menstruate and it has a range of emotional and physical symptoms.
The emotional symptoms can include irritablity, anxiety, lower coping ability, lower libido and aggression to name a few, and for most people this change in emotions can be easily treated with a little exercise, some vitamins or generally maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It's not so easy for women who experience Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS. About three to eight percent of menstruating women experience this problem which involves extreme mood shifts, sadness, hopelessness or anger. This drastic change in emotions can seriously effect a person's relationships in every facet of their lives.
"That bursting into tears at the drop of a hat and being really angry and becoming really depressed and these can become really debilitating," Newman said.
Of course, there are a range of other things that some women associate with their periods, however, these contribute to the differences in ways women's bodies respond to hormonal change. Some of these include abdominal bloating, fluid retention, breast swelling and tenderness and food cravings.
"All women who are menstruating have certain hormonal changes... and what is different is some women don't feel any different in regards to what their hormones are doing and other women can be more sensitive to those hormonal changes and that can vary from woman to woman," Newman said.
So, how do you work out what is normal for you?
"One of the things that's really helpful to work out if this a hormonal thing or not is to actually keep a written record of what is happening," Newman said.
"Then you can see if there is a pattern. There are times that all of us are feeling tired, miserable ... it is very difficult to remember these things unless you write them down."
Newman also said that it's important to determine what is normal for your cycle because many women don't realise that they are putting up with too much pain or discomfort.
"They don't necessarily sense that they are having it harder than others and they think they are normal."Suggest a correction