Not all of us openly talk about our monthly visitor with others, and because of this, many of us may not know what is normal and healthy and what is not. When I speak with patients and friends, I am surprised at how little we know about our periods, how they should look and feel and how the menstrual cycle works. Let’s have a look a few hallmark signs of a normal and healthy period.
1. It comes on time.
This means about once per month. The timing can vary from woman to woman, but generally, every 26-32 days is considered normal. These dates are measured from the first day of proper bleeding (do not include spotting beforehand) in one period, to the first day of proper bleeding at the next period. Some websites tell you that ranges outside of these days are OK, but more often than not, when your period comes too early or too late, it is a sign of a hormonal imbalance. A common imbalance these days is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, which makes your cycle more likely to be on the longer side and comes with a variety of other metabolic imbalances too.
2. Your period should not be painful.
Although the image projected to us by the media is that a period is a monthly hell, this should not actually be the case. A painful period is a signal that something is not right in your body and we need to listen to this signal. Mild discomfort or awareness of your uterus is OK, but any pain beyond this can be a sign that you have a hormonal or inflammatory signalling imbalance or there can be structural issues such as fibroids, endometriosis or adenomyosis, among others. Some of these issues will need a diagnosis from your gynaecologist, but their symptoms can also be managed with the help of your naturopath.
3. Bleeding should not be excessive.
A normal menstrual bleed lasts for 3-6 days, does not often include blood clots and has a manageable flow. The amount of bleeding really does vary from woman to woman, but if you are changing your tampons, pads or cups several times per day because they are about to overflow, then there is a good chance that you are having a heavy bleed. Blood loss should vary between 10-35 ml over the whole period. This equates to a total of 1 to 7 soaked regular tampons for the whole period. A heavier than normal menstrual flow can result from hormonal imbalances (see a trend here?), the conditions outlined in point 2 above or even from iron deficiency. Again, heavy flow is a manageable symptom and should indicate to you that something is out of balance in your body.
4. No spotting in the middle of your cycle or before your bleed
Spotting is the small amount of blood that can occur outside of your actual bleeding time and again is a sign that something is not quite right with your cycle. Mid-cycle spotting really needs the attention of your doctor to rule out anything nasty, but again, it can be the uterine response to a hormonal imbalance, as can premenstrual spotting. Often a hormone-balancing program will clear these symptoms right up.
5. You should not experience any PMT/PMS
PMT/PMS can be really disruptive to your life and make it hard for you to have continuity with your work and relationships. As your hormones and your neurotransmitters are constantly communicating with each other and have regulatory actions on one another, your brain chemistry can be hijacked during the second half of your menstrual cycle. Feeling a little bit more like staying in with a book for a day or two prior to your period is normal, but finding your moods swinging, your boobs aching and the tears flowing for days or weeks is yet another sign of a hormonal imbalance that needs attention. There are so many fabulous remedies to ease these symptoms in the short term and balance hormones in the long term so that you don’t have to put up with the premenstrual dragon each month – which is great for you as well as those you spend time with!
Hopefully, this gives you a few indicators of what is healthy and what is not so that you can feel empowered and get stuck into sorting out your period if it is not quite what it should be.
Make sure you speak with your naturopath about getting your cycle on time, pain-free and manageable.