What Does A "Normal" Period Look Like? The Ultimate Guide To Your Cycle
You've probably wondered (maybe on more than one occasion), is my period normal?
Maybe you've even secretly compared yourself to one of your girlfriends, thinking something like, why do my cramps seem much worse than hers? Why does she always break out around her period and I don't? Why doesn't she have to miss a day from work when her period comes?
The truth is that every woman has a different period experience. And on top of that, every monthly menstrual cycle can look different for every woman.
As an acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine who specializes in women's health, I talk about periods with my patients all day long. And while every woman and every menstrual cycle is different, there are some basics that I look for to determine period health.
Here are the top signs of a healthy, regular period.
1. Your periods should come with regularity each month, and ideally be spaced out 28 to 35 days apart (with the first day of bleeding being cycle day one).
2. Your period should come on quietly. By that I mean that there should be minimum premenstrual symptoms, slight breast tenderness, minimal cramping, and a touch of moodiness.
3. Your period should last four to six days, starting heavier on cycle days one and two (about eight tablespoons of blood or about three to four super tampons or six to eight regular tampons) and then slowly taper off the last few days (anywhere between two and six tablespoons of blood or one to two super tampons or three or so regular tampons).
4. Bleeding should not at any point be excessive, meaning you should be able to go a few hours with a super tampon in and not leak.
5. Bleeding should also not be super light, meaning you shouldn't be able to get by with only wearing a panty liner during the first few days of your cycle.
6. The blood with your period should be a garnetlike fresh red color; it shouldn't be dark brown or pale pink.
7. Small, wet Kleenex-tissue-like, dime-size clots are normal; bigger quarter-size ones are not.
One really important thing to remember about your period is that in order for any irregularity to be considered problematic, it has to happen three months in a row. Some months you may get a random heavy period and it could just be a fluke.
Here are my top tips for healthy ovulation:
Now one really important thing to keep in mind, especially if you are trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid getting pregnant, is that ovulation is key to your menstrual cycle. The days leading up to ovulation are when you are the most fertile. Here's how to know if your ovulation schedule is on track.
1. Efficient ovulation occurs between cycle days 14 to 21 (again, with cycle day one being the first day of your menstrual flow).
2. The day of ovulation varies depending on your average menstrual cycle length, but it usually falls about midway between the cycle. Meaning, if you have a 30-day cycle, you should ovulate right around cycle day 15.
3. Ovulation should come on with a few days of clear, uncooked-egg-white cervical mucus (or vaginal discharge). Most women see this type of discharge for a few days leading up to ovulation. They typically see it when they wipe and just notice an increased feeling of wetness down there.
4. When you are about to ovulate, you should feel an uptick in your sex drive.
5. Some women feel a slight twinge or heaviness in the lower abdomen (where their ovaries are located) when ovulation is occurring, although not every woman feels this. Some women experience slight breast tenderness with ovulation.
6. Feeling sharp, stabbing pain during ovulation is not normal, and neither is seeing blood midcycle. (It's not normal to see blood at any point during the cycle, other than during your menstrual flow.)
And there you have it. Keep in mind that these rules are for women who are not on the birth control pill. The Pill changes your cycle in many ways, and the bleed you experience each month is a withdrawal bleed from not taking the pills, not a natural menstrual cycle.
If your natural menstrual cycle consistently does not look like what I described, then I would recommend making lifestyle and dietary shifts that support hormonal balance.
These tips have been adapted from my books, Chill Out & Get Healthy: Live Clean to Stay Strong & Feel Sexy and You Can Get Pregnant: Natural Ways to Improve Your Fertility Now & Into Your 40s, now available in stores.