Pads and other period products that can help with early periods

What Causes Early Periods?

Medically reviewed on December 10, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Whether you’re used to having an unpredictable cycle or your period is always on time, getting your menstrual period earlier than you expected can be surprising.

What does an early period mean for you? While it doesn’t necessarily point to a more serious underlying health condition, irregular cycles might indicate that your body is functioning differently than usual.

In this guide, three potential causes of early periods are broken down, as well as common symptoms, potential health implications, and tips for managing an early period.

1. Hormonal Imbalances or Changes

Your endocrine system is constantly working to maintain a healthy balance of hormone levels and other compounds.[1] But, the ease of maintaining that balance can depend on a wide variety of factors like [2-6]:

  • Age
  • Diet
  • Endocrine diseases and other illnesses
  • Stress

And, if any of these factors impact your reproductive hormone levels, you could experience changes in your menstrual cycle, perhaps including changes to cycle length—meaning that bleeding could begin earlier than usual.

This is especially true if your reproductive stage is in flux. For instance, if you’re recently postpartum or transitioning to perimenopause or menopause, you may experience irregular periods.[7,8]

2. Lifestyle Factors

The previous section briefly mentioned diet and stress as potential factors that could influence your hormone production—a factor that might impact your menstrual cycle. But let’s dig deeper into lifestyle elements that could play a role in your period timing:

  • Nutrition – While scientists are still studying the connection between diet and menstruation, a recent study revealed that participants’ adherence to the Mediterranean diet and their other lifestyle and dietary factors (like alcohol consumption) correlated to menstrual characteristics across the study population.[9] In other words, the food you eat could play a role in your cycle timing, regularity, and symptoms.
  • Exercise – Healthcare experts have established some connections between exercise and the menstrual cycle.[10] While it’s most common for athletes and people with rigorous training regimens to miss periods entirely, your personal exercise profile and other lifestyle factors could play a role in the length of your cycle.
  • Caffeine intake – While there are few studies that explore the connection between caffeine intake and menstruation, early data suggests a connection between irregular periods and caffeine consumption.[11]

3. Medical Conditions

If you have a medical condition, you might experience changes in your menstrual cycle.

Healthcare researchers have found connections between the following conditions and disturbances in the menstrual cycle [12]:

  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) – When ovary function stops working normally before the age of 40
  • Thyroid dysfunction – Producing too much or too little thyroid hormone
  • Cushing’s syndrome – Producing too much cortisol
  • Uncontrolled diabetes – Imbalance between insulin and blood sugar levels
  • Asherman’s syndrome – Uterine scarring vAdrenal hyperplasia – Adrenal gland dysfunction
  • Eating disorders – Chronic dietary disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa

If you have a chronic medical condition that is affecting how you feel at different stages of your menstrual cycle, consider speaking to a healthcare provider.

Common Symptoms of an Early Period

Luckily, the symptoms of an early period typically aren’t unlike normal menstrual symptoms, which can include [13]:

  • Abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or cramps
  • Mood changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Lower back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

However, it’s important to take note of any symptoms that you typically don’t experience on your period. For instance, if you typically don’t have trouble maintaining your normal diet while you’re menstruating, but you experience a loss of appetite or intense cravings when your menstrual period comes early, this might be something to bring up with your healthcare provider.

Health Implications of an Early Period

Since your period can impact other elements of your health, an early period can do the same. If your period starts early, you may need to consider:

  • Contraception methods – If you typically use fertility awareness-based methods for preventing pregnancy (i.e., timing sexual activity during low fertility stages in your cycle), you might need to adjust those birth control methods to avoid accidental conception.[7] However, note that changing or getting off birth control may also impact your cycle.
  • Prescription medication changes – If you take prescription medications to manage menstruation-related health issues, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dosage, administration timing, or refill schedule to accommodate an early period.
  • Upcoming procedures or appointments – If you’re planning an upcoming procedure or appointment around your menstrual cycle (visits to the OB/GYN, perhaps), you may need to adjust your schedule to accommodate an early period.

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When to Consult A Healthcare Professional

While we’re often taught to simply accept that discomfort, unexpected changes, or uncomfortable symptoms are all part and parcel of the menstrual cycle, you are in control of your health and experiences. If you feel like your period pain, menstrual bleeding, or other symptoms are outside of the norm—or if they’re interfering with your wellness—make an appointment with a qualified healthcare professional to find a solution.

Keep in mind that:

  • Telehealth services are available for reproductive healthcare – Telehealth services provide unique access to licensed providers in all kinds of specialties, including OB/GYN care.
  • Emergencies should be treated as such – If you’re in immediate medical distress or experiencing abnormally severe bleeding, contact emergency medical services right away.

Tips for Managing Early Periods

If your period came early this month, consider:

  • Tracking your cycles – If you were caught off guard, try to reestablish familiarity with your cycle by using a menstrual tracking method. Whether you use a paper calendar, a smartphone app, or a traditional journal to log your cycle, recording your own personal data can make it easier to identify patterns.
  • Talking to your loved ones – In many cases, our cycles can affect other people in our lives. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your partner, your roommates, or anyone you feel needs to know about your cycle.
  • Making an appointment with a healthcare provider – Trust your gut. If you feel like an early period is cause for concern, if your symptoms are worse than usual, or if your early period will impact other areas of your health, make an appointment to talk to your provider.

Empower Yourself With Menstrual Cycle Knowledge With Everlywell

What does an early period mean? In most cases, just a minor inconvenience. Rest assured that minor irregularities in your cycle can be relatively common.

Menstrual cycle misinformation is rampant online, and it can be difficult to find the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your health. Everlywell is at work to change that.

With Everlywell, you can learn more about your health with at-home testing, read the latest in medical news, and create a customized treatment plan with a licensed provider, all from the comfort of your home.

Get started with a telehealth appointment for women’s health online.

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  1. Overview of the endocrine system | US EPA. US EPA. Published March 13, 2023. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  2. Aging changes in hormone production: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  3. Ryan KK, Seeley RJ. Food as a hormone. Science. 2013;339(6122):918-919. doi:10.1126/science.1234062URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  4. Endocrine Diseases - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  5. Somasundaram NP. Infections in Endocrinology: Viruses. Endotext - NCBI Bookshelf. Published March 14, 2021. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  6. Stress. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  7. Classifications for Fertility Awareness–Based Methods. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published March 27, 2023. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  8. Menopause basics | Office on Women’s Health. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  9. Onieva-Zafra MD, Fernández‐Martínez E, Abreu-Sánchez A, et al. Relationship between Diet, Menstrual Pain and other Menstrual Characteristics among Spanish Students. Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1759. doi:10.3390/nu12061759URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  10. Physical activity and your menstrual cycle | Office on Women’s Health. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  11. Mahmoud AZB, Makhdoom AN, Mufti LA, Alreheli RS, Farghal RG, Aljaouni SE. Association between menstrual disturbances and habitual use of caffeine. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences. 2014;9(4):341-344. doi:10.1016/j.jtumed.2014.03.012 URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  12. What causes menstrual irregularities? Published January 31, 2017. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.
  13. What are the symptoms of menstruation? Published January 31, 2017. URL. Accessed November 29, 2023.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.

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