1. You're anemic
A heavy flow is common among people who suffer from anemia, a form of iron deficiency. Symptoms include extreme tiredness, looking paler than normal, feeling dizzy or faint, and having shortness of breath. Anyone can be anemic, but it's often prevalent in vegetarian or vegan girls, because one of the best sources of iron is red meat.
Sound familiar? In mild cases, you can up your intake of iron-rich foods like beans, dark leafy greens, and fish, especially when you're on your period. But if things don't improve, pay a visit to your doctor, who can diagnose you with a blood test and prescribe you iron supplements.
2. You have a thyroid problem
At the opposite end of the spectrum, notably light periods or short cycles can be an indicator of trouble with your thyroid—a gland which helps your body use energy and controls other factors like metabolism.
Of course, factors like lifestyle or taking the pill can make your flow lighter, so it's not the cause for every woman, but your thyroid is in charge of your hormones, so it can have an impact on your menstrual cycle. If you have other symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including mood swings, hyperactivity, fatigue, or sudden weight loss, see your physician.
3. You have endrometriosis
Suffer from periods that are extremely painful and really heavy? It's possible that you have endometriosis, a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of your womb are in other areas of your body too—only without the exit route that your period has. This can be excruciatingly painful, and cause bleeding between periods, infertility issues, and more.
Endometriosis is a long-term, chronic illness, and there's no magic pill or cure. However, there are ways to make your symptoms far more manageable, from pain relief all the way through to surgery. Make an appointment to talk about your options—you don't have to suffer in silence.
4. You're not eating enough
If you have a restricted diet or your BMI is below around 18 or under, you might see your periods become irregular, or in extreme cases, stop altogether—a condition known as secondary amenorrhea. This also occurs when you're overexercising or training for a pretty hardcore event like a marathon.
Missing a period or two isn't always due to low weight, but if yours goes missing for three months or more and you've lost a lot of pounds in a short space of time (or were at a low weight to begin with), your eating habits could be to blame. Aim to increase the number of calories you're consuming to the right amount for your height, frame, and workout routine and see if this makes a difference. If you feel like you can't do this, it may be time to seek help for disordered eating.
5. You're diabetic
Overweight women who are missing periods, on the other hand, may have a different illness to contend with—type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance affects the ovaries, and diabetics often struggle more with their symptoms during their cycle—and this can even worsen when you don't even realize you are diabetic in the first place.
If you are diabetic, you'll notice a spike in blood sugar levels before your period, which can cause increased thirst and the need to go to the toilet, increased hunger, and tiredness. To counterbalance this, you need to eat regularly, focusing on low GI foods and minimal salt, as well as seek advice to manage your diabetes long term.
6. You have cervical polips
Cervical polyps—small benign tumors which grow on your cervix—can give you abnormally heavy periods, spotting, bleeding after sex, and more. While doctors aren't 100% sure why they form, likely causes are thought to be an increase in estrogen, infection, or blocked blood vessels in the canal.
Around 4% of women will experience a polyp at some point during their reproductive lives. But while the symptoms are very similar to those of cervical cancer, don't freak out—the likelihood that this is the case for you is minimal, but you should still consult a medical professional for reassurance.
7. You're super stressed
The first instinct when you miss a period is to think you're preggers, but the truth is that you can skip a month for a ton of different reasons—and one of the most common ones is stress.
A month off from the pain and the mess might seem like a reward, but a period missed due to stress is a sign from your body to slow down and take it easier, and it's a good idea to listen. There's no right or wrong way to de-stress—you could need a bubble bath or a night with friends, or you might benefit from therapy or anxiety medication. It's all about figuring out what works for you and maintaining a healthier balance.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.