When it comes to our periods – and our bodies in general – it can be hard to know what’s “normal.” Am I bleeding too much or too little? If my period used to last 7 days and now lasts 4, is that normal? How much period pain is normal vs. severe? Everyone’s body is different so it’s no wonder that everyone’s cycle differs and that means what’s “normal” for each person can look different, too. However, there are some general guidelines that help you know if your period cycle is on the right track.
Average Period Cycle
A menstrual cycle begins at the start of your period and lasts until the start of your next period. For most people, this ranges anywhere from 21 to 35 days. It’s “normal” to be anywhere in this range (as long as that’s normal for you.) However, if this cycle reaches 38 days, your period is considered irregular.
Your actual menstrual flow typically lasts anywhere from 2 to 7 days. If it exceeds 7 days, your period is heavy and you may need to see a doctor to determine the cause.
What is an irregular period?
A period is considered “irregular” if your cycle is longer than 38 days or if the duration of your cycle/flow often varies. There could be various causes of an irregular period:
Just to name a few. These could also be reasons for missed periods. Skipping a period or having an irregular period is normal when we first get our periods. As we age, our periods become more regular.
However, even if you skip a period as an adult, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a serious problem. It could be stress-related or a result of your eating or exercise habits. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, if you don’t have a period for more than 90 days or if you’re just concerned, check with your doctor.
What is considered a heavy period?
Did you know that having a heavy period is actually a medical condition? Many women don’t know this and live most of their lives thinking excessive bleeding is normal. Not only is this inconvenient for the women experiencing it, but it can lead to other health issues.
But what’s the difference between a heavy flow day and Menorrhagia?
This is where knowing what is your normal comes into play. If your period seems significantly heavy compared to your usual flow (or you’re changing a tampon or pad every 2 hours, multiple times,) leaves you on the floor, unable to move or lasts longer than 7 days, you should see a doctor. There are many solutions to help with a heavy period and you don’t have to live with the effects of heavy bleeding.
Can stress affect your period?
A lot of us know the answer to this just by personal experience – yes. Stress can affect your period and furthermore, it can do so in various ways. It can make your period heavier, longer or shorter, cause a missed period or cause worse cramps. That’s why it’s important for us to de-stress around and during our cycle. Here are some simple ways to decrease your stress:
- Light a soothing candle (like lavender or sandalwood)
- Exercise, even if you can only muster up the energy for some active stretching
- Talk to friends or family (about why you’re stressed or about anything)
- Do something you love (even if that means watching a favorite movie)
- Ditch the tampons and wear period underwear made for heavy flows to feel secure and avoid frequent changes
Remember that you know your body. The best way to know if your period is normal is to know if it’s normal for you. You can do this by tracking things like your cycle, your pain-level, your flow (you can even do this on apps like Flo) or just by taking note of those things in your mind each month. If something feels off to you, it never hurts to check with a professional. And always, know you’re not alone.