Menstrual Cycle: What’s Normal And What’s Not

by Saumya Gaur

Ladies, I have a question for you all. How often has it happened to you that you forgot to track your period? You completely forgot that it was a basic fact of your existence until one fine day you happened to be somewhere super inconvenient and had this monthly guest came knocking on your doors. We are not saying this because we want to period-shame you. In fact, I myself have been guilty of doing this. But it’s time we join the period-tracking bandwagon.

Why? Well, because it can help us understand what a typically normal cycle is for us, time our ovulation as well as identify significant changes — like a missed period or more-than-usual menstrual bleeding. While these irregularities are not to be feared on their own, but they can point to deeper underlying issues.

On this note, let us take a refresher course in the female anatomy and reacquaint ourselves with this part of our health. Let’s read further.

What Is A Menstrual Cycle?


A menstrual cycle can be defined as a series of changes that take place in a woman’s body in order to make it conducive for conceiving a child. It so happens that every month, one of the ovaries (there are two in a healthy female) releases an egg. This process is called ovulation. While this is going on, the body also undergoes a few hormonal changes in order to prepare the uterus for pregnancy.

And when the egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of the uterus sloughs off and is pushed out through the vaginal opening. This entire process is known as a menstrual cycle (1).

What Comprises A Normal Menstrual Cycle?


A complete menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of a period to the first day of the next one. However, it isn’t the same for every woman. In fact, menstrual flow can occur anywhere between 21 days or 35 days, and it can last anywhere between 2 to 5 days. Usually, when a woman begins menstruating, the cycles are longer and more irregular, but with time they shorten and become more regular.

There’s no particular benchmark for categorizing a period as a “normal” one. If you usually experience a long period with heavy bleeding or one where there is very little bleeding, it can be considered as “normal” (2). As long as that has been the norm for you. With that being said, you also need to know that certain medical implements such as an IUD, or hormonal contraceptive pills can affect this (3). So if you are using them, and experiencing any anomalies, be sure to consult your doctor.

As you approach menopause, the cycle becomes irregular again. However, if you experience unusual or irregular bleeding, you should consult your doctor, just to be on the safe side.

How To Track It?


In order to ascertain what a typical normal cycle is for you, we would advise you to track it on a calendar. Mark the date of the beginning of your period every month for a couple of months to see if they are regular or not. You can also use a period tracker app on your cell phone to do this. Given below are some of the factors that you need to keep an eye on, to ensure that you are experiencing a normal menstrual cycle.

  • End date of the period: Pay attention to the duration of your period and notice if it is longer or shorter than usual.
  • Flow: Observe the heaviness of your flow. Also, notice if it seems lighter or heavier than usual. Other factors such as frequency of changing pads and consistency of clots should be observed as well.
  • Unusual bleeding: If it happens between periods.
  • Cramps and other changes: Monitor the intensity of your cramps, also track other accompanying changes such as mood swings, etc.

Reasons For Irregularities In Menstrual Cycle


There can be a lot of factors that can disrupt a normal menstrual cycle, such as (4):

  • Missing a period can also be a symptom of pregnancy. Breastfeeding is also known to cause delays in the menstrual cycle after pregnancy.
  • Eating disorders, extreme weight loss can also impact the cycle.
  • If you have PCOD, that can also be a reason for the irregularity of your cycle.
  • An irregular cycle can also point towards the presence of premature ovarian failure. This is a disorder in which a woman under the age of 40 loses normal ovarian function.
  • Infections such as pelvic Inflammatory disorders can also cause irregular bleeding.
  • Presence of fibroids in the uterus can also be one of the reasons for irregular periods (5).

There are a lot of ways to regularize a period. Some women even use birth control pills to do that. Another way to do it would be to treat the underlying cause, but having said that, there are a few cases when such irregularities can’t be prevented.

Consult Your Doctor In The Following Cases:


  • You haven’t had your periods in ninety days and you aren’t pregnant.
  • They have suddenly become erratic after being regular for a long time.
  • The bleeding lasts for more than 7 days.
  • You experience very heavy bleeding such that you have to change your pad/tampon in a span of a single hour. Or if you bleed between periods.
  • You get your periods in less than 21 days or after 35 days.

Now that you have this ready manual, you can keep tabs on your reproductive health quite easily. Remember, tracking your period is not an unnecessary chore, it will only help you in the long run. If you have any other suggestions or queries, regarding this issue, let us know in the comments section.

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