After ovulation, if you have not become pregnant, your dominant follicle ruptures, and transforms into the corpus luteum gland. Ten to sixteen days later, at the end of the menstrual cycle the corpus luteum shrinks, and progesterone levels drop off (the corpus luteum is responsible for producing progesterone). The drop in progesterone stimulates the uterus to contract and shed its lining, beginning your period.
If you are healthy, and your hormones are balanced, your periods should arrive smoothly and without any spotting or pain. But how long should it last? Is it only blood? Are clots okay? And WTF is "normal" anyway? You and three of your friends all have periods that are different colors, flow and lengths, is that normal?! (The answer is yes, it is!)
WTF is menstrual fluid?
Menstrual fluid is made up of mostly blood, cervical mucus, vaginal secretions and endometrial tissue (uterine lining).
Fun fact: 2/3 of your endometrial lining is actually reabsorbed by your body!
Another fun fact: the majority of other mammals actually reabsorb their uterine lining if they don't conceive. In order to conceive, humans need a much thicker uterine lining compared to other mammals, making the human uterine lining too thick to be 100% absorbed.
WTF should the color of my menstrual fluid be?
The color of your menstrual fluid will vary a bit depending on how fast your flow is. Blood turns darker when exposed to air, so if you are flowing slowly or spotting, your blood may be a reddish-brown color. If you are bleeding quickly the blood will be a bright red color.
WTF is a normal amount of menstrual fluid to lose?
The average amount of menstrual fluid to lose over the several days of your period is about 50mL (equal to about three tablespoons). Anything less than 25mL is considered a very light amount, and more than 80mL is considered a heavy flow. You probably don't measure the amount of menstrual fluid you lose (does anyone?). But using a menstrual cup makes this easy to do. If you don't use a cup, one regular sized tampon holds about 5mL (fully soaked), and one super tampon holds about 10mL (fully soaked). So an average amount of blood to lose is equal to about 10 fully-soaked regular tampons, or 5 fully-soaked super tampons over the course of your period.
What if my period is randomly extremely light, or extremely heavy? If you have a random heavy period or extremely light one, either of these scenarios can be caused by an anovulatory cycle - a cycle in which ovulation did not occur. Having an anovulatory cycle is normal here and there, and nothing to be concerned about. If you have anovulatory cycles on the regular, or frequently light (<25mL) or extremely heavy periods (>80mL), this is not normal, and is a period problem that deserves your attention.
WTF are clots? And why the fuck do they happen?
Clots tend to happen more often if you have a heavy flow. The body releases natural anticoagulants to thin the blood and allow it to flow more easily. When you have a heavy flow, the anticoagulants may not have time to do their job, which is normal - as long as the clots aren't too large. The normal size of a clot is about the size of a dime.
Why would you have a heavy flow? A heavy flow can be caused by higher levels of estrogen, or lower levels of progesterone, or possibly a combination of both. Estrogen thickens the uterine lining (and causes a heavier flow), and progesterone thins the uterine lining, counterbalancing the effect of estrogen. If you do not ovulate you will not produce progesterone, and won't get the beneficial effects that come along with it.
WTF is a normal length of a period?
Anywhere from 2 to 7 days is a completely normal period length. Most women average between 3 and 5. Day one starts on the first day of normal or heavier bleeding - not spotting (this is also the first day of your follicular phase).
Why would you spot? If you have spotting at the end of your luteal phase, before the start of your period, along with a higher basal body temperature (confirming you ovulated), it could be a sign of poor ovulation or luteal phase insufficiency. In this case, the corpus luteum starts to break down too soon, resulting in the premature shedding of the uterine lining. The corpus luteum should live for at least 10 days so if you are consistently experiencing spotting before ten days into your luteal phase I advise you to see a doctor to rule out other conditions such as thyroid issues, endometriosis or fibroids.
WTF is a normal length of a menstrual cycle?
On average, a normal menstrual cycle is between 21 and 35 days. You can read more about what affects the length of your menstrual cycle here.
Hopefully after reading this you are more clear on WTF a normal period is. If you feel like your period may not be "normal", I highly advise you to start tracking it. Period apps, like Kindara and Clue (my two current favorites), allow you to track your period length, flow, cycle length, temperature and so much more.
If your period isn't "normal" and your experiencing period problems, enrollment for my group coaching program opens on Monday, June 4th. Follow me on instagram (@veronicamcnelis) or join my email list here to make sure you don't miss the announcement.