Groove

Are your periods healthy?

wrote this on January 11, 2016

Is my period NORMAL?! It’s a question I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another. If I’m being honest, I’ve pondered this on more than one occasion. But what IS normal? And what does “normal” actually mean when it comes to your period? Is a 5-day period normal? How about a 7-day period? What about a 34-day cycle? There are so many questions!

The menstrual cycle works pretty much the same for everyone with a period (unless you’re on the pill or another hormonal contraceptive), but everyone’s periods and cycles look a little bit different. Your period is different from my period, which is different from someone else’s period…but it’s also kind of the same…make sense? (If not, don’t worry.) This blog post will dive into how people’s periods are the same, how they differ, and which differences should raise a red flag.

What IS normal?

1. a variable menstrual cycle length

First off, what IS a cycle? Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends the day before your next period begins. Count how many days that adds up to, and that’s your cycle length. An optimal menstrual cycle should be about 28 days long, but having a longer or shorter cycle doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something horribly wrong with you.

There are lots of things that can change the length of your cycles. Things like stress, a crazy sleep schedule, strenuous exercise, diet changes, and even traveling can all have an effect. So if your cycles are usually between 27 and 32 days long but you suddenly have a random 45 day cycle, there’s probably no cause for concern. My cycle is usually between 29 and 32 days long, yours may be 32–35 days long, and someone else’s may be 26–29 days long…no biggie!

However, if you regularly have cycles that are more than 35 days long and the length varies wildly from cycle to cycle, it’s probably a good idea to look into potential polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hormonal imbalance. If you suspect a hormone imbalance, Groove has a new AMAZING online course called Period Reset that will give you everything you need to get your periods back on track.

2. a variable luteal phase length

The luteal phase is the time in your cycle in between ovulation and your next period, and it happens in the second half of your menstrual cycle. A healthy luteal phase ranges from 12 to 16 days, with the optimal length being about 12–14 days long. My luteal phase is usually exactly 13 days long, but yours may be 15 days long…both are considered totally normal!

Your luteal phase length is dependent on the amount of the sex hormone progesterone that your body is producing in the second half of your cycle. Variability in luteal phase length is normal, but if your luteal phase is too short, it might mean there’s a problem. Suboptimal progesterone levels will make your luteal phase length too short — anything less than 10 days means you should may want to have your hormone levels tested for low progesterone.

3. the number of days you bleed

How many days should your period be? 3…4…5…6…7? And what’s considered healthy? Variability in period length is a completely normal thing, and a 4–6 day period is considered normal and healthy. Having a 3-day or 7-day period isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may point to a little wonkiness in your hormone levels. If your period is 2 days long or 8+ days long, there is almost certainly an underlying hormonal imbalance that needs to be addressed.

4. when you ovulate

If you don’t use a hormonal contraceptive or copper IUD and you have your period regularly, you’re ovulating…plain and simple. Periods and ovulation are like two peas in a pod — one can’t happen without the other. But WHEN you ovulate looks different for everyone, and it may even look different for you from cycle to cycle.

Ideally, you want to ovulate 14 days after the first day of your period, but ovulating 12 or 18 days after you start your period definitely isn’t anything to get worked up about. Just like with your cycle length, tons of things can affect when you ovulate. When your body is under any sort of extreme stress, ovulation may very well be delayed by a few days. That’s definitely not the case for everyone, but differences in ovulation day are 100% normal.

What ISN’T normal?

1. pain

Most of us assume that period pain is just a reality that women were cursed to endure. What we’re NOT told about period pain is that it’s almost always a sign of a problem. Whether that problem is endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, or (for most people) a hormonal imbalance, period pain means that your body is trying to tell you there’s a problem.

If painful periods is something you struggle with, you are totally not alone in that struggle. I endured years of agonizingly painful cramps before I discovered that a hormone imbalance was at the root of the problem. Since then, I’ve worked my buns off to heal my hormones and kick my period pain to the curb. All of my self-experimentation and research led me to create Groove’s Period Reset program, the ultimate 30-day guide to getting your periods and your hormones back in balance.

Kick your period problems to the curb.

Period Reset is the ultimate 30-day guide to help you balance your hormones and improve your periods for good!

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2. pre-period spotting

Mid-cycle spotting, which happens around ovulation, is perfectly normal and happens to tons of people. Spotting BEFORE your period, however, is NOT a normal thing, and it usually means that the lining of your uterus in struggling to stay in place until your period when it’s supposed to shed. This can be caused by both inadequate progesterone levels or elevated estrogen levels (or even a combination of both).

3. crazy mood swings

This is almost ALWAYS a sign that your hormones are totally out of whack. I obviously don’t expect you to smile and be the happiest person in the entire universe 100 percent of the time, but feeling like you’re completely out of control of your moods is NOT normal.

Mood swings used to be one of my biggest struggles before I worked to balance my hormones. My mental state felt like a complete roller coaster and I had no control over how I felt. It was almost like I was a bystander watching someone else’s life unfold…that’s how helpless I felt. It was a pretty horrible feeling. Now I know that my outrageous mood roller coasters were the cause of my progesterone levels being practically non-existent.

4. thick, clotted flow

A healthy period flow is bright red and clot-free, but I hear so many women complaining of gigantic clots and a flow so dark that it’s almost black…eek! Why is that?

Do you know what happens to blood when it sits still? It clots! If you’ve ever donated blood, the blood bags always contain something called an anticoagulant, or a chemical that prevents the donated blood from turning into a gel and clotting. Heavily clotted menstrual fluid indicates flow stagnation, which can be a side effect of higher-than-normal estrogen levels. Being more active during your period can help you avoid some clots, even though I know going for a run is totally the LAST thing you want to do when you’re on your period.

Period problems are no joke. I struggled with severe pain, digestive issues, acne, depression, and anxiety for YEARS as a result of my super unhealthy periods. I finally realized that my period problems were the result of unhealthy hormone levels, so I worked to fix my hormones. Once I fixed healed my unhealthy hormones, my period problems disappeared…woohoo! I created Period Reset, Groove’s badass 30-day program, to help you do the exact same thing. Check it out »

Jennifer Aldoretta is the cofounder and CEO of Groove. She is an entrepreneur, engineer, and biohacker who is obsessed with periods, nutrition, hormones, and the microbiome.