What Is a “Normal” Menstrual Period?

When it comes to monthly menstrual periods, the experiences of women can be individualistic since they only have their own experiences as the basis for their understanding of a “normal” period. So what can be generally described as a normal period?

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A normal period occurs monthly, every 21- 35 days. The time in-between cycles is measured from the first day of a menstrual period (full blood flow, not spotting), to first day of the next.

A normal period lasts between 2-7 days, and you use around three to five menstrual pads a day on average. Menstrual flow is a mixture of blood and the lining of the womb called the endometrial tissue. It can be bright red, brown, or even black at times.

What Is “Normal”?

  • An occasional change in the timing or length of the cycles: Stress, medication, and weight changes can all affect the timing of your menstrual cycle, causing it to start a few days late or end a day or 2 early.
  • Small blood clots: When blood gathers in the uterus, the blood will naturally start to clot. As long as the total amount of bleeding is normal (three to five pads a day), passing small clots the size of a quarter or less is common.
  • Occasional spotting with ovulation: When ovulation occurs, which for the average woman is day 14 of her menstrual cycle, the ovary spits out an egg and causes hormonal shift in the body. This will cause some mild cramping and a little spotting from time to time in some women.
  • Missing your period if you are on “the Pill.” The birth control pill replaces the natural hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle with a steady stream of hormones in the pill that thwart ovulation. Sometimes when a woman has been on the pill for a while, her uterine lining will get so thin that there will be no tissue to shed, resulting in no period. This is normal.

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What’s not normal?

  • Postmenopausal bleeding: Any bleeding after menopause could be a warning sign of endometrial cancer.
  • Bleeding after sex: This can be a sign of cervical cancer. Persistent bleeding after sex or any bleeding without a recent pap smear should trigger a visit to your doctor.
  • Not having a period: If you are not menopausal and not on any hormones, then you should have a regular period. Missing a period due to stress on occasional basis is understandable, but if you are regularly skipping or ever go more than 3 months without a period, then consult your doctor.

All women have a different definition of “normal” when it comes to their period. Consult your doctor yearly for your exam, and express any worries you may have about how normal your cycles appear.


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