What your monthly cycle say about your health, doctors respond

With so much variation in how many women experience their monthly cycle, it’s difficult for a woman to know what is ‘normal’ and what they should flag with the doctor.

So to help answer some common questions, FEMAIL spoke to Australian general practitioner and owner of Sapphire Family Medical Practice in Bondi Junction, Dr Dasha Fielder.

‘The most important point to make is that women’s menstruation cycles can vary significantly, which is completely normal,’ she said.

‘There is a lot of inaccurate information provided by alternative health practitioners that creates anxiety in women and results in unnecessary tests and treatments that have no evidence behind them.’

Cycle length may vary from person to person

Dr Fielder said that a normal cycle is anywhere between 26 to 35 days with a period that lasts from three to seven days.

Periods normally start with brown discharge and mild cramps and proceed to heavier bleeding for two to three days with stronger cramps.

Then after this the blood becomes lighter before eventually concluding.

‘How women respond to hormonal fluctuations and pain is greatly variable but not in itself abnormal,’ she said.

Oestrogen can result in insomnia and progesterone can make you bloated

Oestrogen is the primary female s3x hormone that is responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system, which Dr Fielder said peaks mid cycle.

Then as the days go on progesterone, another s3x hormone involved in the menstrual cycle, begins to rise and oestrogen begins to drop.

‘In general some women can respond to dropping oestrogen with negative side effects such as mood variations, anger and insomnia,’ she said.

‘Progesterone rising can make some women bloated, constipated and prone to water retention.

‘However it is important to note that this is completely normal and should not be presented to women as something that needs changing and investigating.’

Dr Fielder said oestrogen and progesterone are important hormones for women that controls their reproductive cycle and their main function is to assist with reproduction and pregnancy.

Testosterone has an effect on your libido and health

Testosterone is another hormone that plays a part in women’s menstrual cycle and it is produced in both men and women, although it is less significant in women.

Relatively small quantities of testosterone are released into your bloodstream by the ovaries and adrenal glands.

The hormone is part of what drives desire and thoughts about s3x, and even helps provide the energy for s3x in women.

Women’s testosterone levels gradually go down as they age, and lower amounts of the hormone can lower muscle mass, affect skeletal health, and decrease sensitivity in the va*ina and cli*oris.

‘Although the libido is multifactorial  in women and influenced by many things, testosterone is one of the many things that has been linked to the libido,’ she said.

‘When testosterone levels are too high common conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may occur or primary adrenal hyperplasia, which is a rare condition that results in hormonal imbalance may appear,’ she said.

‘These are complex conditions and women should seek medical help.’

The unusual signs to look out for 

Dr Fielder said there are a variety of signs women should pay attention to that may indicate they need professional help.

‘If your cycle is longer then 35 days, if you are experiencing excessive hair growth, voice change or your cycle is prolonged and heavy or you have intermenstrual bleeding, it is worthwhile to discuss this with your doctor,’ she said.

‘And looking at your history and an examination it might be appropriate for your doctor to run some basic tests.’

‘However hormones vary from day to day and even from time of the day which means measuring oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone in women is not always.’

Dr Fielder said her main point is that periods vary and hormones change throughout the cycle.

She said women shouldn’t focus too much on their cycle and focus on managing their symptoms with a healthy diet, regular exercise, good sleep, maintaining a healthy BMI and reducing alcohol consumption.


Facts you should know before using a menstrual cup

During the monthly cycle different women use different products to help with the flow, these range from sanitary pads, tampons, cotton wool to the menstrual cup.

The cup is inserted  into the vagina and collects the blood. It can take up to 8 or 9 hours to become full depending on how heavy your flow is, sometimes much less than that. Once it is full you take it out, dump the blood, rinse it off, and put it back in.

The usage of the cup isn’t as common as that of the sanitary pads, however for the few who use it or for those who would like to use them, there are a few things that one should know before hand:

1. Water – You will need to bring  with you a bottle of water everywhere you go. Most public restrooms do not have water in the stall other than a toilet and you don’t want to be rinsing your cup out in the open. Make sure that you have a bottle of water on hand every time you need to empty the cup.

2. Measurements- If you have problems with your cycle or are trying to watch it for tracking purposes, the cup makes a great measuring tool. You will be able to get a much better idea of how much blood you are actually losing as opposed to trying to guess based on the number of pads you have used. Pads absorb different amounts so that makes it harder to measure.

3. Customization – There is a small tab on the bottom of the cup that helps you to remove it when it is time. Some women state that they can feel this while walking and it makes things very uncomfortable. You can customize it however and cut this tab to a length that will make it seem like it’s not even there, much like a tampon string. There are also different colors that you can choose from.

4. Environment – These cups are environmentally friendly. They are reusable and do not create a bunch of paper waste. They are made of medical silicone so that you can use them over and over. There are also no chemicals or scents like you find in pads so the chance of irritation is much lower.

5. Time – You do not have to worry as much about changing the cup. You can go far longer with one in than a tampon or wearing a pad. You may want to wear a panty-liner just in case of a leak but you should be able to go at least half a day depending on your flow.