Every month your period gives you clues about your health, but unless you know how to read those clues, the information will be wasted. Unfortunately, we don’t talk about our periods very much and so many women are left in the dark, wondering what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to our period. When you know what a normal period is like, it empowers you to recognize when something is off in your body and make changes or get help to fix it. So let’s break the taboo and dive into a conversation about our period!
What is a period?
Often the terms period and menstrual cycle are used interchangeably, but these are actually two different things. Your period is the time when you are bleeding, while your menstrual cycle is the entire cycle from day 1 of your period to the last day before your next period starts. (If you want to know more about how your menstrual cycle works, read this!) A true period is always preceded by ovulation, or the release of an egg from your ovaries. Ovulation is SO important! It really is the key to your hormone health because if you don’t ovulate, your body doesn’t make or keep the hormones you need for balance.
Why does your period matter?
It’s become common to believe that it doesn’t really matter if you have a regular period or not, but I don’t agree with this. Your period is now recognized as your fifth vital sign, and as such is an important indicator of your overall health. Having a regular period makes a big positive impact on your heart health, cancer risk, and brain health, along with helping maintain hormone balance in your body. If something is not right with your period, or if it is missing altogether, it is a big clue that something needs to be addressed with your health.
How long should my period and cycle be?
It is normal for every woman’s cycle to be a little different, but on average, a healthy cycle is anywhere from 25-35 days long, and it may vary a little from month to month. Your cycle length is determined by the length of your follicular phase, or the time from the end of bleeding until ovulation. This time should be at least 11 days long and once you ovulate, your period will start within 11-17 days. A normal period will last 3-7 days. You may have a day or two of spotting before this, but this shouldn’t last for more than 2 days. Cycles and periods that are longer or shorter than these ranges or any sudden or dramatic changes in your cycle or period length are a clue that something is up with your hormones.
What is normal for bleeding?
I wondered what was normal for my menstrual bleeding for years! How is a girl to know? I felt like mine were heavy, but I didn’t know what was normal. Over the course of a normal period, you can expect to lose 30-50 ml of blood, which translates to 6-10 fully soaked regular pads or tampons. This can be hard to measure because when we bleed, we are losing other fluids, tissue, clots and uterine lining along with the blood, and most of us don’t completely soak a pad or tampon before changing it. Losing more than 80 ml of blood over the course of your period would be considered excessive bleeding. Other signs of heavier than normal bleeding include flooding (soaking a pad/tampon every hour), needing to change period protection during the night, clots bigger than 1 inch, bleeding for more than eight days, and exhaustion or dizziness when your period arrives. Too little bleeding can be as much a sign of hormone imbalance as too much bleeding. Bleeding for only 1-2 days or soaking 5 or less tampons/pads over the course of your period is considered too light. Your blood should be red and should be about the consistency of maple syrup, flowing easily. Spotting at ovulation is normal, but if you are spotting throughout the month or for more than two days before you period, it’s probably a sign that something is up.
What other symptoms are normal?
There are so many things that us women experience with our periods, but just because something is common, it doesn’t mean it’s normal. It’s also important to remember that if symptoms disrupt your life it’s a sign that something is out of balance in your body. It’s normal to feel more tired than usual during your period, more socially withdrawn, and more sensitive. In fact, it’s important to honor your body’s need for extra rest during this time. However, you don’t have to feel exhausted. Pain that disrupts your daily routine or that requires more than two regular ibuprofen to relieve is not normal. Other symptoms that are common but not normal are headaches before or after your period, cravings, and emotional highs or lows. Your body was not made to suffer every month!
A New Way of Thinking
Your body is amazing! The hormonal dance that occurs every month is miraculous and I believe it is important to appreciate it. We are so conditioned to believe that our bodies bring us pain and that suffering is just part of being a woman. It’s time for a new way of thinking, a different perspective on our bodies, and a new appreciation for being a woman. Your body is made to thrive and it is capable of doing that. If you are experiencing symptoms that are not normal, I want you to know that there is hope! Often a few changes can lead to big results in your health; the first step is to understand your body and listen to the signals she’s giving you. Contact me if you are suffering every month and let’s get you feeling better!