How much do you really know about what counts as a “normal” period? Things like how much blood you should be losing and how much pain is considered is par for the course can obviously be quite personal to you but there are some questions you can ask yourself to see if your periods are anything out of the ordinary.
- How much blood is it okay to lose?
It can feel as though you’re losing a lot of bleed during a period but most of the time, it’s not as bad as you think. Most women will only lose up to 16 tablespoons of blood – although it may look like more! The average is around 6-8 tablespooons.
How can you tell if your periods may be considered heavy? A few signs can include:
- Regularly needing to change your sanitary protection every couple of hours (or sooner)
- Passing blood clots that are bigger than a 10p coin
- Leaking through your sanitary protection to your clothes or bedding
- Periods that last longer than 7 days
Endometriosis and fibroids are some of the things that can cause heavy menstrual bleeding. If your periods have suddenly become heavier and/or you’re getting bleeding in between periods, it’s worth speaking to your doctor about these changes.
Heavy periods can open the door to iron deficiency anaemia so you’ll definitely want to eat plenty of good sources of iron to replace the blood you’re losing.
- What about blood clots?
Blood cots are generally pretty normal, unless they suddenly become bigger than the ones you have passed in previous periods. As a general rule of thumb, anything bigger than a 10p coin can be linked to heavy periods.
- How much pain is ‘normal’?
Some lucky women get relatively pain-free periods but for most of us, there will be at least some pain and cramping involved. Unfortunately this is pretty normal – unless it’s excruciating. Intense period pain can be a sign of dysmenrrhea, which is the medical term for painful periods. It’s often linked to other conditions such as endometriosis.
- What if the blood isn’t always red?
Don’t freak out if your menstrual blood isn’t bright red. It won’t always be! The colour can change during your period and often gets darker towards the end. It may even become brown as your period tapers off. This usually just means that old blood is on its way out.
- What if you miss a period?
Missed a period altogether? You could be pregnant but that’s not the only possible culprit. Hormonal factors and chronic stress can lead to you missing a period or two. If you miss more than one period and you know you’re not pregnant, it’s a good idea to see your doctor and rule out underlying health problems.
- Irregular periods
Some women know exactly when their period is going to hit but it’s not always that straight forward. If you never seem to know what your period is going to do and when, it can make life very miserable.
Sometimes it can be down to stress and anxiety but the problem can run deeper than this.
If you’ve lost a lot of weight or have been overdoing it on the exercise front, it can lead to changes in your menstrual cycle.
Your periods can also suddenly change if you’ve recently switched your usual type of contraception (including switching to a different contraceptive pill).
Some health conditions can make your menstrual cycle go crazy. With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), you may only have a few periods in the average year. Or you can go completely the other way and have more than one period a month. Thyroid problems can also affect your periods.
If your periods have suddenly gone haywire, speak to your doctor about possible reasons why.