Is your menstrual cycle normal?
You may pride yourself on your uniqueness (which is awesome and beautiful, btw), but when it comes to your menstrual cycle, your body should follow a general framework.
Here’s what you should watch for:
Your cycle length should be consistent
A normal cycle is between 21 and 35 days. Here’s how that breaks down:
The first part of your cycle is the follicular phase. It starts on day 1 of your period. Your period is when your body sheds the uterine lining if you didn’t get pregnant that cycle.
The follicular phase is when follicles in your ovaries mature and prepare to release an egg during ovulation.
Ovulation comes next, somewhere between day 12 and day 17 for the typical woman. Your ovaries release an egg that lives for 12-24 hours.
Ovulation and the five days prior to it are the days when you are fertile and can get pregnant. You can get pregnant if you have sex on the days before you ovulate, because sperm can live in cervical fluid up to five days and fertilize an egg when it comes out.
The final phase of your menstrual cycle is the luteal phase. This lasts between 12 and 16 days and is when your body either becomes pregnant or prepares for your next period.
This phase lasts until the day before your next period starts and is when many women experience premenstrual symptoms. Extreme PMS should be evaluated by your physician, because it could be a sign of a hormonal issue.
When your period starts, this is what it should look like
This is it. The dreaded Aunt Flo.
A typical period lasts between 3 to 7 days. During this time, blood should be bright red, not too dark and not too pink. It shouldn’t be excessive either (as in, if you soak through a super tampon in less than a couple hours, that’s not okay).
Huge clots could also signal a hormonal imbalance, so check with your doctor on this one.
Too light of a period isn’t great either. A healthy period should require more than a panty liner for the first few days at the very least.
You may experience some pain during your period, but it shouldn’t be excessive pain. Cramps that have you skipping class or work to cuddle with a heating pad aren’t normal and should be evaluated by your physician.
What’s not okay
Some things to watch out for - these could indicate a health problem or hormonal imbalance, so please talk with your physician about any of these issues:
Too short of a cycle: If your periods come less than three weeks apart, your cycles are very short.
Too long of a cycle: Over 35 days between periods is very long.
Excessive bleeding: Like we said above, if you’re soaking through a super tampon or pad in under a few hours, that’s not okay. In addition, your period shouldn’t be longer than 7 days.
Extremely light bleeding: The first few days of your period should be heavier (but not excessive). Very light bleeding could indicate an issue with hormone levels or other health issue.
Extreme PMS: The cause is not always clear, so talk to your physician if you experience this.
Pain or bleeding during ovulation: You may feel some slight twinges during ovulation, but it shouldn’t be excessively painful. Light spotting is not uncommon.
Start tracking your period to monitor cycle and period length. Download Dot on your smartphone.
Menstrual cycle: What's normal, what's not." Mayo Clinic. May 11, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2018.
Jardim, Nicole. "What's your period really supposed to look like?" Nicole Jardim. July 03, 2017. Accessed February 15, 2018.
Reed, Beverly G. "The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation." Endotext [Internet]. May 22, 2015. Accessed February 15, 2018.
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