Periods really are an interesting thing. For some of us it’s different time after time and for others it’s exactly the same every single month. Some of us bleed longer, some of us only bleed a day; some of us have super heavy periods, others only see a little bit of blood. So, as you can see, there isn’t really a “normal” when it comes to menstruation. Everybody is completely different and that is perfectly fine!
How long does your average period last?
As we already know, there isn’t really a “normal” when it comes to menstruation. This also goes for the length of your period. There are general guidelines, though! These state that a period lasts anywhere between 1 and 7 days, with the average person bleeding for about 3 to 5 days. Don’t panic if your period lasts a day or two longer than these guidelines suggest, though. Chances are high that you’re completely fine!
When is a period considered long and heavy?
A period is generally considered long, if it lasts more than the 7 days we mentioned as a general guideline. That doesn’t mean that you have to run to your GP immediately if you bleed for an 8th or 9th day every now and then, though. If your periods are longer than 7 days most of time, however, you might want to have a chat with a healthcare professional about it. Same goes if your period very suddenly gets heavier or if you have spotting in between cycles.
What counts as heavy bleeding?
- Having to change your tampon or pad during the night
- Having to wear more than one pad a time to avoid leaking
- Having to change your tampon or pad once or more every hour for several hours in a row
- Passing blood clots that are the size of a 50p coin or larger
Reasons for a long period
Although much is normal when it comes to periods, very light or very heavy bleeding can point towards an underlying issue and should be investigated. Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons for a longer period.
Many medical conditions can have an effect on your period. Mostly it’s conditions that either change the thickness of your uterine lining or the number of blood vessels in your uterus. Why do these conditions affect your period? Easy! Because what you pass when you’re menstruating is a combination of uterine lining and blood coming from the blood vessels beneath the uterine lining.
If you have particularly heavy and long periods, it might be a sign of uterine fibroids or polyps, PCOS, hypothyroidism, endometriosis, bleeding disorders, or – worst case – uterine cancer.
Your age plays a big role when it comes to the length and frequency of your period. If you’ve just started your monthly bleeds it’s likely that your cycle is still a little unpredictable and irregular. This is simply because your body needs some time to learn how to do the whole ovulation thing properly first! During this time, your periods may be super light or heavy and can last longer or appear more or less frequent.
Then, once you near the end of your fertile years (generally sometimes in your 40s), you might realise that your periods are becoming more irregular and unpredictable again. This is generally because your oestrogen levels are slowly starting to decline which will also reduce your uterine lining. Although this mostly leads to shorter and lighter periods, in some cases it can cause longer and heavier ones.
Contraception can affect your period in many ways. Hormonal birth control like the pill, patch or ring will generally make your periods lighter and shorter because your body will build up much less uterine lining to shed. The copper IUD, on the other hand, can lead to longer and heavier periods, especially in the first 6 to 12 months.
Have you just started a new form of birth control, and your periods have suddenly become heavier and more irregular? There’s no need to worry; that’s completely normal and should usually settle down within 3 months.
If your hormone levels aren’t right, chances are that your periods are a little unpredictable. This can lead to anything from super light and short to super heavy and long periods. The latter will appear if your body produces too much oestrogen or progesterone. Who is most affected by this? It’s most likely to happen if you have started menstruating within the last 1.5 years or if you’re approaching menopause.
The most important thing to remember is that everybody is different, and what’s normal for you might not be normal for someone else and vice versa. If you experience any changes to your period that aren’t normal for you, then it’s always a good idea to get it checked out. Better safe than sorry!