Is Your Period Normal? 4 Things to Look For

One of the most fascinating, irritating and mystifying experiences anyone with a uterus has is the wonder of menstruation. This reproductive process dominates a significant portion of our lives, can disrupt everyday activities and—at the end of the day—can be both embarrassing and confusing. Our parents or sex ed teachers might do the best they can describing what it is and what to expect, but biology isn’t always predictable.

Unfortunately, many youngsters who grow up experiencing periods don’t have a firm grasp on what is happening to their bodies. Part of this is because, for reasons that are uncool, talking about periods is still pretty taboo! When we don’t talk about normal bodily processes, we can feel shame about them and then be afraid to speak up if we have a question or sense something is wrong. This is no good.

First things first: What is a normal period? The short answer is: it’s hard to say! Menstruation can be quite variable in time, duration, flow, etc. The “average” cycle lasts around 28 days and the “average” period goes on for three to seven days, with the flow tapering off near the end. With that being said, people’s periods can look quite different when compared side-to-side. So, a “normal period” is whatever is normal for you.

There are, however, some red flags to keep an eye on. Sometimes these are simply variations of your own personal cycle, but they can also indicate that something isn’t right. If you have concerns about any of the following issues, follow up with your doctor.

1. Painful periods

If there’s one thing the stereotypes about periods got right it’s that periods can be painful! And pain is always difficult to describe or compare. The truth is that uncomfortable cramping is often a part of the package, but anything truly severe in nature should be addressed with a physician.

Dysmenorrhea, or significantly painful menstruation, is marked by a pain so intense that many people find it difficult to perform daily tasks. It can also include symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and lower back pain. Pain this severe could indicate fibroids or endometriosis, so always follow up with a doctor.

Related: Ancient Chinese Secret to Ease Painful Periods

2. Irregular periods

One of the more common menstruation moments is realizing that “Aunt Flow” doesn’t always visit at the same time every month. Taking hormonal contraceptives can sometimes help regulate periods and make them more predictable, but anyone is subject to an irregular period.

Amenorrhea, or missing a menstrual cycle, can occur for a variety of different reasons. Age, for example, is a big factor in missed periods. People of child-bearing age should consider the possibility of pregnancy and those in their 40s or 50s should keep perimenopause on their radar. Yet, sometimes periods can skip or start early or late because of other issues like excessive exercise, high or low body fat (or resulting from an eating disorder or obesity), thyroid issues, polycystic ovarian syndrome or other hormone imbalances, and—yes, the one thing that we all experience on some level—stress.

3. Spotting

Bleeding between periods is usually a sign that something is off (but not necessarily major). Irritation of the vagina can result in some spotting, as well as forgetting/skipping a birth control pill. However, it can also indicate something more serious, like ectopic pregnancy or cancer. It’s a good idea to check things out with your doctor if you are bleeding when you’re not supposed to be bleeding.

4. Heavy flows

Not that lots of folks measure their period blood every month, but the typical menstruater will shed 2-3 tablespoons of blood every month. Menorrhagia, or particularly heavy periods, can mean shedding 5 tablespoons or more, according to WebMD. Each time someone menstruates, they are at risk for low iron levels. Keep an eye on symptoms of anemia (fatigue, shortness of breath and atypically pale skin) and discuss having bloodwork done to test your levels. If you think your flow is way heavier than it should be, talk to your doctor about screening for uterine fibroids or polyps, clotting conditions, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies or cancer.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Margie F
Margie FOURIE2 years ago

Thank you. Have sent it to my daughter. Thank goodness I no longer have that problem.

Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang2 years ago

So glad I don't have to bothered with that any longer.

Janet B
Janet B2 years ago


Jonathan H
Jonathan Harper2 years ago


ERIKA S2 years ago


william Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Peggy B
Peggy B2 years ago