Are your periods painful, heavy and/or irregular? When it comes to your period, it’s hard to know what’s healthy and what’s not. Peppy’s Director of Fertility and Women’s Health Francesca Steyn explains the difference.
- Most cycles are around 28 days, but anything from 21 to 40 days can still be normal.
- Blood loss between periods or bleeding after sex should be reported to your GP.
- Extremely painful periods can be a sign of endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and should also be checked out by your doctor.
Everyone’s periods are different. Maybe yours are as regular as clockwork and always heavy. Or perhaps you never know when yours is going to happen and when it does, you only have a slight bleed.
While one person’s cycle might look completely different to another’s, both may still be in the healthy range – however, there can be some signs that are worrying and understanding what these are will help you decide when to see your doctor.
Here are some questions to consider before booking an appointment:
How much blood should you lose?
While it may seem like you’re losing a lot of blood when you have your period, you’re probably only losing around six to eight teaspoons in each cycle.
Of course, that’s hard to know for sure.
So, here are some healthy blood loss indicators to look for each month:
- a period lasting two to seven days.
- spotting for a few days before the full flow of your period.
- day one of the cycle is usually when you see the fresh, red blood.
What should you expect from period pain?
When you get your period, you may experience:
- muscle cramps in the tummy and pelvis.
- back and thigh pain.
- intense spasms but also dull and constant pain.
- pain severe enough for pain relief, such as paracetamol.
- pain before your period starts.
Of course, it may be that you only experience one or none of these symptoms. Period pain is normal, but extreme pain could be a sign of endometriosis or PCOS and you should see your GP.
How long is a healthy cycle?
It’s important to keep track of when you start to bleed and what day that is in your cycle – this is especially important to know if you are trying to conceive.
- A healthy cycle can start anywhere between 21 to 40 days; the average is 28 days.
- Periods can change patterns over time – for example, a 28-day cycle that changes to a 26-day cycle is still normal.
- Bleeding in between periods, in the middle of your cycle or after sex is not normal – check with your doctor.
What can cause a change to your periods?
Changes in your periods can happen for a number of reasons, including:
- infections and STIs.
- conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS.
- fibroids in the pelvic cavity.
- getting older – your age can impact your cycle.
- some types of surgery.
- being under more stress than usual.
If you’re concerned about your period or have noticed a change to your cycle – don’t panic. Get it checked out with your GP so they can make a full assessment.
And remember, your Peppy practitioner is on hand to answer any further questions.