PERIODS are monthly occurrence for millions of people all over the worl.
However, how long it lasts can also vary wildly from woman to woman.
Some people may have a short, regular menstruation cycle, while others are plagued by cripplingly heavy periods that can leave them in bed for days.
We're all different though, and that extends to choice of sanitary products too, be it a reusable period cup, tampons, towels or washable eco period pants.
Dr Shree Datta, health advisor for INTIMINA, says lots of things can impact a person's menstrual cycle.
She said: "Remember, no one factor alone influences your menstrual cycle or indeed your mood, appetite or exercise performance, which is why it's so important to track your sleep, diet and fitness throughout your cycle."
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Stress can play a major role, she said: "Note any key stress factors – such as a deadline at work, exams, moving house etc. as these can also impact your periods, diet, sleep and exercise performance."
Dr Shree recommends keeping an eye on what's 'normal' for you, so you're up to speed on any changes, and can spot things that are affecting your cycle.
She said: "Tracking your cycle can allow you to recognise specific patterns at specific times of your cycle which are individual to you."
How long does a period last?
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The average period length can vary hugely.
However, according to Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at digital healthcare provider Livi, the digital healthcare provider, periods "the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it can last anywhere between 21 and 45 days."
She adds: “The first day of your period is known as day one of your menstrual cycle, and most people will usually bleed for about five days, although it can be anywhere between three and eight days."
“A typical period lasts two to seven days, and women lose between three and five tablespoons of blood during this time," adds Dr Bryony.
But it can be longer, depending on your cycle.
Feeling cranky, cramps and mood changes – aka PMT – can begin before you start bleeding. associated with your period can start before the bleeding does.
When bleeding continues for more than seven days, which is the upper length of time for the majority of women, it is called menorrhagia.
Around five per cent of women are diagnosed with menorrhagia.
The condition is also used to describe very heavy periods, meaning you need to change your pad or tampon every one to two hours, or empty your menstrual cup more often than is recommended.
You also might need to use two types of sanitary product at the same time, because otherwise you may bleed through your clothing, or bedding.
You may also, according to the NHS, pass blood clots larger than about 2.5cm (the size of a 10p coin)
Heavy bleeding like this can leave you feeling exhausted, drained, may affect your ability to work and do the things you want to do, and can lead to an iron deficiency.
If your periods are affecting or disrupting your everyday life it's important to speak to your GP.
You can also take the NHS heavy periods self assessment quiz, as a starting point for seeking treatment.
What counts as the last day of your period?
The day you stop bleeding is the last day of your period, which for most people is roughly day five.
You're likely to have a couple of heavy days, and then a few lighter days as your period comes to an end.
However, you might assume it's done and dusted, only to then get some spotting – very light bleeding – which is normal.
What does a heavy period mean and what causes it?
On average, the amount of blood lost during a period is roughly less than 80ml, says Dr Shree Datta.
"Heavy periods can and affect people's overall health and lifestyle so can be beneficial and is important to monitor."
Signs to watch for include:
- Periods lasting longer than 7 days
- Using two forms of sanitary products together and having to change every 1-2 hours
- Bleeding through clothes and bedding
- Passing blood clots larger than a 10p coin
Dr Shree adds: "There are many causes for heavy periods including medical problems such as polyps, fibroids in the womb, PSCOS and thyroid disorder or blood clotting disorders, which are all things your gynaecologist would investigate."
What can affect how long your period lasts?
From your age, weight, proximity to your teenage years, pregnancy, or menopause, these call all affect the length of your period.
Uterine, hormonal or blood conditions, and any medication you might take for these, can also play a part, as can your hormones.
"It is normal to experience some heavier periods at different times.
"These can be caused by hormonal changes, certain medications, stress and depression.
“With the exception of pregnancies and breastfeeding, and occasional skipped periods if you’re very stressed, your periods should continue regularly."
What causes long periods?
Lots of people experience long periods, and they might be normal for you.
However, if they are lasting more than seven days, or if you're experiencing heavy bleeding that's affecting your life, see your doctor.
If you've just started on a new medication or hormonal contraception, like birth control pills, vaginal rings, patches, or IUDs, these can trigger long periods in the first few months of using them.
When women first start their periods, it's often the case that for the first three years periods can be long and inconsistent.
As you cycle gets into a regular rhythm though, this usually settles down.
Long periods can also be a symptom of perimenopause and menopause, with heavy periods also common.
Dr Bryony says: “As we get older, the quality of our eggs declines, which is why the risk of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities increases.
"Your body also becomes less effective at producing progesterone, so your menstrual cycle might become shorter.
"This is usually the very first sign of perimenopause.
“Along with changes in the pattern of your periods, they may also become heavier.
"This can last until the menopause which is when your periods stop altogether.
"The average age in the UK is 51 but there is a wide range.
"If your periods stop before the age of 40, this is called premature menopause and you should speak to your doctor."
Many women – around 25 per cent in fact – experience irregular cycles, throughout their menstrual life.
They may have short, long or unpredictable periods that fluctuate month to month even.
However, if you have fewer than 21, or more than 35 days between your periods, you should speak to your GP to check what's going on.
Long periods can signal unusual hormonal levels as a result of health conditions like polycystic ovaries or hypothyroidism.
Polyps, fibroids or adenomyosis can also cause trigger longer periods.
As can uterine or cervical cancer, or haemophilia, Von Willebrand’s Disease or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
If you regularly take aspirin, blood thinners, or anti-inflammatory medication you may also experience long periods.
When should you seek help for long or heavy periods?
Dr Bryony says: “It’s useful to keep a track of your cycle so you know what is normal for you.
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"If there are any changes, like the amount you are bleeding, bleeding after sex or in between periods, changes to your cycle or level of pain, it’s important that you speak to a GP.
"They can discuss these symptoms with you and advise on any necessary tests, or refer you to see a gynaecologist."
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