The Hormonal Acne Diaries: Is My Cycle Normal?
In the last post in this series, we had a good old yarn about what a healthy period should look like.
- your period should arrive every 21-35 days - no more or less often
- it will flow for anywhere from 2-7 days, although most women flow for 3-5 days, with 50ml's worth of flow.
- there may be a little bit of mild pain or discomfort for the first day or so of your period, but you probably wouldn't need to take painkillers
Is this ^ your face right now? Because this so, unequivocably, 210%, etc. is not you?
Alright, babe, bare with me: let's take a deeper look at what is and isn't so normal...
1. S P O T C E N T R A L
Yep. Hormonal acne. Ugh.
If you're breaking out around period time, this could come down to a few different reasons... Firstly, it might be that acne is one of your PMS symptoms (more on these in a sec). Secondly, it could be due to a condition known as PCOS (or PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome - more on this one in a future post). And, finally, it might actually be as a result of either taking, or having just stopped taking, a hormonal contraceptive.
2. I ' M I N P A I N
Period pain is the result of some little thangs called prostaglandins being released as a result of an oestrogen/progesterone imbalance (there's plenty of oestrogen, but not quite enough progesterone for that seesaw to balance nicely - head back to the last post in the series to read up on how these two hormones play into your cycle).
The more prostaglandins released, the more out of whack that seesaw is, and the more pain you'll experience.
"Normal" period pain might involve a tiny wee bit of mild cramping in your lower back and/or pelvis for the first day, or maybe two. It definitely wouldn't render you out of action - you'd be fine to carry on your day A-OK and as normal.
Oh, and psst: as a naturopath, rebalancing your oestrogen/progesterone balance is something we can work on together to minimise this kinda thang anyway.
Not normal pain? Burning pain. Stabbing pain. Throbbing pain. You can't go to work or uni, and you might even throw up because OW THE BLOODY PAIN MAKE IT STOP. And this might go on for more than just one or two days. Heck, it might even come between periods too (holy heck!).
This is the kind of pain that could be caused by endometriosis, pelvic infection or a copper IUD that's just not quite right for you. It's best that you get this kind of pain checked out, because - again - it is not normal (no matter how many people tell you to "take a painkiller and have a laydown, you'll be #totesfine soon!" *eye roll*).
3. S T E E R C L E A R - P M S I N P R O G R E S S
PMS - also known as premenstrual syndrome. If you know, you know. But if you don't, PMS symptoms could include anything from acne to anxiety, swollen boobs to a bloated tum, confusion + clumsiness to depression, irritability to headaches, social anxiety to a drop in self-esteem... the list goes on! And all of the above can make that time a rather unpleasant one.
There are a few reasons PMS could be getting you a goodun:
- maybe, again, you've got an excess of oestrogen and too-low progesterone levels
- your body's maxin' out on the inflammation
- you're stressed AF
- orrrr you might even be histamine intolerant
- orrrrrrrrrr a combo of all of the above
4. S O S , M Y P E R I O D ' S E A R L Y / L A T E
You should be getting your period every 21-35 days. Full stop.
If you're heading into over 35-day territory, and you're deffo not pregnant, either you haven't ovulated this cycle or your follicular phase has been a particularly long one.
This could come down to the fact that you're: transitioning into menopause (if you're in that 45-55 year old category); too stressed; too unwell; not eating enough; or, a pal of PCOS.
If you didn't even make 21 days before your old mate rocked up again, either you've not ovulated or your follicular or luteal phase was particularly short this time around.
A short luteal phase is a tiny bit of a worry, as it means you're not creating an adequate amount of progesterone - and, as you're probably starting to gather, there are a few not-so-ideal health results that come from not having enough.
5. I C A N ' T H E L P I T I F I H A V E A H E A V Y F L O W
Sorry, it had to be done.
Back to serious talk:
If your period is flowing 80ml or more, or if you're flowing away for more than 7 days... you're a tad heavy. Remember, 50ml and 2-7 days worth of flow is best.
This will likely be the result of either oestrogen excess (creating more oestrogen than our body knows what on earth to do with), or not being able to properly clear that oestrogen from your body (looking at you, liver).
6. S U P E R L I G H T
If your time of the month is producing less than 25ml worth of blood over its entirety, you're light, lady!
Either you haven't ovulated this cycle, or you did and you just didn't create enough oestradiol (remember, that oestrogen hormone that helps to thicken the uterine lining, also known as our 'happy hormone') - because you're a smoker, or because you're undereating, or because you're exposed to a heap of 'xenoestrogens' in your environment (think 'bad' oestrogens, from plastic water bottles or food containers, or from conventional chemical-laden cosmetics).
7. M I S S I N G I N A C T I O N
When our periods go missing in action, this is known as 'amenorrhoea'. It literally means 'absence of periods'.
There are a few reasons for amenorrhoea. The two most obvious are pregnancy and menopause, which are times you'd definitely expect to be period-less.
However, there are some less ideal causes of amenorrhoea: stress, illness, undereating, and PCOS.
Remember how I said up the very top what a normal, healthy period should look like? It's also what a period could look like for you - you, of all the babest babes out there, are just as deserving of a healthy, normal, happy, comfortable period as the next babe. It's dreamable. It's doable. You might just need some help getting there.
As a qualified naturopath, I'd love to help you get your cycles cycling as they should. Why not book a one-on-one consult with me?
The next post of our series is for those of you babes on the pill - stay tuned!