What is a “normal” period? 5 signs your flow is totally healthy, according to doctors
If you’ve ever sat down with your friends to complain about your period, you already know that everyone has a completely different experience. Some women have their period for a week, while others are finished with the whole matter in under 72 hours. There are light flows, heavy flows, and flows that relegate you to bed for the duration of your menstrual cycle. So with all this variation, what is a normal period, if any such thing exists?
It’s a good question, but unfortunately, like so many other things about our menstrual cycles and reproductive systems, a pretty complicated one. While it might seem like common sense at this point, Dr. Mark Trolice of the IVF Center in Orlando, Florida explains to HelloGiggles that our periods happen on a monthly basis when our hormones, estrogen and progesterone, decline due to a lack of pregnancy and our uterus sheds its lining. This happens every 24 to 34 days, give or take a day or two, according to Dr. Trolice.
“Ultimately, what is ‘normal’ is usually the duration of menses a woman has always experienced,” Dr. Trolice says.
So really, if your bestie is shocked at what you describe as your normal period, tell her not to worry. Everyone’s period is different and most of them are normal.
But just in case you need convincing, here are some signs that your period is normal and there’s nothing to worry about.
1. It shows up every month.
However, Dr. Alan Copperman, medical director at Progyny and ob/gyn at Mount Sinai Hospitals in New York City, tells HG that while on birth control, it’s possible to skip periods, but if they stop coming completely, you should talk to your doctor.
This is exactly why you shouldn’t lose your mind if your period is a day or two early or late.
But if your period doesn’t come at all for a month or two, you should definitely check with your doctor and make sure they know you’re worried about it. You’re the expert on your own body and periods, after all.
2. And it’s basically always been that way.
Dr. Nguyen tells HG, “Variations in menstrual flow and cycle length are common at the extremes of reproductive age.” She adds:
“It is common to have longer and/or irregular cycles for the first few years after menstruation begins and in the years preceding the menopause. There is relatively little cycle variability between the ages of 20 and 40 years.”
Another sign that you might not have a normal period is if your flow changes in color, according to Dr. Copperman. “If the period discharge suddenly looks darker or smells bad, speak to your doctor as soon as possible to rule out the presence of an infection.”
3. You’re losing the right amount of blood.
But if you use a menstrual cup and are into tracking it, you can measure it more easily. A DivaCup, for example, holds about one ounce of menstrual blood, or 30 ml, so you can make an estimate every time you take it out for a rinse.
4. Heavy periods are normal, too.
But if you show signs of “anemia, such as lightheadedness, dizziness, or shortness of breath,” it could mean that you’re losing too much blood with each period. So just keep checking in with your body.
5. It’s not messing with your life.
Also, figuring out what’s “too heavy” is not a perfect science.
“Clinically, a heavy period is generally one where the woman is soaking a pad or tampon more than every two hours, or has a volume that interferes with the woman’s physical, emotional, and social quality of life,” she adds.
Remember, when it comes to your period, you always know best. So don’t be afraid to question any changes and bring them up with your doctor. If things aren’t “normal” with your flow, you’re the one who’ll know first.
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