Imagine going to the washroom and realizing that you are on your period. You know that your period is not due for another week but yet there you are, thinking of whether you have a spare tampon or pad in your bag. Now before you panic, relax! Early periods do happen but let’s find it why they do or what causes them.
Is it normal?
Seeing your period early will always be an unpleasant surprise. If once in a while it shows up early, say about a week earlier than expected, it is not a cause for concern. Our bodies are all unique and so are our cycles. The typical period may last anywhere from 21 to 39 days with many people bleeding for about 2-7 days. If your cycle is frequently shorter than 21 days, it might point to an underlying issue. However, fluctuations in your hormones from month to month are common and typically, especially if you’ve just started menstruating.
What would cause an early period?
We now know that fluctuating hormones play a key role in your period showing up early. Here are factors that lead to it:
A change in your normal routine
Changes in your normal routine can affect your hormones and cause your period to come early or late. For example, nurses or women in general who switch between day and night shifts often experience irregular periods. Travelling, and switching time zones may have similar effects.
Exercising is great but too much of anything is poisonous. Intense exercise can cause irregular periods or cause your period to stop altogether. How? It affects your periods when you burn way more calories than you eat. Without adequate energy, your body doesn’t produce the number of reproductive hormones it needs to ovulate normally.
Period irregularities often occur with rapid weight loss. When the body is in starvation mode, it reserves its energy for essential life functions, like breathing. This would ultimately stop the production of reproductive hormones, which leads to period irregularities. This can happen with extreme dieting, gastric bypass surgery, or eating disorders.
This does not refer to your daily stressful activities but severe stress. It can disrupt your hormone levels, causing irregular periods. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or have recently been through a traumatic event, this may throw your hormones out of balance.
This starts between the ages of 8 and 13 and is driven by reproductive hormones. In the first few years after you get your period, these hormones can be irregular. This means that the number of days between your periods may be shorter or longer than average. These hormones will continue to affect your menstrual cycle throughout your child-bearing years.
This is the transition into menopause and another stage where your reproductive hormones affect your cycle. It typically begins in your mid to late forties and lasts about four years. During this time, you may not ovulate every month. This can cause irregular periods, so you may menstruate sooner or later than usual.
Blood thinning medication
Taking blood thinners also known as anticoagulants may prolong your period and cause heavy bleeding. Anticoagulants are released naturally during your period to help thin the lining of your uterus, so it can flow out of the vagina. Taking them may cause this process to happen faster and result in a heavier flow.
It’s referred to as hormonal because it contains hormones which directly affect ovulation and menstruation. Other hormonal birth control options, like the Depo-Provera, shot and intrauterine devices (IUDs), can cause menstrual irregularities for the first two or three months.
Emergency Contraception (EC) pills contain hormones that disrupt the normal ovulation process. This may lead to an early or late period. Remember If you use EC pills routinely, your period may become irregular. This is why experts advise that you should avoid using this method as your go-to or long-term contraceptive method.
STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea are common and though they may not cause any symptoms when they occur, they’re known to cause spotting between periods or blood-tinged discharge.
Approximately one in eight women will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime. Thyroid conditions cause your body to make more or less thyroid hormone than your body needs. This hormone is essential to several body functions, including your metabolism and menstrual cycle. One of its main symptoms happens to be early menstruation.
Endometriosis occurs when endometrium-like tissue begins to grow outside the uterus in areas like the ovaries, abdomen, and bowel. One of the symptoms is unexpected bleeding.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common condition caused by a hormonal imbalance. It affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Many people don’t know they have PCOS until they have difficulty becoming pregnant. Some of the symptoms associated with it are irregular or missed periods.
How to avoid being surprised by early period symptoms
Since an early period is not the kind of surprise you would like there are a few ways to avoid that annoying stain on your underwear. For instance, you can consider wearing panty liners a few days before your expected period date. This way, if your period is a little early, you’re still protected. Another trick is to have a few pads or tampons in hand in case your tampon sneaks up on you.
There are plenty of reasons that could cause your early period. Almost all of them are related to fluctuating hormones. While it might not always be something to be concerned about, pay attention if your early period comes with other unusual symptoms. These could point to an underlying issue and a good time to consult your doctor.
Stay informed, stay in control Have you ever heard of an early period before?