You probably have a general understanding of why women get their periods. However, do you really know about the menstrual cycle beyond the basics? Having a full understanding of how the menstrual cycle works can help you stay healthy throughout life. You can also avoid health problems down the road. That’s why our experts came up with six interesting menstruation facts and period myths to help you discern what’s normal and what’s not. Here are the facts:
All menstrual cycles do not last 28 days
The timing of menstruation depends on ovulation
Periods can be irregular due to stress or illness
Fluctuations in weight can affect your period
Abnormal bleeding can indicate more serious health issues
Irregular periods can often be treated with birth control pills or other hormonal treatments
1. All menstrual cycles do not last 28 days
Many different menstruation facts exist stating different cycle averages. Furthermore, many period myths state your period lasts 28 days. However, a woman’s menstrual cycle can range anywhere from 21 days to 35 days depending on her age and other various health factors. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but a shorter or longer cycle doesn’t necessarily mean your health is at risk. Providers consider a cycle that strays from the average 28 days normal and healthy, as long as it’s regular and fairly predictable.
2. The timing of menstruation depends on ovulation
Your menstrual period normally occurs 14 days after ovulation. The first part of the cycle can vary from 7 to 20 days which can result in shorter or longer cycles, depending on when you ovulate. For example, if you ovulate on day 14, you might have your period on day 28. On the other hand, if you ovulate on day 10, your period should arrive on day 24.
3. Periods can be irregular due to stress or illness
One reason why periods can be irregular on our list of menstruation facts is stress. Any stress on the body, whether, physical or mental, can upset the natural balance of other hormones. This can result in a late or early period. Stressful life events can cause an irregular period, as can thyroid problems, illnesses such as the flu, certain medications, and switching birth control.
4. Fluctuations in weight can affect your period
Since your body needs a certain amount of fat to store and release estrogen and other hormones, your period can become irregular if you lose or gain weight during your cycle. In many cases, women with a high percentage of body fat are more likely to experience irregular menstrual cycles due to excess estrogen production.
5. Abnormal bleeding can indicate more serious health issues
Abnormal bleeding and spotting during your cycle can signal other underlying health issues, such as cancer, polyps, infection or menopause. Contact your gynecologist immediately if you’ve been experiencing abnormal bleeding so you can be screened for other health problems.
6. Irregular periods can often be treated with birth control pills or other hormonal treatments
Birth control pills can often help regulate your menstrual cycle so you can experience lighter, more regular periods. Talk to your gynecologist about your options for birth control pills that will help you manage your monthly periods more efficiently based on your unique health situation.
Tracking your menstrual period and knowing how to identify certain symptoms can help you stay fertile, healthy, and happy for years to come. Having a better understanding of your body can also help you prevent and treat female health problems. Together, you and your gynecologist can work on addressing issues and period myths so you can benefit from a longer, fuller life.
Let’s be frank… Most women do not like having their period. Period. A report put out by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals states that 77 percent of women view it as “something they simply have to put up with.” Cramps, moodiness, bloating – who wants to think about that? Well, there’s a good reason you should. Irregular periods have many different causes that can range from simple reasons to more complex issues.
Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding Explained
Abnormal vaginal bleeding or irregular periods is what HealthTap defines as bleeding that occurs:
When you are not expecting your menstrual period.
When your menstrual flow is lighter or heavier than what is normal for you.
At a time in life when it is not expected, such as before age 9, when you are pregnant, or after menopause.
To better understand the difference between abnormal vaginal bleeding and your menstrual period, it’s important to know what’s considered “normal.” Keep in mind, menstruation is not the same for every woman. A process regulated by the hormones of your pituitary gland, the when and how long of your irregular periods is as unique as your height and weight — but it will most likely fall within certain averages.
Normal Periods vs Irregular Periods
The length of a menstrual cycle is the time between the first day of one period to the first day of the next. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but that number can vary widely (21 – 45 days). The average menstrual period lasts 3 to 5 days. On average, girls in the United States get their period at age 12, but it can start anywhere between the ages of 8 and 15. The average age for a woman to stop menstruating at menopause is 50 but occurs anytime between the ages of 45 and 55.
Women lose, on average, 3 tablespoons of blood during a menstrual cycle. By understanding and keeping accurate track of your menstruation cycle, you’ll be better able to identify abnormal vaginal bleeding. A number of period tracker apps have come on the market in the past few years to aid women in monitoring their cycle and health. Whether you chose to use one of these products or prefer to use another method, we recommend you maintain a watchful eye and be sure to contact your Women’s Care Florida physician about any bleeding that seems out of the ordinary.
Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
Bear in mind, there are a number of causes for abnormal vaginal bleeding, each with varying levels of concern. The Mayo Clinic identifies these causes in the following groups:
Cancerous and precancerous conditions, such as cervical or ovarian cancer
Endocrine system factors, including the withdrawal bleeding caused by the stopping or changing of birth control pills
Fertility and reproduction factors; it’s not uncommon for women to bleed during the first few days of pregnancy
Infection, including naturally occurring and sexually transmitted infections
Medical conditions such as Celiac disease and blood clotting disorders
Medications and devices, including IUDs, birth control pills and forgotten tampons
Noncancerous growths and uterine conditions; uterine fibroids are common in women during childbearing years
Trauma occurring from injury to the vagina
There are a number of ways your Women’s Care Florida physician can diagnose abnormal bleeding. Blood tests, Pap smears, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are useful tools in assessing both cause and treatment. But it all begins with awareness.
Keep track of your menstrual cycles and keep in touch with your OB/GYN! You can find a physician here. Women’s Care Florida’s experts have helped thousands of women prepare for their deliveries.
Keeping track of your monthly periods can help you prepare for menstruation, as well as help you detect problems with your female health if you experience missed periods or irregularities. But if you suffer from premenstrual syndrome or PMS, you probably don’t need to keep close track of your monthly periods, since PMS symptoms can alert you to when your period is about to arrive. If you have severe PMS symptoms, it’s possible that one or more of your lifestyle habits could be making your PMS suddenly worse.
About severe PMS symptoms
PMS can either trigger minor symptoms that don’t interfere with your life or severe PMS symptoms that affect your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. PMS can cause irritability, depression, mood swings, cramping, bloating, migraines, acne, and more. Know one or more of your lifestyle habits can make your PMS suddenly worse. Six common habits that can worsen PMS:
You consume too much caffeine
You’re not physically active
You’re consuming excess sodium
You’re not managing stress effectively
You don’t get enough sleep
1. You consume too much caffeine
Caffeine may be effective at helping you stay alert and awake, but can increase anxiety and irritability. Plus, caffeine can interfere with your sleep patterns, and make you feel on edge. Limit your caffeine intake on a daily basis, and consider swapping out coffee, soda, and energy drinks for green tea, which has less caffeine.
2. You’re not physically active
Exercise offers countless health benefits that can help you combat and relieve bad PMS symptoms of a sudden. Exercise improves circulation and blood flow, naturally improves your mood, and helps regulate your hormones. Increase your physical activity level, and exercise regularly to lessen PMS symptoms.
3. You smoke
Smoking inhibits blood flow and circulation. Poor circulation leads to hormonal imbalance which can affect your estrogen and progesterone levels and thus worsen PMS. Stop smoking as soon as possible, or get help from a smoking cessation program if you experience problems with quitting.
4. You’re consuming excess sodium
Water binds to sodium, which means consuming too much sodium can make PMS suddenly worse with bloating and water retention. Avoid adding table salt to your meals, and avoid processed foods that contain high sodium levels. Instead, eat a higher amount of fruits and vegetables to help flush sodium and waste from your body and relieve bloating.
5. You’re not managing stress effectively
Stress is a normal part of life. However, suffering from long-term stress without relief increases your body’s cortisol levels while throwing other hormones off-balance. Find new ways to manage stress more effectively doing things that help you relax. Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing, relaxing in a warm bath, or separating yourself from people and other activities that tend to stress you out. This can help lessen those bad PMS symptoms all of a sudden.
6. You don’t get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation increases your stress level and interferes with healthy hormone balance. Lack of sleep can also interfere with your hunger, emotions, and mental clarity. Improve your sleeping environment as needed so you can get a great night’s sleep, and eliminate problems that contribute to a poor night’s sleep.
If you’re still experiencing PMS symptoms after making healthy lifestyle changes, make an appointment with your gynecologist to discuss other possible treatments. Together, you and your doctor can identify the source of PMS, and work on developing an effective treatment plan.
Do you suffer from PMS and want relief from monthly symptoms? The board-certified physicians at Women’s Care Florida offer comprehensive, board-certified gynecologic care, including annual preventative exams, and treatment for menopause and other gynecologic conditions.
If you suffer from severe PMS, schedule an appointment with Women’s Care Florida for help with managing and treating your PMS symptoms.