5 Period Side Effects That Aren't Cramps

From migraines to joint pain, some menstrual side effects can't be ignored.

We're all familiar with the classic signs and symptoms of menstruation. Cramps, yeah. Mood swings, probably. But what about the lesser-known side effects of your period? It turns out there are other conditions your menstrual cycle can contribute to, from oral discomfort to toilet troubles and more.

Migraines

Menstrual migraines (or hormone headaches) occur in nearly 20% of women around the time of their period, and changes in hormone levels seem to be the trigger, according to an April 2018 article in The Journal of Headache and Pain. If you're dealing with this issue, some lifestyle adjustments may help, including adequate sleep, nutritious regular meals, exercise, and recognizing things that trigger your migraines such as stress, alcohol, the weather, and—most commonly—hormones.

According to StatPearls Menstrual Related Headache taking hormonal birth control could either improve your menstrual migraines or make them worse. If you are already on oral contraceptive pills, you could try an option that contain only progestin or a lower amount of estrogen, or switch to a nonhormonal birth control method (like condoms or a diaphragm). Also, have a talk with your healthcare provider about other drug options that can help treat migraines.

Watch the video: Don't Make These Birth Control Mistakes

Diarrhea

Nope, you're not the only one suffering from this problem during your period. As an article in Pharmacy Today (June 2022) explains, in the days leading up to your start date, your body makes prostaglandins, lipids that make the uterine muscles contract (cue the cramps). That can (sadly) also lead to diarrhea.

NSAIDs such as aspirin, or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) provide good relief from cramping because they reduce prostaglandin production. Placing a warm heating pad on your lower belly may also help to ease your discomfort.

Yeast Infections

Changes in vaginal pH are common during your menstrual cycle. These types of changes can disturb the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in your vagina, so you may be more likely to get a yeast infection around your period according to an article published in Diagnostics (Basel) in November 2021. Vaginal yeast infections can happen in the week leading up to your period, during it, or right after (Journal of Medical Microbiology, November 2012).

Mild infections may go away in a few days without treatment, but don't wait to visit your healthcare provider if they last longer than two or three days, don't get better with over-the-counter treatments, or reoccur frequently.

Mouth Issues

During your menstrual cycle, your body experiences hormone surges. Unfortunately, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), higher levels of estrogen and progesterone result in more blood to flow to your gums, which can increase mouth sensitivity and irritation. Sometimes this leads to further issues like swollen bright red gums, swollen salivary glands, canker sore development, bleeding gums, and gingivitis.

The ADA advises that it's important to keep up regular brushing and flossing all month long to maintain good oral health, and to see your dentist if any of these issues become chronic.

Joint Pain

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may come with a side of joint discomfort as your body experiences a dip in estrogen, which typically protects against pain, right before your period. As detailed in Reviews in Pain (December 2008), when estrogen levels are low, women report feeling more pain.

Prostaglandins released before and during your period could also play a part in triggering pain in your muscles and joints (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, February 2020). As mentioned above, NSAIDs are effective at reducing pain that results from elevated prostoglandins.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles