Your body is unique. So is your menstrual cycle. Your period can be an important indicator of your health. According to science, a normal period can vary widely. It’s important to know what’s “normal” for you. That means how often your period happens, how light or heavy it is, and how long it lasts.
One cycle lasts from the first day of one period until the first day of the next period.
If you’re an adult and not using any form of hormonal contraception (such as Oral Contraceptive Pill or IUD), you’re okay if you get your period once every 24 - 38 days.
Variations of cycle lengths are normal. Within the same year, the difference between your longest cycle and your shortest cycle can be up to 9 days and still be considered within normal ranges. For example, one cycle can be 25 days long, followed by a cycle that is 33 days long.
The majority of your cycles should fall within this range, but it’s normal to have some cycles be slightly longer or shorter. The length of your cycle can be affected by factors like stress, poor diet, jet lag or shift work (poor sleep patterns), or exercise—anything that affects your reproductive hormones. If you’re using hormonal birth control, your cycle is usually set at 28 days.
Note that if you’re a teenager or looking for information for your daughter, the menstrual cycles of adolescents around the time of menarche (the first menstrual period) can vary greatly. A normal menstrual cycle length for an adolescent usually is between 21 to 45 days, but may sometimes be longer or shorter.
For an adult who’s not on hormonal contraception, a normal period can last anywhere from 2 to 8 days.
The first two days of the period are usually the heaviest flow, with the latter days having progressively less blood. Slight variations between differing period length and cycle lengths are normal, as your period changes over time.
If you’re using hormonal contraception, your bleeding can vary, depending on the method of contraception. This is known as “withdrawal bleeding” which happens when you receive no hormones from the contraceptive, and is not actually a period. You can even choose to skip over this bleeding completely, depending on the method.
While using the hormonal IUD, it’s common to experience irregular bleeding or lighter bleeding, and some people don’t bleed at all.
A normal period length for an adolescent usually ranges between 2 to 7 days, but may sometimes be longer or shorter.
At the beginning or end of your period, blood can be a dark brown/red shade and can have a thick consistency—but it’s also normal for the first signs of your period to be bright red and more liquid.
Dark red, brown or black period blood is simply blood that has reacted with oxygen. If you notice brown period blood at the start or end of your period, it’s because the blood is older and took longer to leave your uterus.
Period blood clots are normal on the heaviest days of your period, and can appear deep red or almost dark black as well.
Sometimes, periods can feel so heavy, as though you’re losing a large volume of blood! But it really isn’t that much, despite what it feels like.
A normal amount of menstrual fluid loss per period is between 5 ml to 80 ml. In pads or tampons, that is about 16 fully soaked regular pads or tampons throughout all the days of your period (or 8 maxi pads or super tampons). If you’re using a menstrual cup, you can actually measure it more accurately.
If you’re using hormonal contraception, your periods may be lighter than average.
If you’re bleeding more than this, you may suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding. But not all heavy periods are abnormal.
Understanding whether or not you suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding requires the accurate recording of your menstrual history. The intensity of bleeding varies from person to person, so determining what is clinically heavy is tricky. Furthermore, while a single period can be heavy, a real problem isn’t likely to exist unless the heavy bleeding is present most of the time.
The best way to effectively track if you just have a heavy period or if it is a more serious symptom is to diligently track your bleeding and flow intensity on Femcy symptom tracker. The tracker can help you understand if your menstrual symptoms are beyond the normal range, and connects you with expert guidance when necessary. Even if your period is within the normal ranges described in this article, it is a good practice to track the symptoms that matter to you, so that you are aware of any gradual changes or shifts in your cycle.
Ready to track and improve one of the most important indicators of your health? Download Femcy app here!