Your menstrual cycle seems to be never ending. Plus, the cramps make you double up on the bed and you can hardly breathe. Or, what earlier used to be a super pleasurable sack session has suddenly become rather painful and you dont know whether it is because of an infection you ve picked, or just because you ve changed partners.
For all of us, these are pretty serious concerns. No matter how embarrassing it may appear to be, there are times when a gynaecs intervention is a unavoidable. However, there are also occasions when we may seem to be overreacting. Here, a guide to whats happening to your body and why, plus when to modify things (like your diet) and when to make an appointment with your doc on a priority basis.
When you miss a period or two
If pregnancy is totally ruled out here, most general physicians will tell you its no big deal and there is no major cause for concern. Dr Madhu Roy, Senior Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital states, the menstrual cycle fluctuates at times. It may be because of high levels of stress or anxiety, improper and irregular meals or insufficient physical exercise. If you give it a month or two, it generally resumes on its own. If it does not, then you must see your gynaecologist as soon as possible. However, she also admits that there are exceptions. For instance, if you have recently gone through a gynaecological procedure like an abortion, it is important to bring it to the notice of your gynaec.
Expert advice: Unless you are an exceptional case, its a no-go situation. In fact, you dont even need your general physician for this one.
When you notice cloths in your flow
Every now and then, you may notice a medium or small sized clump of blood while you are menstruating. While these clots may mostly be harmless, it is good to get a gynaecs advice on it. According to Dr Vivek Marwah, Chief of Unit of Gynaecology Endoscopic Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, If you have had clots in your flow since the early stages of menstruating, there is no reason to worry. But in case they surface suddenly once your regular pattern has set, you should consult a gynaecologist. Changes in the usual pattern should ideally be investigated. Also, noticing clots while the flow is heavy in the first few days of the cycle is not problematic."
Expert advice: Go only if you have never had clots before.
When sex suddenly gets painful
Everything is hunky dory with your sex life and you and your partner have been with each other for quite some time. And then out of the blue, sex gets painful. This is when it is time to head to your gynaecologist. "In such a case an infection is most likely to be the cause of sex suddenly being painful. It must be examined by a gynaecologist at the earliest," says Dr Roy. While some amount of pain is expected during intercourse for most of us (especially if it's sex with someone new), it usually eases with time. The most common cause of painful sex is insufficient lubrication. The problem can be easily solved by using lubricated condoms and water-based lubricants.
Expert advice: If it's sex with someone new, give it some time and work around the problem. In case it's your regular partner, head to the gynaec as it may be a vaginal infection.
When you have white discharge but no periods
White discharge is a very normal occurrence and more often than not is an indication of ovulation. But a white discharge is not a replacement for periods, says Dr Roy. Try to remember when you had your last regular period. Has it been more than two or three months? "A delay longer than two months needs to be looked into. "Hormonal imbalance is the most common cause of missing periods unless you are pregnant. Women who are around 40 also need to be examined for premature ovarian failure," he adds. For shorter delays, the cause is usually stress. This delay is not likely to be of more than 10-15 days on an average.
Expert advice: If you haven't had your cycle in more than two months, it's time to make an appointment with your doctor.
When you mentruate a few extra days
Menstrual cycles can be crazy and unpredictable. Sometimes your period lasts less than your usual cycle and at other times it may linger for a few days longer. "It's really not a big deal if you menstruate an extra day or two," explains Dr Sushma Sinha, Senior Consultant Gynaecology & IVF Specialist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. She adds, "Some cycles may be heavier while the others may be light. A few extra days of bleeding once in a while is nothing out of the ordinary so you don't need to consult a doctor. You only need the help of a gynaecologist if the trend continues every month and the cycle is prolonged.
Expert advice: Relax girl. You don't need to leap to the nearest hospital.
When you get cramps from hell
Cramps are very much a part of every girl's menstrual cycle. Nausea, vomiting, and splitting headaches also bother some of us. "Menstrual cramps can be eased by timetested methods like hot water bags. Apart from that, one can try light exercises and breathing exercises to relax the muscles. Painkillers also help," shares Dr Sinha. The medical term for this painful experience is dysmenorrhea which is classified as primary and secondary. It is only secondary dysmenorrhea that is abnormal and may be an indication of endometriosis or fibroids. Most cramps however, no matter how unbearable, are harmless. Whenever they get to you, get out of the house, enjoy a movie, grab an ice cream or call up a friend-distracting yourself helps.
Expert advice: Try a hot water bottle, a little bit of exercise or a regular dose of painkillers will help ease the torture.
When it burns while you pee
According to Dr Marwah, "Sexually active women may go through such sensations owing to a vaginal infection. The reason for the pain can come to light by a vaginal exam and urine culture test." A burning or painful sensation while you pee often has as much to do with kidney trouble than any complication down under. Dr Marwah affirms, "You may just be experiencing trouble while urinating because of kidney stones." A painful or burning sensation is also one of the symptoms of urinary tract infections. Also visit the doctor if you are unable to, or find it difficult to pass urine- this is a very serious matter and requires urgent attention.
Expert advice: Head to the gynaec now!
When your periods seems to last forever
A normal menstrual cycle lasts anywhere between 4-5 days. Once in a blue moon it may stretch to a maximum of 7-8 days. Anything more than that is cause for concern. Heavy bleeding is known as menorrhagia, while heavy bleeding that is prolonged is known as hypermenorrhagia. It is simply not a normal process and requires immediate medical attention. "In such cases, we ask patients to undergo some tests and based on the conclusion of these tests we decide on the course of action. Prolonged menstruation is generally because of many hazardous gynaecological conditions such as poly-cystic ovarian disorder and uterine fibroids," says Dr Marwah. Other complications associated with periods that go on and on are polyps, adenomyosis, dysfunctional ovaries, and hormonal imbalance. In rare cases, it may even be a symptom of cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer. Worse still, if this phenomenon continues for long it may make you anaemic enough to experience weakness and fatigue.
Expert advice: Been too many days? Rush right now!
When you have unprotected sex with someone new
Erm, it happens when you may just be caught up in the heat of the moment and your rationale abandons you, only to come back next morning. What do you do? Sit it out for a few days waiting for something unusual to surface, or rush to the gynaecologist? "This is a dicey situation indeed," says Dr Sinha, "immediate tests will be useless as they will not show any conclusive results as every disease or infection has an incubation period. Don't just have any emergency contraceptive pill available at a pharmacy to avoid an unwanted pregnancy." As far as your suspicions of catching an infection or sexually transmitted disease are concerned, you'll have to soothe your frazzled nerves for a while before you can get any test done.
Expert advice: For this one you will have to wait for a few days before you can take an appointment with your gynaec.