Things Every Person Should Know About Menstrual Bleeding

Menstruation has many names—your period, monthly cycle, menses, even Aunt Flo. Regardless of what you call it, menstruation is vaginal bleeding that occurs monthly.

During the monthly menstrual cycle, your hormones prepare your uterus (womb) for pregnancy. If you become pregnant, then your period usually doesn't return until after childbirth. If you don't become pregnant, then you shed the thickened lining of your uterus (the endometrial lining) and extra blood through your vagina.

Calendar tracking period cycle and some feminine hygiene products
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What You Should Know About Your Period

Menstruation a totally normal process that happens to virtually every person with a uterus. And yet there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Here are six facts to demystify that time of the month.

What's Considered Day 1

The first day you experience any amount of bleeding is considered Day 1 of the menstrual cycle. While most menstrual cycles are 28 to 30 days long, periods that come anywhere from 21 to 35 days apart are usually considered normal.

Your Period May Change

Your period may not be the same every month—and that's okay. It may also be different than other people's periods (also okay). Periods can be light, moderate, or heavy in terms of the amount of blood. This is called menstrual flow. What's considered a normal amount of blood loss during menstruation varies. For the majority of menstruators, however, it ranges from four to 12 teaspoons.

You Should Change Your Sanitary Product Frequently

You should change a pad before it becomes soaked with blood. You should change a tampon at least every four to eight hours. Try to use the lowest absorbency tampon needed for your flow. For example, use Lite or Regular tampons on the lightest days of your period, and reserve the Super and Super Plus tampons for your heaviest days only.

Every Cycle Is Unique

Most periods last from three to five days, but some last up to seven days. For the first few years after menstruation begins, longer cycles are common. With age, your cycle tends to shorten.

Not Having Your Period Is a Medical Condition

Not having a period? That's what's known as amenorrhea. The term is used to describe the absence of a period in girls who haven’t started menstruating by age 15. If you've gone without a period for 90 days, you also have amenorrhea. Causes can include pregnancy, breastfeeding, extreme weight loss, stress, or something more serious like a medical condition. In some cases, not having menstrual periods can mean that your ovaries have stopped producing normal amounts of estrogen.

You May Want to See Your Healthcare Provider About Painful Periods

Dysmenorrhea is when you have painful periods, including severe cramps. Menstrual cramps in teens are caused by too much of a chemical called prostaglandin. In adults, the pain is sometimes caused by uterine fibroids or endometriosis. Over-the-counter pain medicines (including Ibuprofen and Naproxen) can help alleviate cramps.

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.