No matter what, at some point, all women are going to ask themselves the dreaded, lingering question: is my period, in fact, normal? While it is true that no two cycles are going to be exactly alike, and ‘normal’ is more of a spectrum than any one thing, there are some things that are typically experienced across the board, some red flags and some ways you can keep tabs on your own menstrual normality.
What’s Basically Normal?
Again, accounting for basic variations from woman to woman, typically periods will start around the same time each month (there is generally a 26-29 day gap between periods) and, while color is never going to be uniform, the discharge can range through bright or dark red and something dark brownish in hue.
You may experience cramping, nausea and water weight retention, but all of these symptoms should be tolerable – excruciating cramps, for example, should not occur regularly.
How Do I Know If My Period Is Normal?
First things first – in order to ascertain your own baseline of normality, you need to know just what your own body does, rather than what you read or think your body should be. That means tracking, tracking, tracking. After about the first two or three years, your body should (barring regulating types of birth control, of course) settle into a pretty trackable rhythm.
Track when your cycles start and end, and you should soon see a pretty clear pattern – if you know when to expect your period to hit, then if it is way early or very late, you know right up front that something is off. A timing irregularity can happen as a one-off, but if you experience this inconsistency time after time, it may be worth exploring with your doctor.
You should also be used to experiencing whatever symptoms, discomforts, etc. you get on the regular, and should have a pretty good handle on the severity of your flow each month.
What Are Some Warning Signs?
Aside from a change in your menstrual frequency, you should be aware of abnormally heavy bleeding. A heavy period is considered as such when it forces you to need to change your tampon or pad or leak-proof underwear with the hour, rather than with many hours between, or if you suddenly need to up the thickness of your protection. There are any number of possible culprits of stronger bleeding, but there are also an array of treatments your doctor can suggest. You will want to curb the flow, as excessive bleeding can lead to iron deficiency, anemia, etc.
Going a step beyond just abnormal frequency, if you start skipping periods all together, that is decidedly not normal. While the reason we flock to fastest is “pregnancy” the reason can actually be anything from outside factors (weight changes, stress, etc.) to an actual condition such as a thyroid disease you’ll for sure want to address.
While the occasional, light breakthrough bleeding may not be cause for real alarm, experiencing spotting more than once in a while can raise some red flags. It could be caused by being underweight, an STD, diet changes or even polyps – always check with your physician!