Every year at your gynecological checkup (which, YES, these should be annual visits!), the same questions come up:
- “When was the first day of your last period?”
- “Are you having any abnormal discharge?”
- “Are your periods regular?”
Since I assume this is not be a typical brunch topic with your girlfriends, how do you know what exactly is “normal” or “regular”?
What is a “normal” menstrual cycle?
The first day you start your period, or start bleeding, is day one of your menstrual cycle. Women bleed on average for 3 to 5 days, but everyone is different. If you always bleed for seven days, this is normal for you. Your period is considered to be regular if the same number of days pass between starting your period each month, give or take a couple of days. For example, Megan may always have 28 days between each period. A 36 day cycle would be abnormal for Megan. Jen may consistently have 31 days between each period. A month where there is only 15 days between her periods would be irregular for Jen. Make sense?
The pattern you notice over multiple periods is what is important to look out for. The number of days you bleed does not have anything to do with your cycle being “regular.”
Embarrassing question but…is my discharge normal?
Another common part of your menstrual cycle is vaginal discharge. A lot of girls are worried that vaginal discharge means they are dirty or that something is wrong, but it’s completely normal. As we go through our menstrual cycle, our hormones change which affects our discharge. As long as your discharge doesn’t smell unpleasant, cause itching, or change significantly, it’s probably nothing to be worried about.
Putting the cycle in menstrual cycle
Believe it or not, shark week isn’t the only time something is happening during your menstrual cycle. Even when you are not on your period, A LOT is going on- ovulation, discharge changes, and hormones changes (which we will talk more about on another post) which can totally affect how you feel. Everyone’s menstrual cycle is different, and while YOUR body and cycle will be unique, most of us follow the same menstrual cycle phases which the video below explains:
So what does all this mean?
The reality is that most women don’t have perfect menstrual cycles, but as you can imagine, just a small change in any one of multiple things can throw your cycle off. That means if you have spotting or if your vaginal discharge changes, smells different, or causes discomfort, you should mention it to your doctor. AND…if the solution they offer is hormonal birth control, ask if there is another option. Lots of times birth control treats the symptoms without figuring out the problem!
Your body and cycle is unique to you and only you can track it effectively. So get a menstruation app (there are lots!) to log changes, keep a note in your phone, or just be mindful to what is going on with your body. Paying attention to your body’s “normal” is the only real way to know when there is something that is abnormal.
Your body is special, beautiful, and strong- listen to it. ❤️️