Menstruation: How much do we really bleed?
Periods are generally an indicator of overall health but the menstrual flow will vary from person to person. Knowing your menstrual flow can help you understand what your baseline is and changes to your menstrual flow or frequency may indicate an underlying health issue so it’s a good idea to track your cycle.
What’s a normal menstrual cycle?
There is a wide range of menstrual fluid loss amongst individuals with the typical menstrual flow being between 30 and 45ml or 2-3 tablespoons. A period will generally start with light spotting, progressing into a steady flow, and tapering toward the end of the cycle.
The average period lasts around 5 days however a period as short as 2 days or up to 8 days may be normal for some people.
Light Flow: A light flow is considered to be a loss of less than 20ml of menstrual fluid during a period. People with a light flow often experience flows which are infrequent or short.
Heavy Flow: Doctors consider a loss of great than 80ml (some say 60ml) during a menstrual cycle to be a heavy period and heavy periods are believed to affect approximately 12% of menstruating people. An indication that you have a heavy period would be requiring a regular-sized tampon or pad change every 2 hours or having to empty your menstrual cup every 4 hours.
How do I measure my menstrual flow?
The easiest way to measure your menstrual flow is to use a menstrual cup. Record the amount of menstrual fluid loss each time you remove and empty your cup and calculate the total at the end of your cycle. Do this for 3-4 cycles to get an average.
What is an abnormal period?
Frequent periods which occur more than once over a 21-day period be may also cause for concern if you don’t usually experience a shorter menstrual cycle.
Extremely heavy periods, missing your period, having irregular periods, passing blood with large clots or blood which is dark brown or black in colour may be an indication something isn’t quite right.
Abnormal variations in bleeding may also be a result of one of the following conditions:
- Ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage
- Early menopause
- Hormone imbalances
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Certain medications
- Thyroid disorders
- Uterine cancer
If you experience any of these abnormalities, it is important to see your doctor. Tracking your cycle will be helpful information for your doctor who will be able to diagnose underlying health conditions or refer you to a specialist and put a treatment plan in place.
Some cramping during your period is normal; however, extreme pain, called dysmenorrhea, which leaves you debilitated can signify an underlying uterine illness.
Did you know?
- Your voice can change slightly during your period
- You can still fall pregnant if you have sex during your period
- Those with body fat lower than 8% may not see their periods
- Humans, like some other mammals, absorb two-thirds of the menstrual liquid in the endometrium before their period starts.