You have charted your menstrual cycle accurately and, out of the blues, your period appears days or even weeks before its due date. There are several reasons behind such an occurrence some that should worry you and others not. We deal with these issues in detail.
What does it mean if you start your period early?
Depending on how early the period is, how heavy it is, the type of the discharge and many other factors, an early period can mean many different things.
It can be a simple change in the menstrual cycle, a disease, the effect of a drug or other activity. At times, it might not even be a period but another bodily process such as ovulation or implantation.
Why is my period early? Causes
Perhaps you are wondering why your period came so early this time around. Before you panic, there are various reasons as to why this might be the case.
Stress can cause a lot of changes to the body and particularly the female reproductive system. Without a solution, stress has been known to be a major cause of death through disease and psychological distortions.
If you experience early (or late periods) and are going through a rough patch in your life, it may be due to high-stress levels. Stress affects the female reproductive system in the following ways;
- It may make your periods irregular; if you are stressed, you can have shorter periods, longer periods, or no periods at all. Stress will produce the cortisol hormone in large amounts.
This hormone will dictate the levels of other hormones in the body including progesterone and estrogen hormones which control the menstrual cycle.
- Makes your vagina dry during sex; when you have a dry vagina, enjoying sex becomes difficult since it will be painful. Natural vaginal lubrication results from the mind being turned on. Stress makes it hard to be turned on.
- It makes premenstrual symptoms more severe; with the level of pain and restlessness you have with normal premenstrual symptoms, you will have a harder time dealing with the same symptoms when you are under stress.
These symptoms, including bloating, mood swings, cramping, and general sadness, are made worse by stress. The relationship between stress and premenstrual symptoms is a circular one given that premenstrual symptoms can also cause or worsen stress.
- Reduces libido; having sexual arousal will generally reduce if you have more frequent periods which are more painful. Early and generally irregular periods make having sexual desires a rarity.
- Can alter the pH of the vagina; if the pH of the vagina is altered due to stress, the consequences can include diseases such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
- It makes cramps more painful; besides making the premenstrual symptoms worse, stress will also make the menstrual cramps more severe. Stress will thus make your life harder given more painful and more frequent periods.
- Increases vaginal discharge; stress will generally increase vaginal discharges through the influence it has on the hormones. Increasing or decreasing some of these hormones will lead to early periods given that most of the hormones involved in vaginal discharges are the same ones that determine the frequency of periods.
- Makes it harder getting pregnant; when you have irregular periods, do not have a desire for sex and the sexual intercourse is painful, getting pregnant becomes quite difficult.
- Changes in the sleep cycle; stress can make you sleepless and fatigued leading to changes in the natural menstrual cycle.
2. Plan B birth control
The plan B birth control pills are used by a lot of women around the world. Among their side effects are early periods when taken.
Some women who have used this form of contraception have experienced periods within a fortnight of each other. Others only have observed spotting a few days after taking this form of contraception. In this case, the body would be simply adjusting itself to the new drug.
The overall effects of plan B contraceptives are not predictable as it varies from person to person. You may have the periods at the exact time you expect them, earlier or later than usual.
You may also have other side effects of using plan B that may be easily mistaken for a pregnancy. They include;
- Abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
When you start taking this medication, make sure you communicate with your doctor about anything you experience for the best results.
Even when taking plan B or other contraceptives, you may occasionally have to bleed in the form of breakthrough bleeding. This may occur especially during the times you forget to take a pill or during the early stages of using the contraceptive.
3. Uterine or ovarian cancer
Cancer of the ovary, the uterus and other parts of the female reproductive system may alter your menstrual cycle in various ways including making it shorter, longer or inactive. You may also easily mistake the bleeding from a cancerous tumor for a period.
Unlike a period which starts or is preceded by premenstrual symptoms before a dark brown discharge follows for the next four to five days, a discharge from cancer is different both in color and consistency.
The cancer discharge occurs at any time including after menopause, after sexual intercourse, between periods and at other random times. It is also of different colors including brown, pink, watery, pale and at times foul-smelling.
Besides the early periods, cancer has other symptoms such as;
- Longer and heavier periods
- Back, leg and abdominal pain
- Loss of weight
- Loss of appetite
If you observe any of these signs in a group, ensure you get tested for cancer for early treatment.
4. PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
The polycystic ovary syndrome is a combination of symptoms which come about due to the increase in the levels of the male hormones (androgens) in women.
The actual cause of this condition is a combination of environmental factors and your genetic predisposition. Although it has many effects on the body, this disease is named after its main symptom which is a cyst or several of them on the ovary.
PCOS is bound to cause early periods as one of its symptoms is irregular periods. Besides that, this disease also has other symptoms which include;
- Patches of velvety, dry and dark skin
- Having difficulties conceiving
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Having excessive amounts of hair
- Heavy periods
You are likely to have the polycystic ovary syndrome if you are overweight, do not partake in physical activities, and have a family history of this disease.
PCOS needs to be quickly treated given that it can complicate other health conditions such as;
- Endometrial cancer
- Mood disorders
- Heart disease
- Obtrusive sleep disorders
- Type 2 diabetes
Polycystic ovary syndrome is similar in effect to other conditions which include;
- Adrenal hyperplasia
You thus need the intervention of a doctor to determine whether the early periods and the other symptoms you have are from PCOS or from the other similar health conditions.
Endometriosis is a case of the uterine line, called the endometrium, growing on the outside of the uterus rather than the inside.
This tissue can be found in many other places on the body such as around the bowel or bladder, in the stomach, around the fallopian tubes, and around the ovaries.
It is a painful condition that has many symptoms including irregular periods. Having an early period alone is not sign enough to say you have endometriosis.
You need a specialist to put together the most common symptoms of this disease to pronounce its presence. The other symptoms to look for when pinpointing endometriosis include;
- Heavy periods
- Intense menstrual cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Pain when defecating
- Pain during and after sex
- Blood in your stool
- General fatigue
It is easy to see that the symptoms of endometriosis are shared by many other health conditions some of which may be easily confused for endometriosis. You thus need to see a health practitioner to diagnose this problem.
6. Fibroids and polyps
Fibroids and polyps are growths that occur in various parts of the female reproductive system. These growths are quite common in women and their effects on the menstrual cycle are easy to note. They include;
- Irregular periods (early periods, late periods or their absence)
- Prolonged and heavy periods
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Bleeding between periods
- Frequent urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Low back pain
- You may also notice a firm mass close to the middle of the pelvis
Fibroids and polyps require physical examinations to establish their presence.
7. Hormonal imbalance
Among the main causes of an early period is an imbalance in the hormones. There are many hormones which take part in the determination of when you will see your periods.
The major hormones, conditions, and organs that determine the occurrence of periods include;
As your periods come close, the level of estrogen in the body will rise. This hormone helps in building up the endometrium in preparation for a pregnancy.
When there is no pregnancy, the estrogen levels will decrease leading to the shedding of the wall of the uterus (endometrium). If its amount in the body rises and decreases too drastically or it is produced randomly, you may have periods at any time.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
This hormone, which is produced by the pituitary gland, is tasked with the preparation of the follicles for the ovulation process. It rises in the middle of the menstrual cycle and reduces in amount afterward.
At times, the ovulation process (release of a mature egg by a follicle) is accompanied by period-like cramps and some light spotting. These are referred to as ovulation cramps and spotting respectively.
If your “period” is about midway the menstrual cycle and is short-lived, it could be ovulation taking place.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
While the follicle stimulating hormone prepares the follicles for ovulation, it is the luteinizing hormone which releases the egg from the follicles through the process of ovulation.
The accidental release of this hormone may lead to the immature release of an egg and thus an early period.
Upon the release of the egg by a follicle, the remaining follicle becomes the corpus luteum which then produces the progesterone hormone.
If fertilization occurs, the level of progesterone (and estrogen) will go up. If fertility of the egg does not take place, the corpus luteum will be done away with and the progesterone hormone will also reduce in amount.
- Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
The thyroid glands produce the thyroid hormone which has many roles in the body. When the thyroid glands are too active (hyperthyroidism) or too inactive (hypothyroidism), too much or too little of this hormone will be produced.
Given that the thyroid hormone has a direct effect on the other hormones of the body, its presence will determine when you get your periods.
The prolactin hormone is a hormone found in all lactating mammals. It is involved in the production of milk for the newborn baby. Its presence can cause bleeding even in-between periods in what can be mistaken for an early period.
- Abrupt weight changes
When you gain or lose weight suddenly, your period may appear earlier than usual. If you choose to cut or gain weight, do so gradually to avoid upsetting bodily systems such as the menstrual cycle.
- Menopause and puberty
In puberty, the body is just starting to experience periods for the first time. They are often erratic in nature and the will come either too early or too late.
The case is the same with menopause. As it commences, changes in the hormones will disrupt the normal menstrual cycle leading to cases of early, late or non-existent periods.
These cases of hormonal imbalances have far-reaching effects on the menstrual cycle. Most women will experience random periods when a hormonal imbalance sets in.
In the case of a hormonal imbalance or a random period, make it your top priority to see the doctor since it could be a sign of another major issue.
My period came 4, 5 days early
Why does my period come 4 days early?
If your period comes 4 or 5 days earlier than usual, it most likely is a case of an early period and nothing more. However, it all depends on the type of the discharge and any other signs you may observe.
If the discharge is heavy, dark brown in color and lasts for about five or four days, it would be an early period.
It would only mean that your period has shifted to a new cycle; a perfectly normal occurrence especially if you had stress or another incident in your life that has direct or indirect effects on your menstrual cycle.
However, if the discharge is light pink or light brown and lasts for about two days, then it would be implantation spotting. This is when the fertilized egg would be attaching itself to the walls of the uterus. What it essentially means is that you are pregnant if this is the case.
Implantation is expected to occur a week (7 days) before your period. However, like all biological processes, exactness is not a guarantee. The process can thus occur a few days to the period and still have no health implications.
Period is one or 2 weeks early
A period that is a week or two earlier than the norm can be due to various reasons including the following;
- Ovulation; ovulation spotting occurs midway a 28-day menstrual cycle which is 14 days or 2 weeks before your next period. In such a case, you will not experience the normal heavy period but a lighter and shorter-lived spotting that may not even require pads or tampons.
- Implantation; implantation is the attachment of the fertilized egg on the uterine wall. This takes place approximately a week to the next period. Just like ovulation, implantation will have a lighter and shorter-lived spotting compared to an actual period.
- Cycle changes; after the use of a contraceptive such as birth control pills, your cycle may change especially after stopping the use of the contraceptive.
You can thus have a period at any time after stopping the method (even when you have an expected date for the period).
- Hormonal imbalances; when you have a hormonal imbalance that randomly initiates certain processes, you might have a period at any time.
- Health conditions; with hyperthyroidism, you are likely to have early periods often. Hypothyroidism has the opposite effect.
Early short period
An early and short period can be mainly because of two causes namely ovulation and implantation processes.
Ovulation will occur when the follicles release a mature egg into the fallopian tube. This process entails the bursting of the follicles to release the egg. This bursting is often signified by a light pink spotting that lasts anything from a few hours to two days.
Implantation is the process by which the mature egg is attached to the uterine walls. Although the word “attach” is used, it is more of burrowing into the uterine wall than simply attaching.
The burrowing process will have some bleeding which would last for about a day or two before it disappears.
If the early period is heavy and dark brown in color (just like the normal period), then it can be your period coming earlier than usual due to a stressful event such as stress or a disease.
It would be short-lived since the wall of the uterus (which is shed as a period) would not be fully thickened.
My period is a week early; could I be pregnant?
An early period that occurs exactly a week to your next period can be due to implantation. However, it can also be your period just coming earlier than normal.
To differentiate between implantation spotting and an actual period, here are the differences;
- Intensity of cramps
With implantation, the cramps are mild and will last for a few hours or two days at most. While some people may need a painkiller or other remedy to reduce the pain, some may not feel the pain at all.
For an actual period, the cramps will be more painful and will last for the whole time when you have the period which is an average of four days. Every woman who experiences periods also experiences cramps.
- Period of discharge
For implantation, the discharge will go on for about two days then subside. A period will most likely go beyond the two-day period to at least four days.
- Color of discharge
The implantation discharge is often of a light pink to a light brown color and rarely dark brown. On the other hand, the menstrual discharge is a dark brown to red color.
- Viscosity of discharge
An implantation discharge is of a light nature and is even watery and inconsistent in its flow. The period, on the other hand, is thicker and more consistent in its flow.
- Amount of discharge
You will know you are pregnant if the discharge you experience a week before your next period is little and barely requires the use of tampons or pads.
On the other hand, if the discharge is in high amounts such that it poses a challenge to your hygiene, it is just an early period.
How to manage an early period
While an early period is not always an issue to worry about, you may need to institute some measures to make yourself prepared and to manage each incident of an early period.
Among the activities to do in managing early or unexpected periods include;
1. Charting your period
If you keep track of your menstrual cycle, you will be able to note any anomalies that arise during your cycle. You will also be able to explain all (or most) occurrences during your cycle with a well-kept record.
2. Good health routines
Issues with your menstrual cycle are bound to happen if you are either stressed, are not sleeping enough, do not have the right weight, and are not eating right. To combat that;
- Have enough sleep
- Avoid stress
- Avoid fatty and salty foods
- Gain or lose weight appropriately
3. Using the right products
If you are in suspicion of an early period, you should always have menstrual cups on standby. This ensures that you are ready for any form of discharge no matter how sudden it appears.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor;
- If your early periods are frequent as in the case of three periods occurring very close to each other
- If you have more than you remember having during a period
- When you have an itchy discharge
- When the discharge goes on for more than 5 days
Anything you see that you are yet to see with your period should be reported to the doctor.
Menstruation and Hormones – Women’s Health Connecticut
Birth Control Pills – WebMD