How your period can tell if you're in tip-top shape
Menstrual health expert Anna Druet explains how to deal with monthly problems
Periods are painful and irritating to endure, but it's important to keep an eye on them - because prolonged irregularity could be a sign of a bigger health issue. So how do you know when something's amiss with your monthly cycle? We asked Anna Druet, chief science researcher at ovulation tracking app Clue, to advise.
She says: "Firstly, it's important to define what exactly is 'normal' and what is 'irregular' when it comes to periods. A normal period typically happens every 24 to 38 days and lasts between four to eight days. You can shed anything between 5-80ml of blood (up to six tablespoons). An average period sheds two to three tablespoons (35-40ml) of blood.
"The typical 5-80ml amount would use between three to 16 regular tampons or pads per cycle, but you can also measure your period flow by using a menstrual cup. Talk to your doctor if your period is so heavy or painful that it interferes with your daily activities, as prolonged heavy bleeding can lead to anaemia."
So why can your period change?
"Periods fluctuate for a while after they first start, but if you've had your period for a few years, it should generally be about the same length and volume each cycle. You may still notice changes from time to time, though - the heaviness and length of your period depends on your hormones, which can fluctuate. Your period will also be different than usual if you don't ovulate each cycle - you may miss a period, or it may come later than usual, and/or be heavier or lighter than your norm.
"Periods can also fluctuate because of certain health conditions, like uterine polyps, fibroids, or PCOS - these should be addressed with your doctor.
When should I be concerned?
"Your cycle can let you know when everything is working as usual, or if something else might be going on. This is why it's important to track your cycles, which you can easily do using an app like Clue. Common conditions that sometimes appear during the teenage years in particular include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. Treating these conditions as early as possible is important. Talk to a healthcare provider if you've had no period for more than 90 days, no first period by the age of 15, or the growth of unusual body hair." Liz Connor