It’s may not be something you talk about every day. But asking some important questions about menstruation can give you some insight into your reproductive health.
How long should a normal period be?
When it comes to the frequency, length and flow of your monthly visitor, a general rule of thumb is that normal periods are defined as what’s normal for you. But being knowledgeable about your menstrual cycle can help you identify when normal goes awry.
You get your period when your uterus sheds its lining. Part of your menstrual flow is blood and part of it is that lining called endometrium. Most women get their period about 12 to 16 days after ovulation.
The menstrual cycle is 28 days on average, and a normal period lasts anywhere from two to seven days with three to five days being average.
If you’re a teenager and are experiencing your first period, it may take up to two years for your menstrual cycle to become predictable and regular. Your cycle also may run longer than the 28-day average seen in adults.
If you keep track of your periods, marking the start date on the calendar, then counting 28 days ahead, or however many days your typical cycle is, you can plan ahead. This way you’ll have pads and tampons on hand (or your menstrual cup, if you’ve gone that route). Many women try to avoid scheduling vacations or other important days during the time they’ll have their periods.
Factors that can affect your period’s length
Some lifestyle and medical factors can affect the number of days you have your period. They can also have an impact on the amount of bleeding and severity of cramps that you experience.
Your age can affect the amount of hormones in your body; for example, as we get older, we produce less estrogen. This can lead to a lighter and shorter period. However, if a woman has a polyp or fibroid in her uterus, she may experience heavier bleeding for a longer number of days.
Lighter periods with birth control pills
Women who use birth control pills often have shorter periods with lighter flow. Traditional pill packs feature several “non-active” or placebo pills that trigger your period. Even before the advent of pills like Seasonale that were specifically designed to allow women to skip their periods, many women would skip taking the non-active pills to avoid having their period during inconvenient times.
Since the introduction of Seasonale in 2003, scads of new birth control pill formulations have come onto the market that allow you to skip your period. And when you do have a period, you can have a lighter, shorter one.
It might take a few months after you first start taking birth control pills until your periods normalize. In fact, the most common cause of irregular bleeding is missed pills.
If your period runs longer than usual, it’s often the result of normal hormonal fluctuations and not something to worry about. If you’ve experienced a sudden change in the number of days you menstruate, it’s always wise to check with a doctor to find out if there’s a medical issue behind it. If your period has always run long, mention it at your next gyno exam.
What makes a period “too short”? As long as a short menstrual period is part of a regular pattern and fits within a range of two to seven days, you’re considered to have normal periods.
The length of your period all depends on how much estrogen you produce. If your body doesn’t make a lot of it, your uterine lining won’t be very thick and, when it sheds, the bleeding is light and only lasts for a few days.
Younger women may have short and irregular periods, and older women approaching menopause may also experience irregular or short menstrual periods.
When to get checked out
Normal cycles last between 24 to 35 days. Some teens might have shorter cycles of only 21 days, and others might go as long as 45 days between periods. Adults can have a range of between 21 to 35 days. See a doctor if your cycle falls outside of those ranges. Also, if you’ve been menstruating for more than two years and your period hasn’t become regular, visit a health care provider.
Being sick or under stress can cause you to skip your period. However, if you miss a period and are sexually active, definitely get checked out for a possible pregnancy. Also, visit a healthcare professional about your period if:
- You haven’t gotten your first period by age 15.
- You don’t menstruate for more than 90 days.
- Your periods start to be very irregular after having previously been regular.
- Your period lasts for more than seven days.
- Your menstrual flow is more heavy than usual.
- You experience bleeding between periods.
- You experience horrible pain during menstruation.
- You suddenly get a fever and feel ill after using tampons.
If your irregular or short menstrual cycle is a new development and not your typical pattern, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor.
What’s your normal? Are you blessed with naturally lighter, shorter periods? Or are you changing out pads for seven days straight? Let us know in the comments!