Normal menstrual cycle, menstrual cycle calendar

What’s a Normal Menstrual Cycle Anyways?

A Quick Guide to your Menstrual Cycle


Just look down the feminine hygiene aisle at your local supermarket, the range of products is just one clue to the vast differences in one woman’s cycle compared to another. Just because they make a product for it doesn’t mean it’s normal, and in some cases dangerous. 

So….Let’s dive in – What’s the norm and when do we need to see a doctor? 


Before we get to the nitty gritty here is a quick summary of your cycle: 

Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of bleeding. 

From day 1 to around day 14 is called the follicular phase of your cycle because it is preparing a follicle for ovulation. 

Around day 14 we ovulate meaning we release an egg from the ovary.

Day 14-28 ish is called the luteal phase because the corpus luteum we create from ovulation secretes a ton of progesterone to prepare our uterus for implantation. 

If no implantation of an egg into the uterine wall occurs, all our hormones drop, the uterine lining begins to shed, and we have another period. 


This is a normal physiological process that shouldn’t be a big deal but it’s crazy how much can get thrown off leaving you tired, irritable, anemic, and in pain.


How Often Should I Have A Cycle? 

Day between the first day of bleeding to the next first day of bleeding should be 21 to 35 days. 

Contact a doctor if they are less than 21 days longer than 35 days


How Long Should I Bleed During My Menstrual Cycle? 

A typical cycle is 5 days but can range from 2-7 days. 

Contact a doctor if you only bleed 1 day or longer than 7 days


How Heavy is A Normal Menstrual Cycle? 

A typical flow is less than 60-80mL total 

60mL of blood loss looks like saturating 10 regular tampons OR 4 super tampons OR 3 super plus tampon through the ENTIRE CYCLE

Contact a doctor if you saturate pad or tampon every two hours or less for 1 day or have clots larger than a quarter. Heavy cycles can be an indicator of a deeper problem.


Are color changes normal?

Menstrual blood can range from light pink, red, dark red, brown, and black. 

Contact a doctor if your flow is orange or gray in color.


How Can I Tell If I Have Ovulated? 

Common telltale signs of ovulation include mild cramping, increased cervical mucus  production, and increased libido. You can more accurately test for ovulation with basal body temperature readings or by using ovulation strips throughout the month. 

Contact a doctor if you are not ovulating, have irregular cycles, and/or trouble with fertility. 


Is Spotting or Pain with Ovulation Normal 

Ovulation is basically an explosion at the ovary so occasionally women report mild cramping and spotting. 

Contact a doctor if the pain keeps you from daily activity or you are bleeding rather than spotting mid-cycle. 


What is PMS/PMDD

PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. Symptoms include mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, and depression.

PMDD stands for Premenstrual dysphoric disorder which is a severe, sometimes disabling extension of premenstrual syndrome.

Contact a doctor if you have extreme shifts that disrupt daily life.


How Long Do Women Have Cycles? 

The average age of menopause is 51 yo. The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years.

Contact a doctor if you stop cycling before the age of 45, if you are still menstruating at 55 years old, or you restart your period in menopause (after 1 year of not cycling). 


Dr. Erin Winter

Naturopathic Doctor Flagstaff

Winter Wellness


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