How Many Days of Bleeding Are Typical During Menstruation?

Normal menstruation can last from one to seven days, and most women with regular menstrual cycles have periods that last an average of three to five days.

It's important to note that nothing is wrong if your period is a couple of days longer or shorter than the average three to five days and your period can vary a bit from cycle to cycle. This is normal. But very light or heavy periods can be a sign of an underlying health issue—and excessive bleeding can lead to anemia (low red blood cells).

what affects length of period
​Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

Normal Menstruation

Your period occurs when the lining of your uterus sheds. In order for your period to come each month, ovulation (an egg is released from an ovary) must occur. Typically, if you don't get pregnant during a cycle, your period will come 14 days after you ovulate.

But there are a few factors that could affect the length of your period.

Bleeding for more than seven days every month or not bleeding at all once you have passed menarche (the onset of menstruation during puberty) is not normal, and you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. 

Lengthy or Heavy Periods

Heavy bleeding is an indication to see your healthcare provider.

Signs of heavy bleeding include:

  • Soaking through one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row
  • Wearing more than one pad at a time to absorb bleeding
  • Changing pads or tampons at night
  • Periods with blood clots that are the size of a quarter or larger

It's important to see your doctor if your menstrual bleeding is lasting more than seven days.

Factors Affecting Period Duration

Lifestyle changes, birth control methods, and certain medical problems can affect your period. Let's take a closer look at the factors that may affect the duration of your menstrual flow.

Medical Conditions

A number of medical issues may affect the duration of your period. Factors that change the thickness of the endometrium (uterine lining) or the number of blood vessels play a role in how many days your bleeding lasts. This is because your menstrual flow is made up of the endometrium that's shed, as well as blood from the little vessels that are exposed after the lining sheds.

For example, heavy and/or long periods could be a sign of endometrial polyps or uterine fibroids.

Other examples of health conditions that may cause prolonged or heavy bleeding include:

Age

During the first few years after the onset of menstruation, you may experience unpredictable bleeding patterns. This is because you might not be ovulating regularly yet. Since ovulation requires a complex interaction between your brain, ovaries, and hormones, it can take some time for your body to get it right.

After a first period, some people bleed for more than the average number of days and/or skip a few periods in a row. Menstruation usually normalizes within about three years.

If you continue to have irregular periods, it could be a sign of an underlying hormonal or medical condition, so be sure to get it checked out by your healthcare provider.

As you approach the end of your reproductive years, usually sometime in your 40s, you may begin to experience irregular periods again during perimenopause (also called the menopausal transition). It's a time when estrogen production by the ovaries begins to decline.

With lower estrogen levels, there is less buildup of the uterine lining, so you also experience lighter and shorter periods, in addition to irregular periods.

Birth Control

Using hormonal birth control can affect the number of days your period lasts. Combined hormonal contraceptives affect your period duration a little differently than progesterone-only hormonal contraception.

If you are using a combined hormonal contraceptive, including an oral contraceptive pill, contraceptive patch, or contraceptive ring, it is likely that you will experience shorter periods and lighter flow. This is because the hormones in the birth control pill override the hormones produced by your ovaries.

For example, the estrogen in oral contraceptive pills leads to a lighter build up of tissue in the uterus, and the progesterone thins the endometrium, leading to less overall shedding.

Any of the continuous combined hormonal contraceptives may cause you to stop your period altogether, or at least decrease the number of times a year that you have a period.  

If you are using progesterone-only contraception, you will have lighter and shorter periods. In fact, your periods might stop while you are using this method.

Progesterone-only methods include:

  • A progesterone containing IUD (for example, Mirena)
  • A contraceptive implant (for example, Nexplanon
  • An injectable contraceptive (for example, Depo-Provera)

If your periods are heavy or prolonged, your doctor may suggest using a hormonal contraceptive like the levonorgestrel-release intrauterine device (Mirena) to help control your bleeding.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to your period, there is a small range of what is considered normal in terms of duration and frequency. Once you have started menstruating—if you miss your period or if your period lasts longer than seven days—be sure to discuss these changes with your doctor.

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Committee Opinion No. 651. Menstruation in girls and adolescents: using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. Obstet Gynecol 126 (6):1328.
  • American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. (2016). Frequently Asked Questions: Heavy Menstrual Bleeding.
  • Bitzer J, Heikinheimo O, Nelson AL, Calaf-Alsina J, Fraser IS. Medical Management of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: a Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2015 Feb;70(2):115-30.
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