The phrase ‘different is normal’ gives justice to the normal differences that exist in the periods of different women. Regular periods are defined with regard to length of cycle, duration of bleeding and how much blood is lost. The female reproductive hormones, as they fluctuate during certain stages of growth and aging in women result in the erratic behavior of periods. This biological clock mechanism sometimes fails to tick accurately compared to our conventional wall clocks.
What is considered a normal period?
While the one size fits all phrase does not apply to periods, there is a generally considered normal range for periods. A complete cycle of 24-35 days in length, bleeding lasting 3 to 8 days and not more than 80ml of blood lost; that is if you soak through a pad per hour for more than 2hrs in a row.
Why periods change?
While you may be accustomed to your menstrual routine or how heavy you bleed, remember periods are anything but predictable. The normal period routine often changes due to age related factors, contraceptives, certain medications, physiological states and due to certain medical conditions.
Right from the teenage years through 20s and 30s to the late 40s or even perhaps early 50s, periods are never the same. The average age for first menstrual period is 12 and they start off as more irregular in terms of cycle length and heaviness of bleeding. In the 20s and 30s, periods become more regular and do not change much except after pregnancy and breast feeding. By mid 40s, most women will relive their teenage years as periods will become irregular again due to pre-menopause, a sign that periods are soon ending before they eventually do by mid 50s for most women.
Periods also change due to certain states such as pregnancy, breast feeding, exercise and stress. By far the widely known first sign of pregnancy is that periods stop. After child birth and during breast-feeding, the hormones take a while to find a balance. This is usually accompanied by episodes of missed periods and altered cycle length. Stress and increased exercise often alter your normal menstrual cycle rhythm.
Different medical conditions including uterine fibroids, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency, pelvic inflammatory disease are the common causes of change in the period regularity. Something common in all the above medical conditions is change in the levels of the female reproductive hormones.
Perhaps the most implicated factor is hormonal birth control measures covering a range of family planning methods like pills, injections, Intra-uterine devices, emergency contraceptive pills and implants. These can increase chances of irregular vaginal bleeding and spotting. This is no cause of alarm. However, if it gets out of hand, see a Gyn.
Certain medications too can change the regularity of your period. Blood thinners like aspirin increase the likelihood of heavy bleeding. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisolone, thyroid medications, antidepressants and certain chemotherapy drugs are associated with side effects that alter the normal period. Still these changes are expected and not always harmful unless excessive.