How Do I Know My Period Is Coming?
- 8 Mins Read
- Health Conditions
- Written by: Dr. Jatin Bhide
- Women who are normally energetic go-getters may feel tired and irritable during or just before their periods.
- It’s important for career-oriented women to understand the patterns in their menstrual cycle to perform consistently well at work.
- The run-up to menstrual bleeding starts from the time of ovulation, so women need to know the signs of ovulation.
- Period flu is very common in women, and it indicates the onset of menstrual bleeding.
- A woman who wants a smoother menstrual cycle must not ignore symptoms of irregular periods as those may point to underlying problems.
Millions of today’s women have committed professionals who want to be at their best, at their sharpest, during their all-important career moments. But they still have to deal with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), bloating before their period, mood swings, period cramps, and the other usual vagaries of having a menstrual cycle.
Wouldn’t it be nice, then, if all women could read the signs your period is coming, and adjust their work schedule to avoid a lackluster performance on those career-making days?
Listen to your body
Vastly improved period hygiene products mean that menstrual bleeding is far more manageable for today’s women than it was a couple of generations ago. However, discomforts associated with the menstrual cycle still affect their daily activities all through their reproductive years.
Period dates aren’t always predictable; the bleeding may come several days sooner or later than anticipated. But a lot happens in the body before the plumped-up lining of the uterus starts being shed in the form of menstrual bleeding. Paying attention to the signs of getting your period, and what’s going on may help you plan your work and play schedule better.
Get familiar with your menstrual cycle
Take the case of Alice, a young, energetic, and professionally ambitious woman, working successfully in the information technology industry. She is thrilled about being selected for a presentation at an innovation summit. Being intelligent, she wants her important day to go flawlessly. She doesn’t want her enthusiasm and appearance dulled by her approaching menstrual cycle.
Alice knows on which date of the current month her ongoing periods will end. Based on her previous monthly cycles, she looks at her calendar to calculate her next period date. She makes a checklist of her signs of ovulation like:
- rising body temperature
- tenderness in the breast
- onset of a bloated feeling
- thickened vagina
- bright and shining complexion
- dull pain
She makes a mental note of when:
- her next ovulation is likely to happen, counting about two weeks from the end of her ongoing periods.
- Two weeks after the ovulation, her next periods should begin. Having figured all this out, Alice feels confident that her periods wouldn’t interfere with her business travel next month and her innovation summit presentation.
Dealing with PMS
Understanding her menstrual cycle is essential for Alice, as periods make her look and feel very different from her normal self; they leave her pale, in pain, and lacking energy.
Her menstrual bleeding is always accompanied by severe menstrual cramps that become unbearable and crippling during some cycles.
Muscle contractions are so severe that even sitting upright is impossible — that’s the usual period experience for Alice. During those days, she’d just have to lie down with a heating pad, because she prefers that to painkillers.
What she hates the most among symptoms that your period is coming are her uncontrollable mood swings on PMS days; they make her extremely edgy and oversensitive. Though Alice knows that these mood swings have a medical reason, she’d still sometimes pick a fight over petty issues, with her mother, who’s normally her best friend, and her colleagues.
To give a presentation in this state would damage her professional reputation, and Alice always tries to calculate her period date and read the sign of menstruation coming to schedule or reschedule her key assignments.
PMS-A common concern
What Alice faces is common worldwide for women in the menstrual phase. According to statistics:
- Most women in the United States, over 90%, report some premenstrual symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, and moodiness.
- On average, women in their 30s are most likely to have PMS.
- In a study in India, 91% of the respondents reported at least one premenstrual symptom; 10.3% had PMS; and 3.1% fulfilled the criteria for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), the extreme form of PMS.
- In the Indian study, the most commonly reported symptom was “fatigue/lack of energy” (68.3%), followed by “decreased interest in work” (60.1%), and “anger/irritability” (59.9%).
How do I know when my period is coming?
To understand the signs your period is coming, it’s necessary to understand what the menstrual cycle is and where menstrual bleeding figures in it.
Menstrual cycle length
Each menstrual cycle begins with menstrual bleeding, a process through which the body cleans out everything from the previous menstrual cycle and gets ready for the next one.
The median gap between the two periods is 28 days, but it’s rarely that regular. Most women see a gap of anything between 21 and 35 days between two periods and that’s within the normal range.
Ovulation happens in the middle of the menstrual cycle — about 14 days after the last period, and about 14 days before the next period. As we’ve said, this 2-week time interval can be shorter or longer from month to month.
In the previous menstrual cycle, the female hormones estrogen and progesterone had worked together to release an egg from either of the two ovaries, and then that egg waited in the fallopian tube — either of the two thin tubes connecting the two ovaries with the uterus — to be fertilized by sperm, in case the woman has sexual intercourse.
Common ovulation symptoms
Change in vaginal secretions (cervical mucus)
The egg that’s released from the ovary is extremely small, and you can’t feel it. But just before ovulation, you may see white discharge, which is a sign of periods coming.
White discharge can happen anytime, but in the stage before ovulation, there’s usually an increase in clear, wet, and stretchy vaginal secretions. Just after ovulation, this cervical mucus secretion decreases, and the white discharge becomes thicker, cloudy, and less noticeable.
Change in basal body temperature
During ovulation, your body temperature at rest (i.e. basal body temperature) increases slightly. If you want to check for ovulation, count about 14 days from your last periods, and start checking this basal body temperature by using a specially designed thermometer.
Check the temperature every morning before getting out of bed. Do this for several months to understand the pattern of your body’s ovulation cycle.
The lining of the uterus
During the previous menstrual cycle, the functional layer of the endometrium, or the uterine lining, had thickened to provide a cushion for a fetus, in case a fertilized egg arrived in the uterus in blastocyst form (with rudimentary cell division) and began to grow into a baby.
No fertilization (in the absence of sexual intercourse or even with intercourse) means the egg disintegrates and the thickened outer layer of the uterine lining now has to be shed along with some blood. This is what manifests itself as menstrual bleeding.
All of this is part of the normal reproductive health of a woman’s body. But it also comes with the unpleasant side effects that Alice and so many others like her have to endure.
Keeping track of ovulation symptoms can work for women who want to avoid their professional assignments coinciding with periods, and also for women who want to conceive.
Why does my body ache before my period?
Period cramps are the result of the shedding of the uterine lining, but many women experience body aches, aka “period flu”, even before the menstrual bleeding begins.
“Period flu” is called that, because it has flu-like symptoms: headache and nausea are the most common symptoms, and one might even have fever, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea/constipation, fatigue, muscle aches, and chills. These are all part of the problems that fall under PMS.
The exact reason for period flu hasn’t been identified by medical experts, but hormones certainly have much to do with it.
Before your periods, hormone-like fatty acids called prostaglandins are produced by the body to assist in the process of shedding the uterine lining. Some women produce excess prostaglandins, which enter the bloodstream and then can cause typical period symptoms like cramps, bloating, diarrhea, etc.
Cyclic changes in estrogen, plus chemical changes in the brain, such as fluctuations in serotonin and other mood-regulating chemicals, may also trigger PMS symptoms.
Reading these signs will give you an idea of when to expect your periods.
What are the symptoms of irregular periods and their treatment?
If you want to know when your periods are coming, to manage your life well, you have to first address any irregularities in your periods. Don’t ignore the following signs of irregular periods:
- Excessively heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia)
- Excessively light and/or infrequent menstrual bleeding (oligomenorrhea)
- Missed period after a regular menstrual cycle (amenorrhea)
- Extreme pain during menstrual bleeding (dysmenorrhea)
The reasons for these could simply be genetic, in which case they have to be managed through lifestyle changes, or they could indicate an underlying health problem, one that might need urgent medical attention.
It’s advisable to identify the pattern of one’s ovulation in order to know of the signs your period is coming. This can be done by keeping a chart of all the changes that occur in the body over a menstrual cycle. Creating a menstrual calendar specific to her body can go a long way in helping women predict the dates of their next periods and, therefore, gain a better work-life balance.
Office on Women’s Health, US Dept of Health & Human Services: https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome