When talking about a “normal” menstrual cycle, it is important to remember that normal for you may be very different from what is normal for someone else.
Menstruation (pronounced men-STRAY-shun) is the time each month when the lining of a woman’s vagina or womb breaks free and is cleared out of her body as a flow of blood commonly known as her “period”. This is a normal part of the reproductive process which typically lasts from two to seven days.
Each month, chemical messengers in the body called hormones trigger the lining of the vagina to thicken and get ready for an embryo to implant if an egg is fertilized. If no embryo implants by the end of the monthly cycle, the hormones trigger the lining of the vagina to clear out so the body can start a new cycle the following month.
This monthly cycle is the normal menstrual cycle for woman during their childbearing years. But the details of the monthly cycle can vary from woman to woman. To learn what is normal for you, keep a record of your cycle for several months so you can see the pattern. Make note of these things each month:
• Start date – Record the date your period starts
• End date – Record the date of the last day of your period. This will allow you to count how many days your period lasts. Most women’s periods last three to five days, but anywhere from two to seven days is considered normal.
• Flow – How heavy is the bleeding? There is no right way to “measure” blood flow during your period. You might keep track of how many tampons or pads you use each day and how often you need to change them to gauge the heaviness of your flow.
• Pain – Write down if you have cramps or other pain with your period. These symptoms are normal for many women, but be sure to note if your pain is different from normal.
• Other changes – Keep track of anything else that seems different around your period. Include PMS or mood changes before or during your period.
Once you have a record of your period for several months, you will have a good idea of what a normal menstrual cycle is for you.