As if cramps and mood swings weren’t enough.
What do being moody, getting cramps, and feeling exhausted all have in common? You guessed it: your period. But these standard symptoms aren’t the only things that can accompany your cycle. After all, “every woman is different,” says Christine Greves, MD, ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida.
To learn more about less common period problems, we sent out a survey and asked real women to reveal some of the weirder symptoms they deal with every month. These are the four responses that surprised us the most—and made us curious as to why they happen and how common they are. Next time your teeth ache during your period, know you’re not alone.
“Before I begin menstruating, I get ravenously hungry,” one survey respondent wrote. “I feel like a bottomless pit.”
Turns out a spike in your appetite might be a secondary symptom of PMS. You know how hormonal changes tied to your cycle can make you crave carbs and sweets? Well, snacking on foods that are high on the glycemic index (like chips and brownies) can, in turn, trigger your body to produce more ghrelin and other hunger-inducing chemicals, explains Dr. Greves.
To help keep your appetite steady, make sure you’re eating a wide range of nutrient-rich whole foods before and during your period, she says. And go easy on yourself if you fall off the wagon. It’s just a few days.
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Another respondent wrote that she starts “having catastrophic, highly anxious thoughts” the day or so before her period begins. “It always happens when I’m commuting (I guess when I’m not doing anything else to distract myself from a wandering mind) and I’ll get either super sad or worried about life’s tiny minutiae.”
Anxiety is one of the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, says Dr. Greves. “It’s basically an extreme version of PMS,” she explains. Other emotional symptoms may include hopelessness, extreme moodiness, and anger. If you think you might have PMDD, mention it to your doctor, says Dr. Greves. Some women ease the side effects by taking an antidepressant intermittently if the symptoms only occur when they’re menstruating, she adds.
Very sensitive skin
One respondent said that when she gets her period, “It feels like my skin becomes more sensitive, and things that don’t normally bother me become painful. I try to avoid getting my eyebrows threaded right around my period because it seems to hurt more than usual at that time of the month.”
“Hormonal fluctuations can definitely change some women’s skin sensitivity during their period,” confirms Dr. Greves. “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.” It’s a good reason to reschedule that dentist visit or wax appointment for another week.
Mouth and gum pain
Before her period, one respondent told us, “I get some uncomfortable sensations in my mouth. My teeth feel achy and loose. My gums are swollen and sensitive. And I have a desire to brush my teeth every couple of hours. These symptoms go away after a few days, but until then, nothing seems to help.”
Blame this symptom on the surge in estrogen and progesterone that occurs right before your period hits. This causes an uptick in blood flow to the gums and also lowers your normal ability to fight plaque formation, Mary Rosser, MD, an ob-gyn at Montefiore Health System in New York City, told Health in a prior interview. 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 teeth (for two whole minutes! It’s what dentists advise) at least twice a day, and floss regularly.