What Is a Normal Period?
A normal period (or normal menstruation) is different for every woman. Each month, one of your ovaries releases an egg. Meanwhile, your uterus gets ready to help your baby grow if that egg gets fertilized. If it does, you’re pregnant. If it doesn’t, your body sheds the lining of your uterus through your vagina. That’s your period. It happens, on average, every 28 days.
Think about how old you were when you got your first period. Now think about how old you may be when you enter menopause. Your body and life will change a lot from one to the other, right? So does your menstrual cycle.
When it comes to periods, "normal" covers a lot of ground. Use the broad range of factors below as a guide. And remember: The only true normal is what's normal for you.
Normal Period Timing
Every month, your entire body prepares to get pregnant. Your ovaries release an egg. Hormones rise and fall.
This is your menstrual cycle. It starts on the first day of your last period and ends on the first day of your next period. Though the average cycle is 28 days long, anything between 21 and 45 days is considered normal. That's a 24-day difference.
For the first year or two after menstruation begins, women tend to have longer cycles that don't start at the same time every month. Older women often have shorter, more consistent cycles.
How long your period lasts also varies. The time from the first sign of blood to the last is usually in the 3-to-5-day range. Any length from 2 days to a week is normal for a period.
Normal Period Flow
If the egg your ovary releases every month isn't fertilized, the lining of your uterus sheds through your vagina. This is your period. The amount of blood that comes out of your body is called your menstrual flow.
Whether your flow is light, moderate, or heavy, it's all considered normal.
Normal Period Symptoms
- Cramping in the lower abdomen and back
- More hunger
- Sleep issues
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
Not every period is the same, though. Most of the time, an irregular or abnormal period isn’t serious. But you should call the doctor if:
- You have a heavier than usual flow
- You need to change your pad or tampon hourly
- Your period lasts more than 7 days
- Your period suddenly stops for more than 90 days
- You have severe pain
- You think you might be pregnant
How to Track Your Period
In just 3 months, you can get a picture of what’s normal for you by tracking your periods. Keep a record of:
- When your period starts and when it stops
- How light or heavy your flow is
- Whether or not you passed any blood clots
- How frequently you change pads or tampons
- How severe your cramps are
- Changes in mood
- Spotting between periods