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11 Signs your period is coming

There are many physical and emotional changes that can signal that your period is on the way, including tender breasts, mood changes, and tiredness. While we all experience symptoms differently, most women start to notice these symptoms between one and two weeks before they get their period. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some more signs your period may be on its way and what to look out for.

This article is also available in Spanish.

What do I need to know about my period? 

Whether you’ve never had a period before, or you just need a little refresher on what menstruation is, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the facts of our menstrual cycles, and why we have periods at all!

Your menstrual cycle helps your body to prepare for pregnancy. Throughout the month, your body goes through a series of changes, including fluctuations in your hormone levels and a build-up of the lining in your uterus. But if you don’t get pregnant, your uterus will shed that lining, which leaves your body through your vagina – in other words, that’s the reason for your period starting.

Your period can last anywhere from two to seven days. When you first get your period, its length may vary from month to month, but it usually settles into a regular pattern by the time you’re in your late teens or early twenties.

The signs your period is coming for the first time are mostly the same as the ones you’ll experience later in your life in the weeks and days before your period comes. Knowing the signs your period is coming can help you get to know your body better, and help you avoid any surprises! 

So with that in mind, here are some signs and symptoms to look out for that might just indicate that your period might be on its way in the next week or two.

1. Your breasts hurt

Tender breasts can be a sign your period is coming soon. You might even notice your breasts increase in size in the days before your period. This is due to increased levels of the hormone progesterone - as with other premenstrual symptoms, breast swelling and tenderness should disappear when your period arrives. 

It’s really important to keep an eye on any changes to your breasts, and we recommend you make it part of your routine to carry out regular self-breast checks in the days after your period when your breasts should be less tender.

2. Your mood keeps changing

While the main female sex hormone, estrogen can make us feel pretty good during ovulation, towards the end of your cycle, estrogen levels have dropped off and instead, progesterone levels can give us bouts of feeling low or irritable. If you’ve noticed changes to your mood, it might be because menstruation is right around the corner.

While it’s normal to experience some mood changes as a part of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), if it starts to interfere with your everyday life, it may be a sign of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). This is a severe form of PMS, and you should consult with a healthcare professional if you think you might be experiencing PMDD, as there are ways you can reduce the condition and symptoms.

3. You’re craving certain foods

While it can be a source of comfort to reach for the chocolate box in the days before our periods, there’s a reason you may be craving chocolate (and other foods) on your period. Once again, it all comes down to changes in hormone levels. These hormonal fluctuations can make us crave sweet or salty foods and can affect our appetite at different points in the cycle too.

Sometimes, a treat is exactly what we need to pick us up on those difficult days but keep in mind that maintaining a healthy diet and drinking lots of water can reduce bloating and other PMS symptoms in the lead-up to your period.

4. You feel bloated

Speaking of bloating, it’s another common symptom you might experience right before your period. It’s thought that this is caused by the changing levels of progesterone and estrogen in your body, which can cause you to retain more water and salt.

Reducing the amount of salt in your diet can help to reduce that bloated feeling, as can staying well hydrated. And – while it might be the last thing you feel like doing – exercise can actually help to reduce your symptoms. So whether it’s a brisk walk, a gentle jog or a relaxing yoga class, it’s a good time to give your body and mind a break.

5. You’re feeling sluggish

Fatigue is another of the signs your period is coming. Experiencing tiredness in the days before you’re due is fairly common. Even if you’re well-rested, you might find your energy levels are lower than at other points in your cycle. While keeping a regular sleep routine can help, some may experience insomnia despite tiredness. As with other PMS symptoms, this is caused by a change in hormones and should go away once your period starts. 

Did you know tiredness can also be a sign of early pregnancy? In fact, many PMS symptoms are very similar to early pregnancy signs because of the presence of progesterone, which plays a big role both in the second part of the menstrual cycle and in the first trimester. If you think you might be pregnant, the best time to take a pregnancy test is the first day of your missed period.

6. Your discharge has dried up

Another sign your period is coming is discharge, or rather a lack of it. Cervical mucus is a type of vaginal discharge that changes in amount and consistency throughout the menstrual cycle. When we’re most fertile, cervical mucus is sometimes visible in our underwear or when we wipe after using the toilet. Since we’re not fertile in the days directly before we get our period, there should be very little or no discharge to see. 

Even after your period has ended, it will likely be a few days before discharge is visible. You can look out for the changes in your cervical mucus throughout your cycle as it varies in amount and consistency as you approach your fertile window.

7. You’re getting a pimple or two

Have you noticed a link between your skin and hormones? If you regularly notice a change in your complexion, it may be one of the signs your period is coming. High progesterone is responsible for making our skin oilier in the days leading up to menstruation, and you might notice your hair is a little bit greasier, too. 

Sticking to a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can help reduce breakouts when your period is about to arrive. Everyone's skin is different and has different needs, so our best advice is to listen to your body and build a routine that works for you.

8. You have cramps

Many women experience cramps during their period, but they’re also a classic PMS symptom. Period cramps, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea, can happen just before your period – unlike the other symptoms listed here, you’ll usually start to feel cramps in the day or two before your period – and they often last for the first few days of your period, too. 

Cramps are caused by your uterine muscles contracting as your body starts to shed the uterine lining – and as this lining leaves your body, you get your period. As well as cramps in your lower belly, you might have a sore lower back. A heat pad or hot water bottle can help to relieve the pain. 

9. You’re experiencing changes in your bowel movements

In the days before your period, you might notice a change in your usual bowel movements, resulting in either constipation or diarrhea. 

An increase in progesterone levels in your body can have a relaxing effect on your muscles, which can, for some people, lead to constipation as your bowel movements slow down. 

The phenomenon of period poop is caused by higher levels of prostaglandins (these cause your uterus to contract); the bowel is close by, and these contractions can cause diarrhea! 

10. You have a lower sex drive

There are lots of different things that can affect your sex drive, but one part of it is your hormones. That means you might find that you’re less interested in sex in the days before your period is due. 

For most women, their sex drive is highest during ovulation – that is, in the middle of the menstrual cycle, usually around 14 days before you get your next period.

Progesterone is at its highest right before your period, and research has shown that progesterone has a strong negative impact on libido. It stands to reason, then, that your sex drive may decrease in the days before your period as your progesterone levels rise.

11. Your birth control warns you

If you’re using Natural Cycles as birth control, you’ll get regular updates about the changes happening in your cycle, including when your period is due. NC° Birth Control has two parts: an app and a measuring device (like a thermometer or an Oura Ring). 

The app learns the pattern of your cycle based on the readings from the basal body thermometer. It’s possible to measure ovulation with temperature readings, and that’s how Natural Cycles can identify where you are in your cycle. So, as well as learning the signs your period is coming, by noticing changes in your body, you’ll get in-app updates, too!

Did you know that if you’re using hormonal birth control you don’t really get periods? Instead, methods like the birth control pill often cause a certain type of spotting called a withdrawal bleed. Since you don’t ovulate on hormonal birth control, this isn’t technically a period but rather a symptom of changing hormone levels.

Does everyone get PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome doesn’t affect everyone, but it is very common to experience at least a couple of PMS symptoms in the days and weeks before your period. 

The severity of symptoms can also vary from person to person. Some of us will barely notice our PMS symptoms, while for others, it can be debilitating. It all comes down to your genetics, hormones, stress, and overall health – but if you find that your PMS symptoms are significantly affecting your daily life, you should consult your healthcare provider.

How long does PMS last?

As the symptoms of PMS vary, so too does the amount of time these symptoms last. Symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, and sore breasts usually start one to two weeks before your period arrives, while other symptoms like cramps start just a couple of days before you start menstruating.

Symptoms typically go away within a few days after bleeding starts – and most people should be free from symptoms after around five days.

Period symptoms but no period

Your breasts hurt, you feel tired and moody, and you’ve developed spots on your chin – all sure signs that your period is about to arrive. But what if it doesn’t happen? 

There are some times when you may have symptoms of PMS, but your period doesn’t arrive – but in most cases, there’s an explanation. It could be down to:

  • Hormonal birth control: Some types of hormonal birth control, like the pill, implant, and IUD can cause side effects that resemble PMS. However, one of the other side effects of hormonal contraception, for many women, is that they don’t get a monthly bleed. Sometimes, this may just last a few months after starting a new type of birth control, while for others, it might be a long-term change.
  • Stress: Stress affects our bodies in many ways – including some that you might not be aware of. If you’re going through a time of increased stress, it can have an impact on your menstrual cycle, sometimes resulting in a lack of period.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: PCOS is a common disorder that’s associated by hormonal imbalance in the body. There are various symptoms of PCOS including irregular periods, acne and excess body hair – as well as late and missed periods.
  • Thyroid conditions: The thyroid is a tiny gland that is responsible for the regulation of many hormonal functions in the body, including the menstrual cycle. If you have either an overactive or underactive thyroid, it could cause PMS symptoms without a period.
  • Pregnancy: Many PMS symptoms are similar to those of early pregnancy. If you think it’s possible you could be pregnant, take a test the day your period is due or speak to your healthcare provider.

Get to know your cycle better

Here at Natural Cycles, we’re on hand to help you learn more about your cycle so you can predict and prepare for symptoms such as PMS, menstrual cramps, and more. With our birth control app, it’s easy to document symptoms and keep track of your unique cycle, making it easier to spot patterns in your cycle and keep track of your PMS symptoms so you’ll be better prepared for your period arriving.

The first FDA-cleared birth control app, Natural Cycles can help you plan or prevent pregnancy on your timeline. Why not find out if it could work for you today?

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Written By

Lauren McKay

Lauren McKay is a writer and journalist with more than ten years of experience writing across a variety of topics. She is a passionate advocate for driving women’s health knowledge and is a trained yoga teacher. She earned a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and currently lives in Scotland.

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Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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