You would be surprised to know that I hear some variation of this statement at least once every week: “I wish I knew this about my period 20 years ago!”
Maybe like me, your memory of your very first period is not a very pleasant one. I had no idea what was happening to my body and what all the changes meant. I just knew I did not like what was happening every 28 days.
So… let’s talk about periods
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that all healthcare providers use a woman’s period as their fifth vital sign.
This means that your period is way more than just a disruption every month.
If you’re experiencing messy periods and have been for a while, it could be indicating that there is an underlying issue that has not been identified or addressed!
What is a vital sign?
Vital signs are measurements of basic physiological functions that provide important information about your overall health status. Changes in your vital signs can indicate a problem or progression of disease and will usually prompt further investigation.
The basic vital signs are body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate.
All of this means that if there are any changes in your period, that could be indicating a change in your health status and should be taken seriously!
“But most women have no idea if they have healthy periods or not...”
Which also means that you won’t know if your cycles are healthy or not and you may even not pay much attention to any changes in your menstrual cycle and periods.
Until you can’t ignore it any longer…
So let’s look at 7 characteristics of a healthy period:
A healthy period occurs about every 25-35 days, with the average being 28 days.
Your ‘normal’ cycle length can be slightly shorter or longer, but should fall within that range.
It is however important that your cycle length is fairly consistent. In other words, you should be able to predict the first day of your period to the day (same cycle length each day).
So if you’re experiencing unpredictable days of “why is my period late, am I pregnant?!”, that’s a clear sign that you should start investigating a bit deeper.
A healthy period lasts for an average of 3-5 days, although it can be anywhere between 2-7 days.
Approximately 90% of blood loss should be in the first 3 days.
Periods that last longer than 7 days, or show up shortly after the previous one is NOT normal and should NOT be ignored! Even if this is always the way it has been…
Your period should have a consistent flow of blood that is neither too heavy nor too light.
The average amount of blood loss during a period is 30-80ml (I know right, who even measures their blood loss?! But YOU should…)
If you often bleed through your tampon, pad or cup, you could potentially be experiencing heavy periods which might indicate estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalance.
You shouldn’t need to change your period products more often than every 2-3 hours in the first few days.
It is however also important to have a good strong flow during the first few days, which is an indication of a healthy uterine lining.
The colour of your period blood is an important indicator to take note of. It should start with a nice saturated red colour that’s vibrant and healthy. If your blood is heavy, dark, clotted or clumpy (sort of like frozen crushed blueberries), this could be an indication of high estrogen levels.
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the growth of the uterine lining and when estrogen becomes dominant over progesterone, you may also experience breast tenderness, heavy periods, stubborn weight, acne, headaches/migraines and the dreaded PMS monster!
When menstrual blood is thinned out, too little or light in colour (kind of like watered down cranberry juice), this can indicate low estrogen levels which may also include symptoms like sporadic periods, vaginal dryness (lack of lubrication), low libido, hair loss and hair thinning.
The consistency of your period should be much like high-quality maple syrup, without large clots or clumps.
Big clots in your period are not fine or ‘normal’, and could be indicating any of the following:
The size of your uterus
Any obstruction to menstrual flow such as polyps, etc.
Big blood clots are commonly associate with the first 3 conditions, which is usually a sign that your body is in a state of estrogen dominance (just another way of saying you are deficient in progesterone)
Clots aren’t necessarily harmful in itself, but could be indicative of something bigger going on, like hormonal imbalance (especially if they are a new occurrence). Therefore I recommend you see your doctor if this is the case.
Period cramping is one of my pet topics, because for years I thought it was normal to need pain medication whenever I had my period.
Cramping that requires pain medication (like ibuprofen, paracetamol or even something stronger) is NOT normal and should be investigated by yourself and your health practitioner (hopefully a holistic health practitioner).
Mild cramping during a period is normal, but should not be disrupting your daily activities.
Believe it or not, there should be no signs of physical or emotional PMS in the days leading up to your period.
Just because you’ve been experiencing it for as long as you can remember, does NOT make it normal.
It is actually not normal to feel like a maniac the days before your period!
If PMS or PMDD is an issue for you, this could be a sign of estrogen levels that are too high, or progesterone (the calming hormone) that is deficient.
So what to do now?
It’s important to note that your body and your period is unique!
Therefore, you should use this guide to determine what seems healthy (and normal) and what not.
The very first step to understanding what your period could mean is to start tracking your menstrual cycle every single month and record all detail about your body, however insignificant it may appear.
If you feel concerned about any of the symptoms that you are experiencing, or you even want to get confirmation of whether you should be concerned or not, I would love to help you talk it through and get some clarity on a complimentary assessment call…
Let’s get some clarity for you, once and for all!
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