Women’s Health: How Long Should a Period Last?
A menstrual cycle is a way for a woman’s body to prepare for a possible pregnancy. But a menstrual cycle also says a lot about a woman’s health, and not just the reproductive organs.
How long your period lasts, if it’s light or heavy, whether you develop severe pain or other menstrual symptoms, and whether you have regular or irregular periods—these are just some of the things you should be paying attention to.
It’s worth noting that “normal” is a broad term regarding menstrual cycles. But tracking your menstrual cycle, even for a few months, can help you understand what a normal period is.
Please continue reading to learn more about what regular periods should look like and how long a period should last.
What are the different phases of the menstrual cycle?
A woman’s body goes through the following phases during a menstrual cycle:
The follicular phase extends from the first day of vaginal bleeding to ovulation. During this phase, the ovaries produce follicles that contain eggs. Also, the uterus lining becomes thicker, and there is an increase in estrogen levels.
This is the phase in which the ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube and uterus. It usually occurs midway in the menstrual cycle (about two weeks in).
In this phase of the menstrual cycle, the body starts preparing for a possible pregnancy. There is an increase in hormone levels. If a fertilized egg is implanted, it results in pregnancy. If not, the luteal phase ends, and menstruation begins. The physical and emotional symptoms called premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occur during the last week of the luteal phase.
During this phase of the menstrual cycle, the uterus sheds its lining in the form of vaginal bleeding. This is called a woman’s period.
What is the normal length of a menstrual cycle in a woman?
The length of a menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. It isn’t a fixed number and varies from woman to woman. Menstrual flow or vaginal bleeding generally occurs every 21 to 35 days.
When menstruation begins in young women, it is common to have longer or irregular cycles. After the first couple of years, the menstrual cycles tend to become shorter and more regular; when maturation of the nervous system occurs.
Close to menopause, a woman’s period can become irregular again. However, it’s important to see a healthcare provider for any abnormal uterine bleeding or irregular bleeding around the time of menopause because the risk of uterine cancer increases with age.
How long is a healthy period supposed to last?
Vaginal bleeding or menstruation typically lasts for 3 to 7 days after the period starts. This is what is considered normal.
How long is too long to have a period?
As mentioned above, a period usually lasts between 3 to 7 days in most women. A period that lasts longer than 7 days is considered too long. You should see a doctor if this is the case. The medical term for periods that last longer than 7 days is menorrhagia. It may indicate some underlying health problems and should be evaluated.
Is being on your period for 2 weeks normal?
No, it is not normal to be on your period for 2 weeks. As noted above, normal menstrual periods last for 3 to 7 days. Longer periods can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as hormonal imbalance, emotional stress, infections, thyroid conditions, and others. Even if you have regular cycles, you should see your healthcare provider if your periods last 2 weeks. It’s important to find out the reason why you’re having longer periods. Your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment once they figure out what’s going on.
How do birth control pills affect menstrual cycles?
In general, women who use birth control methods like the pill, patch, ring, or intrauterine devices (IUDs) have menstrual periods every month. However, certain types of IUDs and extended-cycle birth control pills can affect the menstrual cycle. Women who take the shot (Depo-Provera) may experience irregular bleeding or spotting, and after about a year of use, many women taking shots stop getting their periods. Your doctor will provide medical advice about what to expect, depending on your choice of contraceptive method.
What does it mean if periods suddenly stop?
The most common reason for a missed period is pregnancy. Breastfeeding can also delay the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
However, if you don’t believe you’re pregnant, you should see a doctor to make sure. There could be other reasons for disruption in menstruation, which should be investigated. Extreme weight loss, excessive exercising, eating disorders, pelvic inflammatory disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and premature ovarian failure are just some of the conditions that can lead to irregular or absent periods.
How to track menstrual cycles?
Every woman is different. The term “normal” is pretty broad when it comes to menstrual cycles. To find out what's a normal period for you and whether you’re experiencing menstrual irregularities, it’s important to keep a record of your cycle.
- Dates: Track the start date and end date of vaginal bleeding every month. This will help you identify whether you’re having regular or irregular periods.
- Flow: Note whether you have light or heavy bleeding, how often you’re changing sanitary protection or cleaning menstrual cups, and whether you’re passing any blood clots.
- Pain: Describe painful periods or worse than typical symptoms.
- Emotional changes: Make a note of any mood or behavioral changes that occur with your period typically.
- Abnormal bleeding: Note down if you’re bleeding or spotting between periods.
You should see a doctor if your menstrual cycle is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days or if your periods last more than 7 days. It’s also important to be evaluated by a healthcare provider if your periods suddenly stop or become irregular or if you’re having spotting between periods.