Is Your Period Normal?

Learn more about the length, flow and cramps that accompany your monthly period, and when they could be warning signs that something's wrong.

Is Your Period Normal?

Menstruation is a normal, healthy process that a woman's body goes through from her early teen years until menopause. As part of your monthly menstrual cycle, your uterus grows a new lining (the endometrium) to prepare for the possibility of a fertilized egg. If a fertilized egg does not implant in the lining, then the uterus will shed the endometrium; this shedding initiates menstrual bleeding, otherwise known as your period.

Length 


The menstrual cycle normally lasts from 21 to 35 days - although teens and women in their 40s may have longer, irregular cycles up to 45 days. If you are nearing menopause, you can expect that the time between your periods will probably get longer, and eventually, stop. Other signs of approaching menopause are hot flashes and mood changes. 

If you are you are not approaching menopause and your period becomes irregular it could be a sign of stress, dramatic weight loss, or conversely, sudden weight gain. All of these conditions can affect your body's hormone levels and may cause changes in the length of your cycle. Medications such as antidepressants can also be a common, harmless cause of cycle changes.

Certain endocrine conditions such as polycystic ovaries and thyroid disorders can also cause irregular cycles; these disorders should be checked out by a specialist.

A normal period usually lasts about 3-5 days: anything longer than 7 days is considered prolonged bleeding.

Flow 

Flow is generally heavier during the beginning of your period and gradually gets lighter. It is normal to see small blood clots in your period; they may just be small pieces of the endometrium. If the clots are larger than a quarter, however, this could be a sign of abnormal bleeding. Similarly, if you have to change your pad or tampon more than 5 times a day or if you are soaking through every hour, your bleeding is excessive and could be an abnormal sign.

Fibroids are benign tumors in the uterus and are a very common cause of abnormally heavy bleeding. More rarely, a bleeding disorder can cause heavy flow when your body cannot clot blood effectively.

Spotting, or light breakthrough bleeding, is also a normal variant and is very common in women on low dose birth control pills. If you are having light, breakthrough bleeding in the middle of your cycle it is probably nothing to worry about, although in some cases, it can be a sign of cervical polyps.

Lighter flow is also normal for women on oral birth control pills. If you miss your period altogether, the first thing to rule out is pregnancy. Once you have done that, another possible cause for a missed period is anovulation, which simply means you did not ovulate that month. It's possible that your next period may be heavier or longer if you have skipped a period in between.

For most women, incidental anovulation is normal and not a cause for worry. Some women simply have a more sensitive endocrine feedback system so that changes in stress, weight, and other factors cause shifts in their menstrual cycle.

Cramps 

For many women, cramps and bloating are the most uncomfortable parts of a menstrual period. Cramps are the result of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are released in the uterus and cause contractions as you shed the uterine lining. The best defense against painful cramps is to take an over the counter anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen, aspirin) to cut down on the production of prostaglandins.

If your cramps are very severe or disabling, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as endometriosis, a condition that can affect up to 10% of women. Endometriosis means that you may have uterine tissue growing outside the uterus, typically in the pelvic area, a situation that can cause severe cramps and pain.

Remember, different women will have subtle differences in their menstrual cycle depending on their age, weight, and other important factors. The key is to know what's normal for your own body so that you are better able to detect changes that could signal a more serious problem.

4 Steps to Shedding Your Pandemic Pounds

Forgive yourself, and start walking toward a healthier you.

For those of you who have put on the Pandemic Pounds or added several new COVID Curves, you are not alone. Alarmingly, the American Psychological Association has recently published that almost half of all adults in their survey now have a larger physique. In fact, 42% of people reported gaining roughly 15 pounds (the average published was surprisingly 29 pounds but that included outliers) over the past year. Interestingly, 20% of adults in this survey lost about 12 pounds (I am surely not in this group). Clearly, there is a relationship between stress and weight change. In addition, one in four adults disclosed an increase in alcohol consumption, and 67% of participants distressingly revealed that they have new sleeping patterns.

This past year has brought about what has been called the 'new normal.' Social isolation and inactivity due to quarantining and remote working have sadly contributed to the decline in many people's mental and physical health, as demonstrated by the widespread changes in people's weight, alcohol consumption, and sleeping patterns. Gym closures, frequent ordering of unhealthy takeout, and increased time at home cooking and devouring comfort foods have had a perceptible impact. In addition, many people have delayed routine medical care and screening tests over fear of contracting Covid-19 during these visits. Unfortunately, the 'new normal' has now placed too many people at risk for serious health consequences, including heart attacks and strokes.

Keep Reading Show less