Body & Fitness

9 questions about your period answered

They’re a part of every woman’s life for many, many years – but how do you know if your periods are normal or not? We answer 9 common questions to put your mind at ease.
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From what a ‘normal period’ is to how long they should last, health writer Donna Fleming reveals what’s normal and when you should be concerned.

How long does it take for periods to become regular?

While some girls find their periods arrive like clockwork as soon as they begin, it can be about two years before others notice a regular pattern. They shouldn’t worry if they skip any periods in those first couple of years if they still don’t have a regular cycle.

Do everyone’s periods last at least five days?

No. The average length of a period is three to five days, but some lucky women only experience menstrual bleeding for two days a month, while for others, six to seven days is normal. But if your period lasts longer than a week you should see your doctor, especially if it is normally a lot shorter.

Does what you eat and exercising affect your periods?

Yes. Sports that require long hours of practice or involve strenuous workouts, like gymnastics, can result in shorter or less frequent periods. And if you are on a strict diet and not getting the calories you need, your periods can become irregular or stop altogether. This is quite common in women with an eating disorder like anorexia.

Can stress make your period late?

Yes. The chemicals your body releases when you are stressed are very powerful and can affect the hormones that control your menstrual cycle. If you are really upset or worried about something, it can disrupt that cycle and delay your period.

How much blood do you lose during your period?

Most women lose around 2-3 tablespoons of blood, which is 30-45ml. If it was a quarter of a cup, it would be almost 60ml, or 4 tablespoons. Of course it is difficult to measure blood loss but if you are having to change your pad or tampon every hour for several hours, you are bleeding excessively and need to get it checked out.

Is bleeding between periods anything to worry about?

It can be, yes. Bleeding when you don’t have your period is a sign something is not right. If you are on the Pill and have missed taking one or more, your hormones can send out signals that cause spotting between periods. Low-dose contraceptive pills can also lead to breakthrough bleeding. But if these are not a likely reason, you should see your doctor to check for other possible causes. These can include complications from using an IUD, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy or side effects of medications like blood thinners.

Is something wrong if there’s more than 28 days between periods?

No. Not everyone has menstrual cycles that last exactly 28 days – some have as little as 21 days, while for others 35 days is normal. But if your cycle is usually 28-30 days and you suddenly start having erratic periods, it is a good idea to get this checked out.

Is period pain normal?

Yes. Your uterus contracts when it sheds the lining it doesn’t need and this can lead to painful cramps. Again, there is no such thing as normal when it comes to cramps. Not everyone experiences pain, but for some women, periods are excruciating – and this is a sign not all is well. Extreme pain can be due to a condition like endometriosis, which causes uterine tissue to grow in other parts of the pelvis. If you have pain that interferes with daily life or doesn’t respond to over-the-counter painkillers, see your doctor.

How do you know when menopause is coming?

For many women, lighter and less frequent periods are the first signs that they are about to go through menopause, but not everyone experiences this. Some women may have periods that are longer than usual, or bouts of heavy bleeding. For others, their periods simply stop for months at a time before resuming, albeit irregularly.

Did you know…?

… Most women have around 450 periods in their lifetime.

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