Some people are caught by surprise each month when it comes to their period arriving.
But it need not be that way.
If we start to pay closer attention to our bodies, there are certain signs of your period coming that will give you a helpful indication that menstruation will start shortly.
How a period tracker can help you monitor your menstrual cycle
Period symptoms are so common and ubiquitous among those who have periods they have been given a name: premenstrual syndrome, or PMS (formally referred to a premenstrual tension or PMT).
If you want to be more clued up to the changes your body goes through during normal period cycle, including the premenstrual symptoms you might experience, try downloading a period tracker app.
Period tracker apps are a helpful way to empower yourself and get to know your body better.
Not only can you keep track your period cycle, but they let you know your ovulation period if you want to get pregnant (or else avoid it!).
You can also log whether you have irregular periods.
Many period trackers will average out your cycle, so you can tell at a glance whether you have had a particularly short or long menstrual cycle.
What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is your body’s way of preparing for getting pregnant.
If you have regular periods, then around once a month, or roughly every 28 days, you will experience bleeding for anywhere between two and seven days.
This happens because each month the ovaries release an egg ready to be fertilised by a sperm.
Concurrently, the lining of the uterus gets bigger to be able to house a fertilised egg, as it grows into a baby.If the egg is not fertilised, the uterus sheds the lining and the egg in a process known as menstruation, or, a period.1
Common signs of period starting
So how do you know if your period is on its way?Here are some of the most common signs that you are about to start your period:2
1. Mood changes
The cliché of the woman who is irrationally angry around the time of her period comes from this well-known PMS symptom!
PMS does not necessarily affect every woman but for those who do suffer mood changes before their period, they can be quite destabilizing.
The hormone changes that go on during your menstrual cycle can cause mood swings, or mood changes.
These feelings might include anxiety, low mood, anger or irritability.
Many people find that tracking their mood is where a period tracker can be really useful.
If you are able to spot a pattern where you are unusually sad or down, and that it happens to coincide with the start of your period, it means you will be better equipped to deal with it: knowledge is power!
2. Cramps, aches and pains
Maybe it is your hormones making you crabby, but your mood change could also be due to discomfort or pain.
Whether you feel aches, pains or cramps in your lower back, abdomen, head or breasts, period pain can make life miserable.
Again, tracking it may help, as you should be able to spot patterns of when it might come and, importantly, when it might pass.
The NHS recommends over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, for period-related pains.However, if period pain stops you from living your life as you want to, it may help to consult your doctor.3
3. Change in bowel movements
Changing hormones can make you retain more water during your period. This can lead to feelings of bloating and gassiness and it can also affect your digestion; you might notice constipation or loose stools in the lead-up to your time of the month.Increased progesterone levels in the lead up to your period can also affect the gastrointestinal tract, causing either diarrhea or constipation.4
4. Increase in spots and pimples
Females are more prone to acne and pimples in general, and it is all because sebum (oil) production is affected by those pesky hormones.
Known as cyclical acne (because it comes and goes in cycles), the areas that are commonly affected are chin and jawline.
5. Change in sleep pattern
Again, blame those hormones! They often make people feel much hotter before and during their periods, which can lead to restless and disturbed sleep.
But even if you do not feel like a furnace around your time of the month, the changing levels of progesterone and oestrogen (estrogen) might still change sleep patterns.
Either way, tiredness, and fatigue are common feelings around your period.
Last updated: 23 October 2020