Now, straight up; we have a lot of things going for us, but one of them is not a Medical Degree. So, we’re not here to tell you what’s normal and what’s not. Everyone is different. But let’s be honest we all Google things and come away convinced that we will drop dead in the next 10 seconds. So this is more a reassurance that you’re perfectly normal, but that there might be some things that you need to keep an eye out for.
What’s A “Normal” Period?
A “normal” period is hard to define, but generally the menstrual cycle, which is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next is 28 days long, but that isn’t the same for every woman. You might get your period every 21 to 35 days and have it last anywhere between two to seven days. For the first few years after you get your first period, long cycles are common. However, menstrual cycles tend to shorten and become more regular as you age.
Your menstrual cycle might be regular — about the same length every month — or somewhat irregular, and your period might be light or heavy, painful or pain-free, long or short, and still be considered normal. Within a broad range, “normal” is what’s normal for you.
Here are a few common period problems and what you should do about them…
I Have Irregular Periods
The notion of having your period every 28 sounds like a myth to you. Should you be worried? Not really.
Irregular periods are actually quite common, just like its cool to have them every 28 days like clockwork. All of our bodies are different. It also takes a while (usually 12 to 18 months) for a girl’s period to become regular after her first period. You may get your first period and then not have another for a few months. As you get older, your cycle will become more regular. But if that’s not the case there might be a reason.
What causes menstrual cycle irregularities?
Menstrual cycle irregularities can be caused by different issues such as:
- Pregnancy A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy.
- Eating disorders, extreme weight loss or excessive exercising. Eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa — extreme weight loss and increased physical activity can disrupt your period.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with this common endocrine system disorder may have irregular periods as well as enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid — called follicles. (Editors Note: I have this. It really freaked me out when I was 15/16 that I only had 1 or 2 periods a year, but when I finally told my doctor I was put on The Pill and I’m fine now)
I Feel Like I’m Loosing A Lot Of Blood
Okay, sometimes it genuinely feels as if we are losing *a lot* of menstrual blood, but in fact we only lose about 6 to 8 teaspoons per month. But if you feel like you are losing more blood than what is normal, like soaking through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two, please see your G.P. People with very heavy periods have a higher risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
I Have Clotting
It might be surprising to see a thick glob of menstrual blood, but, in most cases, blood clots are a natural part of menstruation. It does not usually mean that there is a problem, but sometimes it can be a sign of a health condition.
Blood clots are a natural part of the body’s defense mechanism. The thick, jelly-like texture of a menstrual clot helps prevent too much blood from escaping. This is the same clotting function that happens elsewhere in the body is an injury to the tissue, such as a cut or laceration. Menstrual clots generally occur when the flow is heavy.
Although it is normal to have clots in the blood during menstruation, this symptom can sometimes signal a medical issue. It is advisable to seek medical advice if the clots:
- are larger than a €2 coin in size
- are very frequent
- occur with an abnormally heavy flow that requires a person to change their pad or tampon at least every 1–2 hours
- occur with significant pain
I Have Intense Pain During My Period
As women we are just kinda expected to “suck it up” when it comes to period pain and take a hot bath and some Panadol, but sometimes period pain can go beyond. Intense pain can be a sign of Endometriosis which may require treatment. If the pain from your period starts to affect your normal, everyday life you should seek advice from your GP. There’s no point in suffering.
I Haven’t Started My Period Yet
As you get older it can be hard to believe that at one point in time you anticipated the arrival of “Aunt Flo”, but as a teen waiting for your first period can be a worry. Most girls get their first period between the ages of 10 and 15 years. If you haven’t gotten your period yet and all of your friends have don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with you. All of our bodies just work on a different schedule.
Go See Your Doctor
We’re all different and no ones period is the correct, “normal one”. If you feel like there might be something wrong please go see your doctor. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Your doctor will have seen it and heard it all before. Most of the time an issue is nothing major and can be solved with medication. The Pill is commonly prescribed to teens and women to solve issues such as irregular periods, PCOS and period pains.
You should see your doctor if you:
- suddenly stop having a regular period for more than 90 days
- develop severe pain during your period
- bleed heavily for more than seven days
- bleed more heavily than usual or soak through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two
- you bleed between periods
- you suddenly get a fever and feel sick after using tampons
Know Your Normal
It’s a good idea to start tracking your period. If you have a diary mark a “P” on the day you start and end your period every month. Or use the calendar on your phone. Also jot down anything that you might want to remember. Where you in pain? How long did it last? There are some apps such as Flo that you can use too.
Tracking your menstrual cycles can help you know what’s normal for you help you identify important changes — such as a missed period or unpredictable menstrual bleeding. While menstrual cycle irregularities usually aren’t serious, sometimes they can signal health problems. So, it’s best to just put your mind at ease and get it seen to.
The joys of being a girl!
Top Image via Gemma Correll