Is My Period Normal?

If you’ve ever dealt with your menstrual cycle before, you’ve probably asked this question.

Your reproductive system is a complex, fantastic machine. However, it can also be the source of many problems. For instance, you probably know someone who has polycystic ovarian syndrome or endometriosis. Both can be quite intimidating!

It’s hard to say whether your menstrual cycle is normal or not. After all, everyone is different. However, let’s attempt to answer some common questions about periods. If you sense that your period strays way too far from these answers, consider visiting your family doctor or gynecologist. Most menstrual problems are highly manageable.

Characteristics of an Average Menstrual Cycle

While everyone has a slightly different menstrual cycle, the following are average characteristics according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health:

* In general, menstrual bleeding lasts about five days
* American youth typically start menstruating at age 12
* A menstrual cycle between 24 and 38 days is considered normal
* Youth who have just started menstruating may have cycles more than 38 days apart
* Older adults in their 40s and above may also start to have irregular cycles
* The length of your cycle can differ from month to month
* About 2–3 tablespoons of blood are lost during a period
* PMS is not uncommon: about three out of four women say they experience it during their lifetime

Is My Period Too Heavy?

On average, you lose 2–3 tablespoons of blood during your period. With that in mind, your period may be abnormally heavy if it goes over that amount.

A period that’s too heavy may have the following characteristics:

* Lasts longer than eight days
* Forces you to change pads or tampons every one or two hours
* Gives you symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, and fatigue
* Contains blood clots larger than the size of quarters

Is My Period Too Frequent or Too Far Apart?

In general, menstrual cycles — the time between the days you start bleeding — are between 24 and 38 days long. Young people who have just started menstruating can have periods more than 38 days apart, and this is usually not cause for concern. Adults have cycles between 24 and 38 days. As adults near menopause, cycles can get more irregular.

If you experience periods that lie outside these norms, don’t panic, but do consult with a doctor. Amenorrhea (i.e., an absence of periods) is a condition where you either haven’t had a period for three months in a row or haven’t had your first period by age 15.

Does Everyone Get Premenstrual Syndrome?

Most people who menstruate do. Around three-quarters of a surveyed group reported premenstrual syndrome (PMS) at some point in their lives. PMS consists of physical and emotional symptoms that happen between ovulation and menstruation. Though they do not experience menstrual bleeding, trans women have reported symptoms of PMS too.

Fewer than 5% of those who are at childbearing age get premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. Symptoms of PMDD include intense anxiety and depression, binge eating, fatigue, focusing problems, irritability, and physical pain and bloating.

If you experience severe PMS symptoms that get in the way of everyday life, keep a record of your symptoms and bring this to the attention of your doctor. PMS symptoms are treatable.

Are Painful Periods Normal?

More than half of people who menstruate report experiencing some pain related to their period like cramping. Pain that comes with menstruation is called dysmenorrhea. There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary and secondary.

Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by the uterus contracting to help shed the uterine lining. Typically, primary dysmenorrhea gets less severe as you get older.

Secondary dysmenorrhea is often caused by another health problem, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or ovarian cysts. This type of dysmenorrhea usually gets more severe as you age and lasts longer than normal cramps.

If periods give you pain, keep track of your symptoms. If these symptoms get so severe that over-the-counter painkillers don’t work, or if they disrupt work or school, talk to your doctor.

Is This Menopause?

Menopause is defined as not bleeding for a full year since the last period.

Symptoms of perimenopause (i.e. the transition period to menopause) include the following:

* Sleep problems
* Hot flashes
* Irregular periods
* Mood swings, irritability
* Uncomfortable sex, decreased libido

Perimenopause usually begins in your mid-to-late 40s. If you suspect early perimenopause, your doctor may be able to run some hormone tests. It’s a good idea to keep using birth control during perimenopause.

Menstruation Problems and Treatments

In general, if your menstrual cycle gives you significant discomfort, interferes with work or school, or has suddenly different characteristics, consult with a doctor. They may be able to prescribe you an effective treatment, such as hormonal birth control methods. This may involve getting an IUD or taking medication, which may require regular dosing. For significantly cheaper birth control medication, visit an international or Canadian pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy.

Hopefully, these tips give you a better understanding of your cycle. As irritating as they may be, menstrual cycles are a healthy and normal part of human health. After all, you are in good company if you menstruate — around half the population does, including cisgender women, trans folks, and anyone with a uterus!

Thanks to Danny Lopez

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