Your menstrual cycle can tell you a lot about your general health as well as signs that your menstrual health is ticking along nicely. It’s important to know what a normal period looks like for you so that you can recognise any abnormalities quickly.
Remember that everyone is different so people will experience menstruation differently. Generally, a normal menstrual cycle & period looks like the following:
- Regular menstrual cycle of 20-40 days
- Period lasting 2-7 days
- Period which is fresh red in colour or dark red/brown at the beginning or end
- Mild period symptoms that are easily manageable
- Bleeding up to 80ml over menstruation
- Some small clots
You May Want To Check With Your GP If...
There’s 3 areas of menstruation that can indicate an underlying condition; an irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, and abnormal pain.
Irregular menstrual cycle
- A cycle that’s less than 20 days in total
- A cycle that’s more than 40 days in total
- 20+ days difference between your longest and shortest cycles
- Changing your period product every 1-2 hours
- Bleeding through clothes and/or bedding frequently (known as flooding)
- Needing to wear more than one-period product at a time to avoid leaks
- Clots larger than a 10p coin
- Period lasting longer than 7 days
- Severe period pain that stops you from going about your day-to-day life and can’t be managed with over-the-counter painkillers
- Pain while trying to pee or poop during your period
- Pain during or after sex on your period
If you are worried about anything relating to your menstrual health, make sure you visit a doctor to get it checked out.
TOP TIP: Track your menstrual cycle to be able to spot any abnormalities quickly. This is also useful to take to a doctor’s appointment for menstrual health issues.
Just like most things relating to your period, the colour of your blood can tell you about your gynaecological health.
Your period is fresh and indicates a healthy, steady flow! Blood may get darker as your period progresses – this is normal.
This is completely normal and is usually seen at the beginning and/or end of a period. It’s simply blood that has taken longer to leave the uterus. If accompanied by a fever, itching, swelling or a bad smell, it may be a vaginal blockage and you should seek medical attention.
Usually caused by blood mixing with cervical fluid which is nothing to worry about. Some contraception can make your flow lighter which causes it to look pink too. In some cases it can indicate anaemia – if this is a concern, you should check in with your doctor.
This may be your period mixing with cervical fluid – like pink period blood – but can often be a sign of infection. It’s important to get it checked out to be sure; particularly if accompanied by itching, discomfort or a bad smell.
This can be normal for some on their heavy days, but it can also indicate high levels of estrogen. People with conditions like endometriosis or PCOS may notice their period appears purple.
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a condition that occurs when bacteria that usually lives harmlessly on the skin gets further into the body. Anyone can get TSS but the risks are higher for people who use tampons.
TSS is very rare – only around 0.0001% of people in the UK get TSS each year, and most doctors won’t see a case in their whole career. However, while it’s rare, it is life-threatening.
The good news is if caught early, most people make a full recovery. So, it’s important to know the symptoms and how to reduce your risk.
- Flu-like symptoms such as: headache, chills, achy body, fatigue, sore throat, cough
- High temperature
- Sunburn-like rash
- Lips/tongue/whites of eyes turning red
Symptoms come on suddenly and get worse quickly. If you have a combination of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. If you are wearing a tampon at the time, remove it. And let them know if you use tampons at all.
Reduce the risks
- Always wash your hands before inserting, changing or removing any period product.
- Don’t leave your period product in longer than stated on the packaging – this is usually 6-8 hours for tampons.
- Use the lowest absorbency tampon you can for your flow – i.e. don’t use a super tampon if you period is quite light.
- Use tampons less often – perhaps alternate between tampons and another product, or use a different period product all together.
You don’t need to be scared of using tampons. As long as you’re clued up on what symptoms to look out for and are reducing your risk as much as you can, that’s the best position you can be in!
Listen To Me Chat With Kathryn On the Sex Positive Podcast.