Early Periods – What They Mean

It’s very stressful getting late periods – you never quite know why they’re late!  You may ask yourself questions like, “Am I pregnant?” or “What is wrong with my menstrual cycle?” However, when you get your period too early it can be embarrassing, as you may be walking around and suddenly blood starts pouring out, and you have no protection – no menstrual cup, sanitary pads or tampons available, and you may experience pain early on that you’re not used to. This article covers the reasons you may get your period too early:

1. Exercise

You will find that when you exercise a lot, it will often bring on your period, as it allows for healthy functioning within the cells of the body. If you suddenly find yourself exercising a lot, it can cause your hormone levels to change subtly. This, in turn, may cause your uterus to respond to the mixed hormone signals within your body by suddenly shedding its lining, which may cause bleeding sooner rather than later. If you start exercising more than usual, carry a menstrual cup around with you, in case you may need one, and wear a panty liner just in case to catch any spotting.  

2. Hormonal Birth Control

Birth control medication most definitely affects ovulation and menstruation due to the hormones found in them. Many women are on birth control tablets for a number of reasons, and if you are one of them, your next period should start depending on when during your menstrual cycle you started ingesting the pill, and whether you are ingesting your week of placebos.

IUDs and the Depo-Provera shot can also cause your period to come sooner rather than later, especially during the first two to three months of usage. You may experience irregular periods or spotting on a daily basis.

When using different methods of birth control, you may also get cramping, headaches, tender breasts, and nausea.

3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

This is a condition of the ovaries that affects 10% of all the women in the world. That’s quite a phenomenally high percentage! It is caused by hormonal imbalances where women will develop cysts on their ovaries. It is a painful condition, as it can cause a lot of cramping, and you can get irregular periods (where your period starts early), acne, weight gain, excessive body and/or facial hair (most PCOS sufferers grow hair on their chin), and missed periods as well.

4. Thyroid Disease

It often occurs that one in eight women get at least one thyroid condition in their life. Thyroid conditions cause the body to produce more or too little of the thyroid hormone that your body needs.  This hormone is especially important, as it affects many functions of the body – including your metabolism and menstrual cycle.

You may have an underactive or overactive thyroid and both these affect your body and menstrual cycle differently. Besides getting an early period, you might get periods that are much heavier, or lighter than what you’re used to, difficulty falling asleep, unexpected weight gain, or loss, and an accelerated or slowed down heart rate.

5. Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception, like the morning after pill, is there for you if you have unprotected sex, and don’t want to fall pregnant. You can get an over-the-counter morning after pill, or have a copper IUD inserted as emergency contraception, although the fastest and easiest method is to get to your closest pharmacy and get the morning after pill from your pharmacist.

This usually brings on an early period, as it contains hormones that interfere with your normal ovulation process.  It can also cause a late period. It’s very unhealthy to use emergency contraception often.

Copper IUDs often make women get breakthrough bleeding. Your uterus takes a few months to get used to the IUD, and during this time, you may bleed every single day, or irregularly, or earlier than normal. Copper IUDs can also bring on cramping and backaches, very painful menstrual cramps, and heavy periods.

6. Puberty

You may be reading this because you have a daughter who has just experienced her first period at a very young age. Puberty normally starts between the ages of 8 and 13. It starts because of chemicals within the body called reproductive hormones. These hormones affect the menstrual cycle throughout a woman’s child-bearing life.

Your daughter may experience periods where the number of days between them are possibly shorter or longer than normal due to irregular hormones. Puberty brings upon enlarged breast tissue, moodiness, pimples, and hair growth in the armpits and groin.  

It’s important to note that women who got their periods younger than 12 years old, have a higher chance of developing breast cancer later on in life, and this needs to be watched with annual visits to the gynecologist for breast checks, mammograms, and a lifestyle with healthy diet and exercise implemented.

7. Change in Weight

You may experience an early period due to weight fluctuations. Inconsistent periods go hand in hand with rapid weight loss. If you lose too much weight either through too much exercise, eating disorders, or even gastric bypass surgery, your body may enter starvation mode. When your body does this it reserves most of its energy for essential functioning, such as breathing. Thus, your body won’t produce reproductive hormones, and this will lead to period irregularities, including the arrival of an early period.

8. Blood-Thinning Medication

Blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants), such as Warfarin, can prolong your period, cause heavy bleeding, and possibly cause your period to start earlier than usual.  When you have a period, anticoagulants within your body are naturally released to assist in thinning the lining of your uterus, in order for it to flow out of the vagina. Anticoagulants may cause this process to speed up.

9. Perimenopause

Perimenopause occurs just before menopause, usually in your mid to late forties, and it lasts around four years. Your hormones will be on a rollercoaster going up and down, and you may not even get your period every month. You’ll get irregular periods where they may arrive sooner or later than your body is used to. With perimenopause, you may also experience missed periods, periods that are lighter or heavier than normal, irritability and mood swings, vaginal dryness, and trouble falling and staying asleep.  

10. Stress

Time and time again, health experts explain that stress is the worst thing that we can put on our bodies, as mental and emotional stress often turns into physical ailments. If you experience a lot of stress, your hormone levels can change, causing irregular periods, and periods to start early. If you are very anxious due to work or studies, or have recently experienced a traumatic event, your period will be affected as well. Too much stress can also cause difficulty in falling and staying asleep, weight loss or gain, and difficulty concentrating.

11. Certain STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)

There are certain STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia (ladies please insist on protection!) that are fairly common. These are bacterial infections which usually don’t cause symptoms. When they actually do, they will cause spotting between periods or/and blood-tinged discharge, which may cause your period to start earlier than normal.

These STIs may also cause pain or burning when peeing (a clear indication of an infection), painful sex, as well as pain in the abdominal area.

12. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a very painful condition that affects 10% of women. Endometriosis is the term used when the tissue that lines your uterus starts to grow outside of the uterus. It causes irregular periods, as well as periods that may start earlier than normal. Endometriosis also causes chronic lower back pain, painful sex (during and/or after), and severe menstrual cramps that require medication to ease the pain.

 

13. Change in Usual Routine

When you change your regular routine, your hormones may be affected. This is especially so when changing work shifts from day to night, or traveling a lot, and experiencing different time zones. This possibly happens due to the interruption of your circadian rhythm which interrupts melatonin – your sleep hormone.

14. Diabetes

If you have diabetes that is uncontrolled or undiagnosed, there is a fair chance that your periods will be irregular and start early due to the fact that your blood sugar levels are unbalanced. There may be a problem with your insulin levels and all that can affect your period. It has been found that many people with type 2 diabetes have irregular periods. Diabetes may also cause frequent urination (especially at night), increased thirst, sudden weight loss/gain, and slow healing.

Conclusion

Early periods can always catch you off guard – but after reading this you have plenty of information informing you why your period is starting earlier than normal. If you are in a lot of pain or feel that you are experiencing an early period that doesn’t have to do with any of the above, please see your gynecologist as soon as possible! Also, make sure to see your doctor if you feel you may have any of the above reasons that are undiagnosed and untreated!

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