Typical Menstrual Periods

Menstrual periods can vary—from woman to woman and also from month to month in the same woman. Most women have some degree of premenstrual symptoms, which can include cramping, bloating, and breast tenderness. Less than 50 percent of women have premenstrual symptoms that cause them to limit their daily activities. A small percentage of women (less than 10 percent) experience severe premenstrual symptoms. Premenstrual symptoms may be referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Typical premenstrual symptoms include the following:

  • Acne
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Cramps (in the abdominal region and/or the lower back)
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Sleep problems

Atypical Menstrual Periods

Most premenstrual symptoms can be treated at home with various self-care techniques (e.g., over-the-counter pain relievers, exercise, heating pads). However, severe premenstrual symptoms can indicate a health condition that requires medical treatment. If you experience severe or unusual premenstrual symptoms, consult your physician.

Abnormal premenstrual and menstrual symptoms include abdominal or lower back pain that does not respond to over-the-counter pain relief medication, pain that occurs at times other than the first few days of menstruation, or pain that is unusually severe. Other abnormal symptoms include unusual vaginal discharge and bleeding between periods.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 16 Nov 2008

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015