- Normal Menstruation
- How to tell the difference between implantation bleeding and a period
- What is implantation?
- What does implantation bleeding look like?
- How long does implantation bleeding last?
- The early signs of pregnancy to look out for:
- 1) Tiredness
- 2) Nausea
- 3) Missed period
- 4) Spotting or bleeding
- 5) More toilet trips
- 6) Breast changes
- 7) Nipple changes
- 8) Bleeding gums
- 9) Increased vaginal discharge
- 10) Changes in facial skin colour
- 11) Feeling lightheaded or fainting
- 12) Shortness of breath
- 13) Increased sense of smell or taste
- 14) Back pain
- 15) Feeling pregnant
- 16) Metallic taste in mouth
- 17) Period-like cramps
- 18) Excessive saliva
- 19) Headaches
- 20) Food aversions
- 21) Cravings
- 22) Hunger
- 23) Low libido
- 24) Increase in sex drive
- 25) Spots or acne
- 26) More emotional
- 27) Moodiness
- 28) Constipation and wind
- 29) Bloating
- 30) Temperature changes
- 31) Cold like symptoms
- 32) Sudden aversion to coffee
- 33) Tender breasts
- 34) Hair loss
- What’s the difference between implantation bleeding and a normal period?
- Is implantation bleeding a sign of miscarriage?
- When Is a Menstrual Period Too Short?
- Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle – Periods
- What happens during the menstrual cycle?
- What a Short Menstrual Cycle Says About Your Pregnancy Odds
- What Causes Your Period to Be Shorter or Lighter Than Normal?
- My Period Lasted for Just 1 Day — Should I Be Concerned?
- Heavy periods (Menorrhagia)
- What does a heavy period look like?
- Here are some physical signs of a heavy period:
- What Is a Heavy Period? Help, I’m drowning in my own period blood!
- How to calculate how much you are bleeding during your period
- What makes a woman have a heavier period than average?
- There are three causes of heavy periods and conditions related to heavy periods.
- Testing and recommendations for heavy periods
- Natural treatments for heavy periods
- I want to hear from you!
- Want even more hormone and period lovin’ content?
- Medical Disclaimer
- Variation in cycle length: little to none
- Forget the 28-Day Cycle. Women’s Fertility Is More Complicated
- 1. Irregular periods
- 2. Hair growing in odd places
- 3. Hot flushes
- 4. Pelvic pain – especially during sex
- 5. Milky discharge from your breasts
What is menstruation?
Menstruation is the monthly shedding of the lining of a woman’s uterus (more commonly known as the womb). Menstruation is also known by the terms menses, menstrual period, cycle or period. The menstrual blood—which is partly blood and partly tissue from the inside of the uterus—flows from the uterus through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina.
What is a normal menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a term used to describe the sequence of events that occur within a woman’s body as it prepares for the possibility of pregnancy each month. A menstrual cycle is considered to begin on the first day of a period. The average cycle is 28 days long; however, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days.
The steps in the menstrual cycle are triggered by the rise and fall of chemicals in the body called hormones. The pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries in the female reproductive tract manufacture and release certain hormones at certain times during the menstrual cycle that cause the organs of the reproductive tract to respond in certain ways. The specific events that occur during the menstrual cycle can be described as follows:
- The menses phase: This phase, which typically lasts from day one to day five, is the time when the lining of the uterus is actually shed out through the vagina if pregnancy has not occurred. Most women bleed for three to five days, but a period lasting only two days to as many as seven days is still considered normal.
- The follicular phase: This phase typically takes place from days six to 14. During this time, the level of the hormone estrogen rises, which causes the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) to grow and thicken. In addition, another hormone—follicle-stimulating hormone—causes follicles in the ovaries to grow. During days 10 to 14, one of the developing follicles will form a fully mature egg (ovum).
- Ovulation: This phase occurs roughly at about day 14 in a 28-day menstrual cycle. A sudden increase in another hormone—luteinizing hormone—causes the ovary to release its egg. This event is called ovulation.
- The luteal phase: This phase lasts from about day 15 to day 28. After the egg is released from the ovary it begins to travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. The level of the hormone progesterone rises to help prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. If the egg becomes fertilized by a sperm and attaches itself to the uterine wall, the woman becomes pregnant. If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.
At what age does menstruation typically begin?
Girls start menstruating at the average age of 12. However, girls can begin menstruating as early as 8 years of age or as late as 16 years of age. Women stop menstruating at menopause, which occurs at about the age of 51. At menopause, a woman stops producing eggs (stops ovulating). Menopause is defined as one year without periods, and after this time a woman can no longer become pregnant.
What are some of the symptoms of a normal menstruation?
- Trouble sleeping
- Food cravings
- Cramps in the lower abdomen and back
- Tenderness in the breasts
What symptoms may indicate a need to contact my doctor about my period?
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if:
- You have not started menstruating by the age of 16
- Your period stops suddenly
- You are bleeding for more days than usual
- You are bleeding more heavily than usual
- You have severe pain during your period
- You have bleeding between periods
- You suddenly feel sick after using tampons
- You think you might be pregnant—for example, you have had sex and your period is at least five days late
- Your period has not returned within three months after stopping birth control pills and you know you are not pregnant
- You have any questions or concerns about your period or possible pregnancy
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How to tell the difference between implantation bleeding and a period
There are many different signs and symptoms of pregnancy and most of them mimic the imminent arrival of your period.
Bleeding, strangely enough, can also be a sign that you are pregnant, and we refer to this as ‘implantation bleeding’.
Although implantation bleeding is not that common it is something that many women have concerns about.
Implantation bleeding can also confuse the dates your midwife may give you for your estimate birth date, based on the first day of your last menstrual period.
When you do see your midwife they will ask you when your last menstrual period was and also if it was ‘lighter’ than normal.
From this, they can deduce whether or not this was an implantation bleed and ‘date’ your pregnancy as 4 weeks earlier.
This is important when it comes to timing your 12 week or ‘dating’ scan; too late and you may miss the window for some of the screening tests that are offered.
What is implantation?
Once your egg has been fertilised it then has to travel through your fallopian tube, into your womb and burrow into the lining of your womb, or ‘implant’.
This stage usually takes around seven days from fertilisation.
The rule of thumb is that ovulation occurs around two weeks after the first day of your last period, and fertilisation around 24-36 hours after ovulation.
To confuse things a little more, sperm can survive for up to seven days, so the day that you had intercourse may not be the date you conceived.
Sperm can easily wait up to a week in your fallopian tube for the egg, which in contrast will usually only live for 24-36 hours.
Your conception date is all to do with when your body released your egg.
As with everything in nature, our bodies never seem to follow the textbook and some of us may well release our eggs days before or after day 14.
Without knowing when the egg was released it is difficult to date pregnancies accurately and it’s for this reason that we use your period and their normal length and cycle as the reference for how far along in pregnancy you are.
The diagram below shows the passage of time for pregnancy in someone with a 28-day menstrual cycle.
What does implantation bleeding look like?
The blood is usually brown or pink and is usually contained in a panty liner, rather than a sanitary pad.
It is different from the darker red blood associated with a period, however, many women begin their period with this type of blood loss and if they’re not expecting to be pregnant may mistake it for a period.
Most women with implantation bleeding will feel that their period was early, very light and use words such as ‘spotting’.
This ‘spotting’ may continue for 2-4 days in some women, and for those not expecting to be pregnant may simply mistake this for a ‘light’ period and think nothing else of it, until they miss their next period.
How long does implantation bleeding last?
Implantation bleeding usually lasts around 1-2 days, but can last anything from a few hours to spotting on and off for many days, and be extremely light, and stay light.
As with everything, everyone is different, and a few women may feel that the implantation bleeding lasts as long as their period.
The early signs of pregnancy to look out for:
This is one of the first signs of pregnancy to hit as your body gears up to start supporting your baby and can even start within two weeks of conceiving. If you’re feeling extra exhausted and can’t work out why, this could be a sign your body is getting ready to grow a baby.
Morning sickness is caused by an increase in the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). For many, this is the first sign of pregnancy. Don’t be misled by its name – while the nauseous feeling is most common in the morning, it can strike at any time of day.
3) Missed period
Another common indicator and one of the most concrete signs you’re expecting. That said, if you have irregular or light periods, this can be an easy one to miss. What’s more, some women still have periods after they conceive.
4) Spotting or bleeding
This might sound strange and is another one that can be confused with a period, but around a third of women experience some sort of implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is when the foetus implants into the lining of your uterus and causes a small amount of blood. This usually happens 6 to 12 days after you’ve concieved.
Spotting in early pregnancy can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, so it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing unforseen bleeding.
ectopic pregnancy- earlier diagnosis can save lives and fertility.
5) More toilet trips
Although your baby won’t be pressing on your bladder just yet (a common side effect you’ll experience later in your pregnancy), the hormone changes, plus a greater blood volume and your kidneys working harder could mean you find yourself rushing to the toilet more often right now.
6) Breast changes
Another extremely common early pregnancy sign is changes in your breasts. For some women, their boobs increase a full cup size within the first six weeks.
7) Nipple changes
Pregnancy hormones cause your body’s melanin production to increase temporarly – you might notice this has caused your nipples and the area around them (the areolas) to turn a darker colour.
8) Bleeding gums
If you’ve noticed blood when brushing your teeth, it could be that progesterone is to blame. This pregnancy hormone increases the flow of blood to gums, increasing sensitivity and causing them to bleed more easily.
gum disease has been associated with increased risk of preterm birth
Bleeding gums can be an indicator of gum disease, which has been associated with risk of preterm birth, so always see your healthcare professional if symptoms persist.
9) Increased vaginal discharge
You may notice your body is producing more milky white vaginal discharge – this is your body’s way to preventing harmful infections from travelling upwards and harming your baby.
10) Changes in facial skin colour
A slightly odd sounding symptom, but some women experience changes in facial skin colour during pregnancy. This is medically referred to as melasma, chloasma or ‘mask of pregnancy’ and is caused by a temporary increase in pigmentation.
11) Feeling lightheaded or fainting
It’s thought that the pregnancy hormone progesterone makes your blood vessels relax and widen to increase blood flow around the body, causing low blood pressure.
12) Shortness of breath
Feeling out of breath doing your usual exercise routine or walking up the stairs? The surge of progesterone your body produces when you’re pregnant expands your lung capacity which means you’ll find yourself needing to take more breaths.
13) Increased sense of smell or taste
If you suddenly can’t bear the perfume you’ve worn for years, or your colleagues choice of tuna sandwich, it could be another early pregnancy sign. This is down to the hormone oestrogen which is heightening your responses to things that might be harmful to your growing baby.
14) Back pain
If you’re already suffering from back ache, it could be caused by the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which makes your ligaments and joints relax and become looser so your body is ready to give birth.
15) Feeling pregnant
Some women are so in tune with their bodies they report ‘feeling’ pregnant before taking a pregnancy test. You might have detected those early hormone changes, so it’s worth checking!
16) Metallic taste in mouth
Another common early sign of pregnancy, this one even has it’s own name: ‘dysgeusia’.
17) Period-like cramps
It’s the right time of the month and you have the normal period cramps. But wait, these stomach aches could be a sign you’ve conceived and the egg has implanted into the uterine wall, causing that familiar cramping sensation.
18) Excessive saliva
Medically referred to as ptyalism, this is another one caused by those early hormonal changes.
Many women experience headaches around the time their period, due to a surge in the hormone oestrogen. After conception, your oestrogen levels also rise, which could be what’s causing that pounding head.
20) Food aversions
If you suddenly can’t bear the sight or even idea of a boiled egg, it could be that you are experiencing the first trimester pregnancy food aversions. Whilst the egg aversion is a common one, it can happen with any types of food – even your favourites.
That said, as fast as you’ll go off certain foods, you’ll start to crave others. A strong desire for something as simple as a fizzy drink, or as unusual as a lump of coal, could be an indicator that you’re pregnant.
Feeling absolutely ravenous all of a sudden? Your body may be feeling low on energy. Make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals full of micronutrients, but a little bit of what you fancy is good, too!
23) Low libido
If you’re suddenly experiencing a really low sex drive after all of that baby-making sex, it could be a sign the job has been done!
24) Increase in sex drive
We know we mentioned low libido as a potential sign of pregnancy, however on the flipside, pregnancy can cause an increase in sex drive thanks to increased levels of Estrogen!
25) Spots or acne
If you’re blaming your period on those breakouts, you might be wrong. A surge of progesterone can make your glands produce more pore-blocking oily sebum.
26) More emotional
Have you found yourself weeping on the underground or sobbing at a TV advert you’ve seen hundreds of time before? Emotions tend to be all over the place during pregnancy (one word – hormones), so if you’re on an emotional rollercoaster, it might be time to go and buy a pregnancy test!
Feeling extremely grumpy and short tempered? A combination of pregnancy symptoms can wreak havoc with your moods.
28) Constipation and wind
It might be an embarrasing symptom you’d rather not talk about, but wind could actually mean your digestive system is adapting to those baby hormones.
If that pre-period puffiness hasn’t disappeared, it could actually be the pregnancy hormone progesterone at play. Feeling bloated? It might be worth taking a test!
30) Temperature changes
Pregnancy causes an increase in blood volume as your body starts to work harder to support your growing baby. Feeling extra hot? It could be an early sign of pregnancy. Some women also feel excessively cold, too.
31) Cold like symptoms
Another one caused by those pregnancy hormones (get ready to hear about them A LOT over the next nine months), if you’re suffering from a blocked nose or cold it could be that those pregnancy hormones are cuasing swelling inside your nose, and increasing the amount and thickness of mucus.
It’s important to remember that viruses are more common and serious in pregnancy (e.g. swine flu) so talk to your healthcare professional if symptoms persist.
32) Sudden aversion to coffee
Many women report they suddenly dislike coffee in their first trimester and one explanation for this is the body is attempting to protect the fetus from extraneous substances.
33) Tender breasts
Some women find that their boobs feel heavier and more tender than normal when expecting, especially in the first few weeks.
34) Hair loss
Some women report losing more hair in the early stages of pregnancy. Not dramatic hair loss but perhaps finding more hair in the plug hole or in your hair brush. This is likely to be down to nutrient deficiencies which should resolve themselves once your hormones regulate.
What’s the difference between implantation bleeding and a normal period?
You would usually have expected your period a few days to a week after any implantation bleeding.
It’s extremely easy to mistake the implantation bleeding for an ‘early period’ as many of the pre-menstrual symptoms, such as cramps, bloating and mood changes are present with pregnancy too.
The difference with a period and an implantation bleed is the length of the bleeding, the colour of the blood loss and the heaviness of the blood flow.
A period would normally last 4-7 days and be heavier, with a consistent flow of blood and darken to red.
Implantation bleeding usually begins as brown or pink and remains extremely light.
Is implantation bleeding a sign of miscarriage?
Implantation bleeding is not a sign that there is anything wrong with the pregnancy and there are no links to implantation bleeding and miscarriage.
If you do think that you may have had a lighter than normal menstrual period it’s probably a good idea to take a pregnancy test one week later.
Not only will this confirm your pregnancy, it also lessens the chances of your midwife incorrectly calculating the date for your first scan and therefore limiting your access to certain screening tests that can be done.
11 surprising facts every woman should know about their periods
34 early signs of pregnancy (for when it’s too early to take a test)
When Is a Menstrual Period Too Short?
Reasons for a Short Menstrual Period
Estrogen is the all-important hormone required to create the endometrium each month. If you do not produce a certain amount of estrogen, that lining won’t be very thick and, when it is shed, “bleeding tends to be scant and for fewer days,” Dr. Arias says.
Younger women may have short and irregular periods as they enter puberty, because their hormone levels, including estrogen, haven’t completely balanced out yet.
Older women approaching menopause may also experience irregular or short menstrual periods. As women age, their ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone and therefore the endometrium fails to form.
Doctors treating women of childbearing age who are experiencing irregular periods will check for abnormal causes like an ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilized egg sits in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. “If your period isn’t coming on time, the first thing doctors rule out is pregnancy,” says Arias.
A short menstrual cycle could also be due to the birth control method you use. Some of the more contemporary methods, like the hormonal intrauterine device that a doctor implants in the uterus, are designed to suppress the growth of the uterine lining, thus decreasing flow level. This is considered an additional benefit of some types of birth control.
Low weight, excessive exercising, eating disorders, and stress may also impact the duration and frequency of your menstrual periods.
When to Call Your Gynecologist About Short Menstrual Periods
If your irregular or short menstrual cycle is a new development and not your typical pattern, you may want to consult with your doctor. For example, says Arias, going 60 days without a period and spotting for just a few days is not normal.
Hormonal problems stemming from the pituitary gland and hypothalamus (which can affect ovarian functioning), thyroid dysfunction, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are just some of the conditions that can alter your menstrual cycle. Usually these conditions are accompanied by other symptoms, so look for other changes to alert your doctor about.
Keep track of your period in a journal or calendar if you’re concerned about a menstrual cycle that’s too short. This way you’ll have the most accurate information to share with your doctor and will be able to easily detect a menstruation pattern that’s not normal for you.
Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle
What happens during the menstrual cycle?
To understand the menstrual cycle, it helps to know about the reproductive organs inside a woman’s body. These are:
- 2 ovaries – where eggs are stored, developed and released
- the womb (uterus) – where a fertilised egg implants and a baby develops
- the fallopian tubes – two thin tubes that connect the ovaries to the womb
- the cervix – the entrance to the womb from the vagina
- the vagina
The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones. In each cycle, rising levels of the hormone oestrogen cause the ovary to develop and release an egg (ovulation). The womb lining also starts to thicken.
In the second half of the cycle, the hormone progesterone helps the womb to prepare for implantation of a developing embryo.
The egg travels down the fallopian tubes. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, the egg is reabsorbed into the body. Levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall, and the womb lining comes away and leaves the body as a period (the menstrual flow).
The time from the release of an egg to the start of a period is around 10 to 16 days. Watch an animation about how the menstrual cycle works.
What a Short Menstrual Cycle Says About Your Pregnancy Odds
Flavio Coelho/Getty Images
We’ve all heard that women are supposed to have 28-day cycles between periods…but we also know that no two women are alike when it comes to matters like these. Case in point: Some of us got our first periods at age 9 while others went into the teen years having never menstruated.
But did you know that a woman who has a 26-day cycle might have a different level of fertility than someone who gets her period every 30 days? And that the age at which you had your first period could have an effect on your baby-making odds as well?
According to a 2016 study from Boston University, both length of menstrual cycles and onset of menstruation can affect fertility.
RELATED: Finding Your Most Fertile Days: A 3-Step Guide
These findings appear in Annals of Epidemiology and are based on the study of more than 2,100 women who were trying to conceive. The women responded to questionnaires detailing characteristics of their menstrual cycles, and after taking a good look at the data, researchers determined that women with short cycles (26 days or fewer) had lower odds of getting pregnant. Similarly, women who started menstruated before age 12 had reduced fertility when compared to women who started menstruating between 12 and 13 years old.
According to the study’s authors, a short menstrual cycle could signal a narrow fertile window or ovarian aging, and may also reflect a lack of ovulation (we don’t have to tell you how important ovulation is when you’re trying to get pregnant!).
RELATED: Get Pregnant Faster: Your 7-Step Plan
“In agreement with previous studies, we found that short menstrual cycles were associated with reduced fecundability among North American pregnancy planners, independent of age, irregular cycles, and history of reproductive illness,” the research team said, according to Futurity. “These results indicate that menstrual cycle characteristics may serve as markers of fertility potential among pregnancy planners.”
While the link between early onset of menstruation and fertility isn’t quite explained, it’s an interesting one to consider—and Boston University’s Pregnancy Study Online initiative is ongoing, so hopefully we’ll have a clear picture of how this works soon.
Does this mean that women who have short cycles or got their periods early in life can’t get pregnant? No! Like most other studies, this one represents one slice of the population and these results definitely shouldn’t get you down if you’re trying to conceive.
RELATED: 8 Facts About Your Cycle and Conception
- By Zara Husaini Hanawalt
What Causes Your Period to Be Shorter or Lighter Than Normal?
There are several underlying conditions that can affect your hormone levels and cause you to have shorter periods than normal.
An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg implants itself in an area of the body other than the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies often cause vaginal bleeding that may be mistaken for a period.
Other signs of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- abdominal pain
- shoulder pain
Implantation is when a fertilized egg embeds itself in the wall of your uterus. It occurs about one to two weeks after inception. In some cases, it can cause minor vaginal bleeding that may be mistaken for a short period.
Implantation often occurs before you miss a period and develop other symptoms of pregnancy.
A miscarriage is an event that results in the loss of embryonic tissue or a fetus during pregnancy. Miscarriages often take place before women know that they’re pregnant, which is why they’re often mistaken for periods.
A short, unexpected period could be a miscarriage.
Other symptoms of miscarriage include:
- spotting or bleeding
- passing fluid or tissue from the vagina
- abdominal pain
Periods stop during pregnancy, but it isn’t unusual for there to be spotting or light bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. Up to one in four women experience some bleeding during pregnancy.
Other symptoms of pregnancy include:
- sore or swollen breasts
- missed period
- cravings or aversion to foods or smells
The hormone that helps you to produce breastmilk, prolactin, also stops you from ovulating. If you’re breastfeeding day and night, your period may not return for several months after giving birth.
When your period does return, it may be irregular and shorter or longer than usual.
When breastfeeding, you may also experience:
- missed periods
- months between periods
- changes in period duration
- light bleeding or spotting at first
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac inside the ovary. While these cysts aren’t cancerous, they can sometimes be painful or cause bleeding. A bleeding cyst may be mistaken for a short period.
Most ovarian cysts have no symptoms, but they can sometimes cause abdominal pain, particularly if they’re large or if they rupture.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS can cause your body to produce more male sex hormones than normal. This hormonal imbalance often causes irregular periods, missed periods, or short periods.
Other symptoms of PCOS include:
- unwanted or excessive facial hair
- deeper voice
- difficulty getting pregnant
Thyroid disorders cause the body to produce too much or too little thyroid hormone. Thyroid disease affects about one in eight women.
Thyroid hormone plays an important role in your menstrual cycle and can cause a variety of menstrual irregularities, including short periods.
Symptoms of thyroid disorder vary depending on which type you have, but may include:
- weight loss or gain
- trouble sleeping or sleepiness
- fast heart rate or slow heart rate
- lighter or heavier than normal periods
My Period Lasted for Just 1 Day — Should I Be Concerned?
If a 2-day period is still within the normal range, what does that mean if yours is only 1 day — especially if you usually bleed for several days out of the month? Is it a gift from the universe? Is it too early to be your real period? Or is something else going on in your body?
Sometimes a 1-day period is also a super-light period (think: a pantyliner or free bleed kind of day). And other times, it’s a full-on Red Wedding re-enactment, like your body is trying to condense your usual period into 24 hours.
Here’s a look at some different reasons for 1-day periods, and what you might experience.
When is a period not really a period? When you’re pregnant!
A short, light “period” of 1 to 2 days might be implantation bleeding, which is common. This happens about a week or 2 after fertilization in 15 to 25 percent of pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
You might also experience spotting early on because the blood vessels in your cervix are developing and thus more prone to bleeding.
Bleeding from a miscarriage can also be mistaken for a short period, especially if you are not aware that you’re pregnant. Bleeding can range from light spotting to heavy flow, depending on how far along the pregnancy is.
You might also experience cramps or pain in your abdomen and/or back. Contact your doctor if you suspect you’re experiencing a miscarriage.
Ectopic pregnancy (also called a tubal pregnancy) happens when a fertilized egg implants itself somewhere other than the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube, the cervix, or an ovary. If the egg continues to grow, it can rupture the tube, which can cause heavy internal bleeding.
Vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain are early symptoms of this serious condition, so seek medical attention immediately if you experience these or more severe symptoms:
- abnormal bleeding
- dizziness or fainting
- pressure in your rectum
- severe pain in your abdomen or pelvis, especially on one side
A short, light period can also happen while you’re breastfeeding. You usually don’t get your period when you’re breastfeeding, due to the hormone prolactin, which promotes lactation and tells your body not to have a period.
It will eventually come back though, usually about 9 to 18 months after your baby is born.
The pill and other medications
Hormonal birth control pills and shots can definitely cause your period to be both shorter and lighter, since they contain hormones that can thin the lining of your uterus. A thinner lining equals less to shed each month and thus a less intense period.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) can cause the same.
Other medications — including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine and supplements — can also lead to changes in your menstrual bleeding.
- aspirin and prescription blood thinners
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and naproxen
- hormonal therapy drugs (such as estrogen or progesterone)
- medicines to treat cancer
- thyroid medications
- some antidepressants
- herbal supplements that affect bleeding, including turmeric, ginger, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng
If you take any of these medications and experience a change in your usual menstrual flow, talk to your doctor.
What’s new with you lately? Any changes in your daily routine? Shifts in your diet, workout regimen or stress levels can all impact your period.
Major weight loss
Losing too much weight too quickly can affect your period. Weight loss, as well as eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can cause irregular and even skipped periods.
This is a sign that your body is not getting the nourishment it needs to maintain your menstrual health and other reproductive functions.
Seriously, is there anything stress doesn’t impact? (Short answer: Nope!) Stress can wreak havoc on your hormones, and when it’s severe enough, it might lead to a shorter, lighter, or a less regular period. (Thus compounding your stress!) It can also cause you to skip periods.
Your period is a barometer for your stress level. Once your stress goes down to a manageable level, your cycle likely will even out, too.
Too much exercise
Excessive physical activity can lead to irregular or missed periods. If you’re an endurance athlete, are training for a competition, or have recently changed your exercise level without adjusting your food intake, your body might not have the energy it needs for healthy menstruation.
Certain medical conditions could also be the reason for your 1-day period.
Thyroid hormones are crucial to your menstrual health, so when thyroid disease causes your body to make too much or not enough of those hormones, it can impact your cycle. Your periods might be irregular or shorter when you have a thyroid issue.
Symptoms of thyroid disease vary by type but include:
- feeling super tired or struggling to fall sleep
- a heart rate that’s slower or faster than normal
- gaining weight or losing weight unexpectedly
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS causes your body to overproduce male hormones, and that imbalance can suppress ovulation and disrupt your cycle.
In addition to symptoms like fatigue, a low voice, mood swings, excess facial hair, and infertility, PCOS can also cause your periods to be lighter and shorter. You might even skip them altogether.
Other health conditions
These issues can also impact your period:
- conditions involving the uterus, cervix, or ovaries
- uterine or cervical cancer
- disorders of the pituitary gland
The most common age to start your period is 12 to 13 (earlier or later is normal, too), while the average age for menopause is 51. That’s almost 4 decades of menstruation!
It’s quite common for your periods to be irregular during those first few years as well as during the last few years (the perimenopause phase).
- 1-day periods happen for a variety of reasons, from pregnancy and breastfeeding to medications and lifestyle changes.
- One day of bleeding is not necessarily cause for alarm.
- A “normal” period is what’s normal for you. Regular periods last 2 to 8 days, and regular cycles are between 21 and 45 days long.
- If your period is suddenly cut short, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to figure out what’s causing the change.
Heavy periods (Menorrhagia)
Menorrhagia. Doesn’t that word sound like some crazy illness or disease? Like, “Whoa, you have menorrhagia, that could be serious girl!” Menorrhagia is in fact, just the fancy term for “heavy periods,” which aren’t exactly life threatening, but can put a serious damper on life activities.
What does a heavy period look like?
Women often describe their “can’t stop, won’t stop” periods as a major disruptor in all areas of their lives. From work to dating to going to the beach and exercising, a heavy flow can feel really unmanageable. Not to mention potentially MORTIFYING. Women complain to me of constantly worrying about revealing leaks or accidents, ruining underwear and favorite outfits, feeling stressed about simply leaving the house or doing normal activities, as well as the full on exhaustion that comes with excessive blood loss.
Here are some physical signs of a heavy period:
- Your period consistently lasts more than seven days.
- You’re changing regular tampons, pads, or period underwear more than every two hours each day or a full 30 mL menstrual cup more than twice a day.
- You need both a pad and tampon to control your menstrual flow.
- You have to get up and change your pads or tampons during the night.
- You have a menstrual flow with blood clots an inch long or longer.
- You experience tiredness, you lack energy, or you are short of breath, or you’ve been diagnosed with anemia.
I used to have horribly heavy periods when I was younger. I remember years ago I was in Grand Central Station in New York, rushing to catch a train. I was using a super tampon and a pad, and within thirty minutes I was flooding through both of them—yup my period had made it past both, and leaked right through my jeans! It was horrific. I ended up missing my train because I spent so much time in the bathroom trying to sort myself out.
And I’ll never forget those days in high school where I literally prayed every month that my period wouldn’t leak through my uniform. I’d wear a tampon, pad, and biker shorts under my dress! It was bananas. I desperately wanted to have a life that wasn’t constantly interrupted by my super heavy flow.
What Is a Heavy Period? Help, I’m drowning in my own period blood!
Normal periods are defined as vaginal bleeding that occurs every 25-35 days, and lasts for three to seven days, with an average blood loss range of 35-50 milliliters or roughly 7-10 teaspoons. Each soaked regular pad or tampon holds roughly 5-12 ml of blood or 1-2 teaspoons, so it’s totally fine to soak 6-10 pads/tampons over the course of each period. You might be thinking this isn’t a lot, but keep in mind most women change their pads and tampons before they’re soaked, so the norm is around 10-20 pads or tampons per cycle.
If your period lasts longer than seven days and you’re losing more than 80 ml of blood per cycle (80 milliliters equals about 16 teaspoons or 2.7 liquid ounces), or you’re soaking more than 16 regular tampons or pads per cycle, then this is a sign that you have a heavier than average flow (menorrhagia). Other signs are flooding (like I described above) and clots that are one inch in diameter or longer. As always, it’s really important for you to determine what is normal for you. All these numbers are merely statistics based on the experiences of a small group of women, and don’t necessarily represent your body’s norm. They should serve as a guideline to help you to see where you fall.
How to calculate how much you are bleeding during your period
One fully soaked regular tampon or pad holds approximately 5 mL or 1 teaspoon of blood and a fully soaked super tampon holds 10 mL. A half soaked regular pad or tampon equals 2.5 mL and a half soaked super tampon holds 5 mL.
Make a note in your period tracking app every time you change your pad or tampon, period underwear or menstrual cup (note how full it is) each day of your period to determine if you have a heavy period. If the number of fully soaked regular pads or tampons is more than 16, you’ve fully soaked “regular flow” period underwear more than three times a day, or you’ve changed a half full 30 mL menstrual cup more than six times in any given menstrual cycle, then you have a heavier than normal flow.
What makes a woman have a heavier period than average?
Heavy bleeding can occur at any age, but it is most common at either end of the reproductive age spectrum, during the teenage years and then again during perimenopause, when estrogen levels tend to be higher in relation to progesterone. These two times of life are characterized by irregular ovulation, and thus sporadic progesterone production.
Adolescents experience heavier periods likely because of the immature endocrine system, in particular, the immature hypothalamus function. (The hypothalamus talks to the pituitary gland, which talks to the ovaries and tells them when to ovulate, so if the hypothalamus is still developing, there are likely to be hiccups in the system). In addition, estrogen receptors are very sensitive to estrogen (because they are still figuring things out) and will become less sensitive over time.
Perimenopausal women experience heavier periods because of waning ovarian function. As the ovary ages, it is less likely to complete the ovulation process. Without consistent ovulation, there will be a lack of adequate progesterone, which is often a cause for heavier periods.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to heavy periods
- A period that is heavy, dark, clotted, clumpy, or looks like frozen crushed up blueberries, is indicative of higher estrogen levels in relation to progesterone. Estrogen is a proliferative hormone, responsible for stimulating the growth of the uterine lining and breast tissue. Breast tenderness, acne, PMS, headaches or migraines are linked to an estrogen dominant situation.
- You can test your estrogen levels with this Female Hormones At Home test kit (use code Hormones20 to get 20% off all tests at Lets Get Checked).
- Another imbalance that may contribute to heavier flow is hypothyroidism or low thyroid function. Thyroid hormone and progesterone are intricately connected—if your body is not producing adequate thyroid hormone, your progesterone levels may drop, causing estrogen to become dominant over progesterone. In addition, low thyroid function is linked to poor estrogen detoxification. In other words, hypothyroidism inhibits the gut and liver’s ability to effectively remove excess or used up estrogens from the body.
- This thyroid antibody test will provide a complete picture of how your thyroid is performing (use code Hormones20 to get 20% off all tests at Lets Get Checked).
Uterine problems can cause heavy or long periods
- Endometriosis (see page xx) and Adenomyosis (see page xx)
- Uterine fibroids:Fortunately, the type of fibroids that cause heavy bleeding (submucus fibroids) only account for 5-10 percent of all fibroids. However, fibroids are generally fed by estrogen excess, which can also cause a thickened uterine lining and heavier bleeding.
- Polyps:these can cause abnormal uterine bleeding, but it is not usually heavy. See Spotting or Irregular Bleeding (page xx).
- Miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or the postpartum time can all cause heavy bleeding.
Other illnesses, diseases or medications that could be causing your heavy flow
- Medications such as the depo-provera shot, as well as the Paragard (copper) IUD.
- A bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease: known as a coagulopathy, this condition is associated with problems in how the blood clots. Twenty percent of adolescent girls with severe menorrhagia (heavy periods) have a blood coagulation problem.
- Liver, kidney, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Note: Endometrial cancer may cause abnormal uterine bleeding in the form of spotting or bleeding in between periods, but it rarely causes heavy bleeding.
Testing and recommendations for heavy periods
Please see your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms I described.
- She will want to do a pelvic exam to determine if there are any physical issues. This should also include a pelvic ultrasound to check for fibroids and endometrial thickness.
- I would also recommend a full thyroid panel, a pap smear, a pregnancy test, STI testing, and a complete blood count to determine if you have anemia. You can also do these test from home at Lets Get Checked. Use code Hormones20 to get 20% off all tests.
- There may be a need for other procedures like an endometrial biopsy, to determine the presence of endometrial hyperplasia, uterine cancer or infection. Or a SIS (saline infusion sonohystogram) to get a 3D view of the uterine cavity
The conventional treatments for heavy periods include the birth control pill (I don’t recommend that!), Mirena IUD (progesterone-releasing), D&C (Dilation & Curettage) to remove the uterine lining temporarily, endometrial ablation and hysterectomy (these last two are permanent so if you want kids, they are not for you).
Natural treatments for heavy periods
- Vitamin A – from liver or cod liver oil preferably. I like Rosita Real Food Cod Liver Oil or Cod Liver Oil Capsules. Vitamin A deficiency has been found in women with menorrhagia and vitamin A supplementation has been shown to reduce heavy periods significantly.
- B Complex – The liver does not inactivate estrogen effectively if a woman is deficiency in the B complex of vitamins. This leads to higher estrogen, and heavier periods. Supplementing with the B Complex will help restore the proper metabolism of estrogen. I like Thorne Research Basic B Complex and Seeking Health B Complex.
- Vitamin C – One study found that vitamin C was able to reduce heavy bleeding in 87% of it’s participants. It’s also important in preventing and treating anemia because it helps improve the absorption of iron. I like Livon Labs Lipospheric Vitamin C or Rainbow Light Buffered Vitamin C Powder. 2000-4000mg a day.
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If the relationship between the luteal phase and fertility had a FaceBook status, it would be ‘it’s complicated’. On the issue of adequate luteal phase I have managed to bore my husband to tears and drive to distraction multiple medical professionals. Views expressed to me over the years vary from the length of luteal phase having no impact on fertility (NHS fertility consultant) to at least 12 days being integral to maintaining a pregnancy (fertility awareness practitioner). So what’s the deal?
The normal luteal phase ranges from 11 to 17 days with most luteal phases lasting 12 to 14 days. Research has used varying definitions of a short luteal phase: fewer than 9 days, 10 days, or 11 days . Research found that all cycles with a luteal phase of fewer than 9 days were abnormal, and that 74%, 22% and 2% respectively of cycles with luteal phases of 10, 11 and 12 days were also abnormal, which would strongly suggest that a luteal phase of 12 days or longer would be the most fertile. However, confusingly other research has shown that having a short luteal phase of fewer than 11 days does not have a correlation with unexplained infertility. The murky picture is further dirtied by plenty more conflicting evidence on luteal phase length and fertility. A good summary of the conflicting evidence, issues and difficulties with testing for and treating supposed luteal phase deficiency has been published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. What is clear from the research is that between 12 to 16 days is definitely considered to be adequate and removes you from the tedious and frustrating debate about the existence of luteal phase defect.
Variation in cycle length: little to none
It is good for fertility to have regular cycles (low menstrual cycle variability), meaning little or no variation in cycle lengths. When the combined effect of cycle variation and cycle length was assessed, cycle variation was a persistently strong predictor of fertility. So the aim is for your cycles to run like clockwork. During 2015, my biggest variation in length from one cycle to the next was 12 days (a 44 day cycle followed by a 32) and on average they varied by 6 days from month to month. Cycles bouncing around like a space hopper indicates an underlying hormonal imbalance. If this is you, you are far from alone, with a study finding that in almost 43% of women had more than more than 7 days variation in their cycles lengths.
As explored above, being common is not the same as healthy or fertile. Research suggests that women with high menstrual cycle variability had a reduced (51% lower) per cycle probability of pregnancy compared with women with minimal variability. A study found that fertility was approximately 25% less in women who had a cycle length that differed by more than 10 days from the usual cycle length compared with women who had no variation. When it comes to fertility, consistency is key.
Forget the 28-Day Cycle. Women’s Fertility Is More Complicated
Share on PinterestExperts want women to know that they probably don’t have a 28-day cycle. Getty Images
- Many women are incorrectly taught that a standard menstrual cycle is 28 days.
- Not only do cycles vary month to month and widely across women, but a new study found only 13 percent of women have a 28-day cycle.
- This knowledge will help those who are trying to become pregnant, as well as help people determine whether their cycle is irregular enough to warrant a doctor’s visit.
If you have a uterus, it’s likely you’ve gotten advice at some point a 28-day menstrual cycle is “standard” or even “healthy.”
But it turns out that assumption isn’t accurate for most.
A recent study published in npj Digital Medicine found that only 13 percent of cycles are 28 days in length. The average cycle is 29.3 days long.
Researchers at University College London teamed up with a contraceptive app called Natural Cycles to analyze more than 600,000 menstrual cycles of more than 120,000 anonymous app users based in the United States, United Kingdom, and Sweden.
Nearly 65 percent of participants had cycles that lasted between 25 and 30 days.
It’s not only common for healthy menstrual cycles to vary from person to person, but also from month to month, according to reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh.
“I’ve had patients come to me worried and anxious about their menstrual cycles because they think their cycles are irregular when they really aren’t. It’s quite normal to have a cycle that is, for example, 27 days one cycle and 30 days the next.”
Dr. Kimberly Gecsi, program director of OB-GYN at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, sees the same unnecessary concern from patients.
“Women can get very anxious about something being wrong, or a feeling that they’re different or weird if they don’t have ‘perfect’ 28-day cycles. I think it’s important to understand that there’s a wide variety of normal. Women shouldn’t be too concerned about being ‘perfect,’” Gecsi told Healthline.
While the study’s co-author, Professor Joyce Harper, PhD, heralded the study for providing new insight into the key stages of women’s cycles, Eyvazzadeh says that menstrual cycles are actually quite well understood by OB-GYNs.
But Eyvazzadeh agrees that the general public doesn’t have a solid understanding of cycles, and hopes that this study can bring attention to the issue.
There are 2 types of infertility:
- Primary infertility – where someone who’s never conceived a child in the past has difficulty conceiving
- Secondary infertility – where someone has had one or more pregnancies in the past, but is having difficulty conceiving again
However, there are some often surprising signs to look for which may suggest you’re infertile.
While most of these symptoms may seem pretty trivial on the surface, experts recommending telling your doctor about them as soon as you can.
Here, Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patient.info, takes us through some of the few overlooked signs of infertility in women.
1. Irregular periods
One of the key signs of infertility issues is having an irregular menstrual cycle.
Most commonly, periods that come very infrequently, too often, or not at all are a big red flag as this usually means you’re not ovulating regularly – making it very difficult to get pregnant.
In particular, regular cycles that experience a significant change in the quantity or quality of blood or cycles that are extremely painful may be an indicator that there’s an underlying issue.
Intermittent bleeding or spotting can also be a cause for concern.
Despite this, there are plenty of reasons why your monthly flow might be out of sync – and it probably won’t have anything to do with infertility.
You may have a thyroid issue or a hormonal imbalance — and, most of time, these issues can be treated.
2. Hair growing in odd places
It may just seem like an annoyance if you have dark hairs growing on your lip, chin, throat, or tummy – however this could also be a sign of infertility.
Having coarse hair in odd places could be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.
3 The condition cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managedCredit: Getty – Contributor
Polycystic ovary syndrome affects one in five women and has an impact on how ovaries function – meaning sufferers can struggle to release an egg to be fertilised making it often extremely difficult to fall pregnant.
Dr Jarvis says that being overweight is often a sign of PCOS, as well as acne.
If it is PCOS, hormonal birth control such as the pill, can typically restore your hormonal balance and keep the condition under control.
3. Hot flushes
If you consistently experience hot flushes, or a sudden feeling of warmth all over your body, you might be dealing with premature menopause or perimenopause – depending on your age.
While in the UK the average age of the menopause is 51, some will go through it a lot earlier.
Early menopause, which marks the end of a woman’s fertile years, is one of the hardest fertility issues to treat and requires the most immediate diagnosis and intervention.
Most of the time, this runs in the family, so if your mother experienced early menopause, your own chances might be higher.
4. Pelvic pain – especially during sex
If you’re consistently in agonising pain either during sex or when you’re going to the bathroom, there’s a good chance you may have endometriosis.
As Dr Jarvis says: “Endometriosis is a condition where pieces of endometrium – the tissue that lines the womb – are found outside the womb.
“Common symptoms include extremely painful periods, painful sex, pain in your lower tummy or pelvis even when you’re not having periods, and sometimes bleeding between periods.
3 Endometriosis causes tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb to grow outside the wombCredit: Getty Images
“It can be hard to diagnose, even with a scan – the best way to diagnose it is with a laparoscopy, where a small telescopic instrument is put into your tummy cavity under general anaesthetic.”
Dr Jarvis also adds that pelvic/tummy pain can be a sign of Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID.
She says: “Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, is caused by sexually transmitted infections and can block your fallopian tubes, affecting your fertility.
“In the short term, symptoms include fever, vaginal discharge and severe pain. In the longer term, you may not have a fever or discharge but you’re likely to have pelvic/tummy pain and painful sex.”
5. Milky discharge from your breasts
If you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding and notice a milky discharge on your breasts, you may have high levels of prolactin, which is the hormone that tells your body to make breast milk.
While this may seem harmless, breast milk can be a symptom of infertility.
Elevated prolactin levels disrupt the way sex hormones are produced.
Infertility risk factors
There are a number of factors that can affect fertility in both men and women.
- Age – female fertility and, to a lesser extent, male fertility decline with age; in women, the biggest decrease in fertility begins during the mid-30s
- Weight – being overweight or obese (having a BMI of 30 or over) reduces fertility; in women, being overweight or severely underweight can affect ovulation
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – several STIs, including chlamydia, can affect fertility
- Smoking – can affect fertility in both sexes: smoking (including passive smoking) affects a woman’s chance of conceiving, while in men there’s an association between smoking and reduced semen quality
- Alcohol – for women planning to get pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum; for men, drinking too much alcohol can affect the quality of sperm (the chief medical officers for the UK recommend men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which should be spread evenly over 3 days or more)
- Environmental factors – exposure to certain pesticides, solvents and metals has been shown to affect fertility, particularly in men
- Stress – can affect your relationship with your partner and cause a loss of sex drive; in severe cases, stress may also affect ovulation and sperm production
There’s no evidence to suggest caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee and colas, are associated with fertility problems.
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Depending on the prolactin levels, women may experience infertility due to weak ovulations or lack of ovulation.
You may have an underlying thyroid issue or a benign tumor that’s causing the prolactin spike.
Your doctor might prescribe a medication to lower your prolactin levels, depending on the root of the issue, to get your ovulation cycle back to normal.
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