What Is A ‘Normal’ Period?
We are all individual, and periods are so variable throughout a woman’s life, this guide may help.
Most girls get their first period when they’re between 10 and 15 years old. The average age is 12, but every girl’s body has its own schedule and they can start as young as 8.
Over her hormonal lifetime that is a probable 480 cycles up to peri menopause, but there are so many variants that can occur during the monthly cycle, and what may seem normal to you could be unusual for someone else.
So let’s take a look at the most experienced and you can check whether they apply to you.
Fluctuating hormone levels, and oestrogen dominance, can have a nmber of effects including:
- A consistently heavy flow can be caused by thyroid issues, fibroids or polyps
- Headaches and breast tenderness can be attributed to hormonal fluctuations
- Missed periods are triggered by stress but a long cycle can be perfectly normal
Missed periods – not related to pregnancy – are most commonly caused by stress, but bleeding between periods or directly after sex is not ‘normal’ and should be investigated to rule out potentially serious health issues.
Premenstrual headaches and breast tenderness are caused by hormonal imbalances, often to oestrogen, but intense cramping that disrupts your daily life is definitely not ‘normal’.
Severe cramping and bleeding between periods should always be investigated but cramps, migraines and heavy bleeding are widely accepted as standard side effects of the menstrual cycle.
But you shouldn’t settle for pain and discomfort but have your symptoms checked out and also investigate how best to help yourself.
A sudden increase in the volume of your period could be a sign of underlying issues like hypothyroidism, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or polyps, which are abnormal growths of tissue in the cervix.
If you need to line your bed with towels, or you’re ‘flooding’ through sanitary products overnight, that’s significant bleeding and you should consult with your GP.
Between 20ml and 30ml is the average flow of a healthy period, which should be easily contained with pads or tampons, but if both are being used together that again is not ‘normal’.
In young women, an unusually heavy period is often the first sign of a bleeding disorder and prolonged heavy periods can lead to iron deficiency, which affects hair, teeth and nail strength and causes fatigue.
Irregular and missed periods
These are perfectly normal for many women, but sudden changes in frequency are always worth investigating.
The average cycle is 28 days long, but lots of women have 21 or 24 day cycles, and some have anywhere up to 35.
Your cycle is individual to your body clock so if it is usual for you that’s fine, but it’s changes in the timeline of your period that you need to watch for.
And while a range of health issues can cause missed periods – the most obvious being pregnancy – stress is often the biggest culprit.
In young women, this is often liked to exams and their career, but stress can impact your cycle at any point in life so check yourself for signs of anxiety or increased nerves.
Bleeding between periods
Bleeding between periods or directly after sex is never ‘normal’, and could be a sign of serious health issues.
This is one of the hallmark symptoms of endometriosis, and the same goes for bleeding after intercourse.
Any unexplained bleeding needs to be checked by a doctor or gynaecologist – it could be the only sign of precancerous cells.
Cramping is one of the most talked about period complaints, but if you’re having pain that’s interfering with your daily life – causing you to miss days at work or cancelling social engagements – that shouldn’t be accepted or put up with.
There is no doubt a certain level of pain and discomfort women are willing to accept during their period, but if you’re having pain, don’t accept it.
Cervical infection, polyps, fibroids and endometriosis are all possible causes of severe cramping so speak to your doctor and ask for a referral to a gynaecologis if they can’t help you.
Headaches and migraines
Headaches just before the start of a period are known as premenstrual migraines, which are caused by rapidly fluctuating hormones, mainly oestrogen.
Sudden increases and withdrawals of oestrogen increase the reactivity of blood vessels in the brain, triggering spasms which cause headaches.
While many women experience menstrual migraines there can be a number of causes including low blood sugar or low thyroid. Women who suffer migraines also should discuss contraception with their doctor as the Pill may not be suitable, particularly if you already have a stroke risk.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of symptoms that many women experience one to two weeks before their period. But while PMS is part and parcel of monthly periods, it shouldn’t get in the way of your daily routine.
Bloating, diarrhoea, mood swings and breast tenderness are common side effects, with most of these caused by normal hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle.
If PMS symptoms are impacting your life that’s not acceptable and severe complaints should be discussed with a doctor, but there’s a wide variety of natural remedies for milder issues.
Many women find that supplementing with bioidentical progesterone can help, as it is not uncommon to be menstruating but not ovulating and so producing no progesterone at all.
It can also help with mood swings and the bloating/breast tenderness that are frequently seen in PMS.
The colour of menstrual blood varies throughout the cycle, transitioning from a brighter red to a dark shade of brown but while a change in shade can be alarming, it’s usually nothing to worry about.
Brown blood is older blood that’s been in the uterus for longer, while red blood is fresher and hasn’t had a chance to oxidise, a chemical reaction which causes the change in colour.
This darker blood is frequently seen when shedding old, retained, endometrial lining which can have been in the body for some time and may be triggered by rebalancing the hormones.
Clotting is also a normal part of a period, but consistently large clots should be investigated to rule out underlying issues like hypothyroidism, fibroids and anaemia.
A normal period is clearly not something that applies to every woman, as every woman is different in both cycle length, type of bleeding and symptoms experienced.
Hormone imbalance and stress are clearly two major factors that influence your cycle so investigate how best you can help yourself, and don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you are concerned.
If you’re not sure whether it would be helpful to supplement with identical progesterone, or a combination of progesterone and oestrogen, the following article will be helpful.