4 Surprising Period Signs

These symptoms are less common than cramps and mood swings.

What do mood swings, cramps, and exhaustion have in common? You guessed it: your period. But these common symptoms aren't the only ones that can accompany your menstrual cycle. Every person's experience is different.

Here are four surprising symptoms that can occur around your period. Learn how to relieve them—and when you might want to talk to your healthcare provider.

Insatiable Hunger

A spike in your appetite might be a secondary symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is a set of symptoms that may occur in the second half of your menstrual cycle, usually up until one to two days after your period starts, per the National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus resource. Not everyone gets PMS ahead of their period.

Hormonal changes tied to your cycle can make you crave carbs and sweets. You may want to snack more on foods high on the glycemic index—foods that increase your blood sugar quickly, per MedlinePlus—such as chips and brownies.

These can trigger your body to produce more ghrelin and other hunger-inducing chemicals, said Christine Greves, MD, an OB-GYN at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida. To help keep your appetite steady, make sure you're eating a wide range of nutrient-rich whole foods before and during your period, Dr. Greves said.

Reducing your intake of salt, caffeine, and alcohol in the two weeks before your period may be helpful with PMS symptoms in general, per MedlinePlus. You can also stock up on foods rich in calcium, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; and vitamin B6, such as fish, poultry, potatoes, and fruit (with the exception of citrus fruit), per the Office on Women's Health (OWH).

Catastrophic Thoughts

Anxiety is one of the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), Dr. Greves said. "It's basically an extreme version of PMS," Dr. Greves explained, and it occurs around the same time as symptoms of PMS. Other psychological symptoms of PMDD may include, per the OWH:

  • Hopelessness or despair
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Irritability or anger
  • Fatigue
  • Losing interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Trouble sleeping

In severe cases, you may even experience thoughts of suicide. If you think you might have PMDD, talk to your healthcare provider, Dr. Greves said. Some people can ease the effects of PMDD by taking an antidepressant intermittently if the symptoms only occur when they're menstruating, Dr. Greves added.

Very Sensitive Skin

About 42% of people who get periods reported sensitive skin just before or around their period, per a February 2017 study published in the European Journal of Dermatology.

"Hormonal fluctuations can definitely change some women's skin sensitivity during their period," Dr. Greves said. "That's because estrogen helps plump, thicken, and protect the skin." Since estrogen levels decrease around your period, "your skin might be predisposed to pain and sensitivity," Dr. Greves said.

You may also get flare-ups of conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis around the time of your period, per a February 2015 paper published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. The symptoms are most severe when your progesterone hormone levels are at their highest.

Mouth and Gum Pain

Mouth and gum pain right before your period occurs because of a surge in estrogen and progesterone. There are receptors for these hormones on your gums, per a February 2014 paper published in the Journal of Periodontal Research.

The hormonal surge causes an uptick in blood flow to the gums and also lowers your normal ability to fight plaque formation. That plaque buildup can irritate the gums, making them tender and swollen as a result.

Maintaining good oral hygiene habits can help dial back the discomfort in the days leading up to your period, clearing out any bacteria that could contribute to pain when you start menstruating. And as always, be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss regularly.

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