Every woman has her menstruation cycle, and for various reasons, the menstrual cycle varies from one woman to another. Usually, a menstruation cycle prepares one to be pregnant, but a period happens if there is no sperm to fertilize an egg. However, because every woman experiences different things throughout their menstruation cycle, people tend to get confused about what is normal and what is abnormal when it comes to the menstruation cycle.
A normal menstruation cycle can be regular/irregular, shorter/longer, heavy/light, or painful/painless as long as it does not make you uncomfortable or unable to carry out your day-to-day activities. On the other hand, abnormal menstruation is where one starts bleeding between periods, has unbearable period pain, has a weird long/very short cycle or missed periods for 3 months or more, and is not pregnant.
This post will take you through what menstruation is, explain a menstruation cycle, and most importantly, go over what is normal and what is abnormal about a menstruation cycle. If you are here because you are concerned about the menstruation cycle facts, then scroll to get more insights on the same!
What is menstruation
Menstruation is a normal hormonal process whereby a woman or adolescent bleeds vaginally after the end of their monthly menstrual cycle, that is, if no pregnancy occurs during the cycle.
What is a menstruation cycle?
Now that you know what menstruation is, you might wonder what a menstruation cycle means. A menstruation cycle is the monthly set of adjustments a woman’s body makes to get ready for the potential of pregnancy.
When your period or menstruation starts, a menstrual cycle begins. It ends when your next period starts. The length of the menstrual cycle is totally different for every female. Some have longer cycles while others have shorter ones. Throughout a menstrual cycle, a number of things might occur in stages. including;
- Ovulation- The period when a mature egg gets released.
- Fertilization- In case of unprotected intercourse.
The menstruation cycle includes 4 main stages/phases. What you do during this cycle determines if your period will come or if you will get pregnant. These phases are;
Phase one: Menstrual phase
When you get your period, it marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Since no pregnancy has occurred, estrogen and progesterone levels often fall when an egg from the preceding cycle is not fertilized.
Since pregnancy is no longer necessary, the thicker lining of your uterus, which would normally support one, sheds through your vagina as a period. The number of days of periods usually varies from one woman to another.
Phase two: Follicular phase
This is the second menstrual cycle phase that occurs between the start of a period and the day of ovulation. The brain frequently stimulates the secretion of the follicle-stimulating hormone by the pituitary gland (FSH).
Your ovaries create 5 to 20 tiny sacs, or follicles, each carrying an immature egg, resulting from this hormone’s stimulation. The remaining follicles will be reabsorbed by your body, leaving just the healthiest egg or two(rarely) to finally mature.
Phase three: Ovulation phase
The ovulation phase, which occurs during the third stage of the menstrual cycle, is when a mature egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it will be fertilized by a sperm. Typically, your chances of getting pregnant increase during this phase. Most women get pregnant during this phase of their menstruation cycle.
Meaning that if, for instance, your cycle is 28 days, ovulation will happen on the 14th day. Here, the egg only lasts for around 24 hours until it dissolves or dies if it isn’t fertilized.
Phase four: Luteal phase
This is the last phase before the period starts again, that is, if pregnancy did not take place.
What is normal in a menstrual cycle
So many things happen during a menstruation cycle. Most things are actually common and normal. What is considered normal in a menstruation period is actually the fact that whatever happens does not make you uncomfortable. Some of the common and normal things that happen during a menstruation cycle are as follows:
1. Menstruation might be regular or irregular.
Women experience their periods in a variety of ways. While some women usually have irregular periods(predictable), others have regular ones(unpredictable).
Keep track of your menstrual cycle on a calendar to determine whether your period is regular or irregular. To determine how regularly your periods occur, start by writing down or counting your start date every month for several months continuously. You can also do this using a period tracker app or telling a friend.
Your cycle is regular if it begins around the same time each month for a few months. The typical menstrual cycle lasts 28 days for those with regular cycles.
On the other hand, periods that are very variable or unpredictable are known as irregular periods. The intervals between periods can change each month for someone with irregular menstruation. Periods that are often inconsistent are rather typical. However, if a person frequently experiences extremely long or shorter menstrual cycles or cycles that vary from month to month, this could be a sign of a more serious health problem.
However, take some time to examine your period and your lifestyle, and consider consulting a doctor or ob/gyn to be sure before drawing any conclusions about your irregular cycle. Hormonal birth control, nursing, stress, perimenopause, being underweight, and PCOS are a few possible causes of irregular periods.
2. Menstruation flow might be heavy or light.
The volume of menstruation is also different of every female. Some women naturally have a light flow (2 to 3 days)than others(7 days). Again, a heavy or light menstruation flow is completely normal unless it starts abruptly or it makes someone uncomfortable.
So, how do you know if your flow is heavy or light? Don’t worry; all you need is observation.
Heavy bleeding is defined as the need to replace your tampon or pad in less than two hours or the passage of clots that are at least the size of a quarter. The following are some of the diagnoses for a heavy menstrual flow.
Diagnostic features for heavy bleeding
- A period that necessitates you to change pads or tampons in the middle of the night.
- Having a menstrual flow that contains blood clots that are at least the size of a quarter.
- Having a strong menstrual flow that prevents you from carrying out your typical day-to-day activities.
- A period that lasts for several hours and soaks through one or more pads or tampons per hour.
- A menstrual cycle longer than seven days or more.
- You need to use two pads at once to avoid stains or manage your menstrual flow.
However, much as it may be normal, consider visiting a doctor for examination because some heavy bleeding could indicate a problem. In fact, the only normal thing about heavy and light menstruation bleeding is that it varies from one woman to another. So, do not take heavy bleeding for granted because it may signify an underlying medical condition. You could get anemia if you lose a lot of blood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Menorrhagia is the term used to describe menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than seven days or that is unusually heavy. Stay tuned as in our next post we will do a more comprehensive post on Heavy menstruation bleeding.
The following are some of the most common reasons why some people may experience heavy menstruation bleeding:
- Hormone issues.
- Consumption of certain drugs, such as aspirin.
- Uterine or cervical cancer.
- Other birth control methods include the intrauterine device (IUD).
- Pregnancy-related issues including a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
- Issues relating to the uterus, such as benign uterine growths or tumors. They consist of polyps or uterine fibroids.
3. Some people bleed for more days than others.
It is true that some women bleed for more days than others. Bring this topic up with your female colleagues at work, high school/ college friends, or neighbors, and you will hear different experiences. Some women bleed for only two days while others do 3, 4, 5, 0r even 7. This is something to do with hormones or even daily routines and activities.
4. Painful periods (Dysmenorrhea) is common.
Painful periods, also known as dysmenorrhea, is when a woman experiences pain during that time of the month(period). If you have experienced this before, you might think these painful moments happen to every woman. Sorry if you think so because that is not true. I used to think the same, but the reality of the matter is that some women out there have never experienced dysmenorrhea even one time in their lives.
So, whether you experience painful periods or not, just know that it is totally normal, and you are not alone because other women out there also experience the same. Read the following comprehensive post on dysmenorrhea.; The 13 Powerful Dysmenorrhea Home Remedies.
What is Abnormal in a menstrual cycle
As stated before, what is considered abnormal in a menstruation cycle is when you start experiencing differences in your cycle or period from nowhere. Abrupt changes in a cycle is a cause for alarm. The following are some of the things that might be considered abnormal in a period.
1. Bleeding between periods.
Usually, a woman is only supposed to have one menstruation in one month. If you notice that you are bleeding between periods, then it is a cause of concern because that could indicate a hormonal imbalance or an underlying medical health condition.
Do not assume it, and consider visiting a doctor if you are bleeding between periods. The possible causes for bleeding between periods include hormonal /emergency contraceptives, implantation bleeding, STDs, miscarriage, injury, or in the cervix or vagina. Other reasons include Endometriosis and PCOS.
2. Bleeding for more than seven days or more.
It is true that the number of days that women have their periods differs but having a period that lasts more than 7 days or more could be dangerous. See your doctor or ob-gyn immediately if your period suddenly becomes longer than normal.
Frequent extended periods may signify a number of different illnesses, including menorrhagia, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.
In addition, heavy or protracted menstrual bleeding can result in a number of other illnesses, such as anemia.
3. Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart.
Every woman has a different menstruation cycle. Some have short cycles, but others have longer cycles. If from nowhere your period cycle changes from a normal cycle (28 days) to a longer cycle (35 days or more), see a doctor immediately for examination because it could be dangerous.
4. You suddenly experience extremely painful periods.
Some people have never experienced painful periods. If you have never experienced such and, one time, you experience a painful period, seek medical help. Also, if you have been having slight menstruation pain and it suddenly becomes unbearable, go to the doctor for an examination.
5. You suddenly have a heavy flow.
There are so many things that can cause a heavy menstruation flow. From contraceptives and physical exercise to lifestyle changes. Nothing scares a woman like suddenly having a very heavy flow. Watch what you do, use, or consume to avoid such issues because most problems we experience from day to day come from our daily habits.
6. Missing periods for months, and you are not pregnant.
There are so many reasons for a missed period, including pregnancy. However, it becomes very scary if you miss your periods for months and you are not pregnant. A woman who is not pregnant should be able to have her periods monthly.
Read the following comprehensive post on The 10 Common Clear Reasons for a Missed Period.
Menstruation is a very broad topic which comes with lots of myths, misconceptions, and beliefs. However, if your menstruation cycle makes you uncomfortable or feels abnormal, do not assume it. Visit a doctor for more information, advice, and probably treatment.
Have you ever wondered about what is normal and abnormal throughout a menstruation cycle? Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences on the same in the comment section.