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6 Weird and Awful Period Symptoms that Aren't Cramps

Cramps get all the attention, but they’re just the tip of the period iceberg

Do you know what sucksCramps. But do you know what sucks even more? All the other weird things you feel before and during your period on top of cramps.

That there are people in this world whose lives aren’t uprooted for days every month is astounding. But at least those of us with periods – and all the lovely symptoms they come with – have each other and the inseparable bond of commiseration. If you’ve ever caught yourself feeling extremely sluggish during your period, or craving something like a bloody steak, you’re not alone.

Here are six other symptoms you can get during your period that aren’t even cramps. Life is cruel.

1 Weight gain

It’s actually more fair to refer to this as weight fluctuation, because unless you’re doing something else to gain weight, this is just a temporary byproduct of the hormonal shift happening in your body before your period. ‘Most [medical] literature says you gain very little weight,’ said Alyssa Dweck, a gynaecologist in New York. ‘But anecdotally, women will complain about a 2kg fluctuation before the period.’ Dweck said a spike in the hormone progesterone (it peaks right before a period starts) is to blame here. For most people, the fluctuation resolves within a few days of starting a period.

2 Exercise feels harder

Something you’ll learn is that, while necessary, progesterone is a huge bully. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Trauma Rehabilitation on how women recover from mild traumatic brain injury found that when progesterone levels are high the week before a period (called the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle), women took longer to recover. This doesn’t just apply to brain trauma, which is why your regular gym routine may leave you feeling sore for longer before your period starts. The luteal phase also leaves a lot of people feeling out of breath faster and just generally fatigued. Your body’s preparing for a period! It’s hard work. Doctors and fitness gurus who track their workouts to their menstrual cycle typically recommend taking it a bit easier during the week leading up to your period.

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3 Migraines

Told you this was cruel. Migraines are known to be associated with the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle – oestrogen and progesterone. According to official guidelines from the American Headache Society, the window for ‘menstrual migraines’ is between two days before a period starts and three days after. That’s a lot of time to be feeling migraines caused by PMS. Current recommendations for treating these migraines are to take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as ibuprofen, or adding oestrogen with a supplemental pill if you’re already on hormonal birth control.

4 Junk-food cravings

Aside from the molotov cocktail of sex hormones that play into regulating a menstrual cycle, your period can also affect the chemicals that regulate your mood. Dr Deb Laino, a licensed sex therapist, said serotonin levels (a hormone that regulates mood) tend to deplete before the start of a period, and cortisol (a hormone released when you’re stressed) rises. I don’t know about you, but when I’m angry and stressed, I’m not thinking about eating a plate of broccoli. ‘Sugary and fatty foods tend to give a burst of serotonin,’ Laino said. ‘The same thing with cortisol. Cortisol goes up under stress – you’ll start to crave salty foods.’ This symptom is sometimes not actually the worst, because eating salty and sweet foods is fun. Just, you know, throw a vegetable or two in there at some point.

5 Breast tenderness

For some women, walking down the stairs and feeling like their boobs are throbbing pieces of cement is the first sign that a period is coming. Dweck said breast swelling can sometimes occur over the course of an entire week, and it’s not uncommon to go up a bra size. Dr Rebecca Brightman, a gynaecologist in New York City, said breast swelling and tenderness happens because of (once again) rising progesterone levels. She recommended slowing down on caffeine intake, slapping an ice pack or heating pad on your chest, or taking something like ibuprofen to help ease the pain. And then, luckily, Dweck said the pain and swelling tends to go down right at the onset of the period. So, at least know that it isn’t permanent.

6 Crazy pooping habits

Okay, we’re all adults here. Time to formally acknowledge period poo for what it is: an unpredictable monster. One of the many chemicals involved in regulating your period is called prostaglandin, which rushes to the uterus at the beginning of a period and causes the smooth muscle there to contract, forcing the uterine lining to slough off. But these chemicals are kind of dumb, and can’t just focus their attention on the smooth muscle only in your uterus. Your gastrointestinal tract, which is very near the uterus, is also lined with smooth muscle. ‘Sometimes our body releases so much prostaglandin that it doesn’t just target the uterus, it targets other areas of the body, and in this case, the GI tract,’ said Mira Kaga, an internal medicine physician in the US. Kaga said this rush in prostaglandin can cause diarrhoea for some, and just increased bowel movements for others. A very fun and sexy time for all.

This post was originally seen on cosmopolitan.com/uk

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