Period Flow: What's Normal?
We will never understand why, in this day and age, periods are still a topic that's often shrouded in secrecy. But whether you're well-versed in the language of periods or just starting to understand the flow, we think it’s officially time to forget the hushed tones and awkward glances, and have an honest conversation about what's normal (or not) during your monthly cycle.
The Basics of Menstrual Flow
Before we delve into the details, let's recap the fundamentals of menstrual flow. Menstruation is a natural process where the uterine lining sheds, causing vaginal bleeding. The average menstrual cycle lasts around 28 days, but this can vary from woman to woman. A typical period lasts between 3 to 7 days - but again, this is not set in stone.
What's Considered Normal
“A normal menstrual bleed typically starts with a day or so of light spotting or brownish discharge before progressing to a heavier flow,” says Abigail Peters, Product Development Manager at Dame. “The flow tends to be at its heaviest over the first few days, and then tapers off toward the end of your period. The blood itself can be bright to dark red, and it’s common for the blood to appear darker toward the beginning or end of the period. The consistency of the blood can vary as well and will look thicker and clotted at times.”
A moderate flow, enough to soak through a regular pad or tampon every 3-4 hours, is generally considered normal. However, it's essential to remember that every woman's body is unique, and some may naturally have lighter or heavier flows without any cause for concern.
Abnormal Menstrual Flow
“Everyone’s period will differ, but it’s important to know what is “normal” for you,” Abigail adds. “Your periods can change over time, for example lasting longer or getting lighter. If you notice sudden changes in your periods or irregularities, it’s important to speak to your doctor. Bleeding between periods, after having sex, or bleeding after the menopause should also be checked out by your GP.”
While variations are normal, certain signs during your period may indicate a potential issue. Here are some abnormal menstrual flow patterns to be aware of:
Heavy Bleeding (Menorrhagia)
Experiencing an unusually heavy flow that requires changing a pad or tampon every hour is known as menorrhagia. This can be accompanied by large blood clots and may lead to anaemia if left untreated. If you find yourself in this situation, consult a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions.
While it's common for young girls to experience irregular cycles during the first few years of menstruation, consistent irregularity in cycle length or skipped periods may indicate hormonal imbalances or other health issues (although, not always, but it’s always best to get checked out if something feels a little off).
Painful Periods (Dysmenorrhea)
Mild cramping during periods is typical, but severe pain that interferes with daily activities could be a sign of dysmenorrhea. This condition can be caused by various factors, including underlying medical conditions, and it's crucial to seek medical advice to manage the pain effectively.
Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
Knowing your body and understanding your menstrual cycle is empowering. Tracking your period can provide valuable insights into your overall health and reproductive wellness. We love apps such as Flo, which has made period tracking more accessible and convenient than ever before.
When to Seek Medical Advice
If you experience any of the abnormal flow patterns mentioned above or notice significant changes in your menstrual cycle that concern you, it's vital to reach out for help. Early detection and timely intervention can often prevent potential health issues further down the road.
Understanding what's normal and abnormal during your menstrual flow can help you stay in tune with your body. Remember, while variations in periods are common, it's so important to recognise potential red flags and seek professional advice when needed. Embrace your menstrual journey with confidence - periods are a natural part of life, and the more we talk about them openly, the more we can break down the stigma and support each other.