Our periods are our way as women to see exactly what is going on in the inside. When we are healthy, our periods will arrive smoothly, regularly and without symptoms. When your health is not 100% our periods are the one which are telling us the full picture.
What’s happening with your periods?
Use your periods as a monthly report card. Every month it is giving you an insight into you and your health.
Irregularity, colour, length of time, symptoms of pain, bloating and water retention? Do you have a period every month? Are your periods less than 21 days or over 35 days?
Do remember however, if you are on the oral contraceptive pill you do not have periods and you do not ovulate. Unfortunately these are called ‘withdrawal bleeds’ and is the depletion of oestrogen from the pill which gives you that bleed. As soon as you put synthetic oestrogen back into your body it comes to a halt.
So, what should your periods be like?
The timing of our periods are determined by three events going on in your ovaries every month. The first stage is called the follicular phase – this is where your follicles are in a race to mature ready for ovulation. This is around 2 weeks, but can be longer or shorter than this.
We then have the day we ovulate, which is literally only for a day!
Then we have our final stage – the luteal phase, which should be exactly two weeks long and should not vary. (We’ll delve into this a bit later as to why!)
Which all in all adds up to a healthy cycle ranging from 21-35 days! It takes between 90-100 days for our follicles to mature – so when looking at period health, you’re looking at least 3 months to notice the difference. Unfortunately, it is not an overnight miracle!
Your menstrual fluid should be liquid, with no large clots
Your menstrual fluid should be a reddish-brown colour – and yes, it is completely normal for the last few days for your periods to go brown. Blood turns darker when it is exposed to air, so when your period is flowing quicker it will be a lighter colour and darker colour when flowing slower.
Your should lose about 50 millilitres – I am sure you have never tried to measure the amount of blood you lose each month – but it is the equivalent to around 3 tablespoons. One soaked regular pad or tampon holds 5ml. A super tampon holds 10ml. So 50ml equates to 10 fully soaked regular tampons or 5 fully soaked super tampons, spread over the days of your period. Simply, you shouldn’t have the need to change your pad or tampon any more frequently than once every two hours in the day.
What hormones are important for a healthy period?
We have 3 different types of oestrogen. The most important one we are focusing on today is Estradiol. It is our best form of oestrogen! It improves our sleep, skin, bone health and vaginal lubrication. It also stimulates our uterine lining to grow and thicken – to prepare for a baby. It also stimulates a unique type of vaginal mucus called fertile mucus of cervical fluid.
Fertile mucus is wet and slippery and stringy. It looks and feels like raw egg white and can be in fairly large quantities. This is a big sign that you are about to ovulate in 2 or 3 days time. Did you know that within fertile mucus, sperm and taken to your fallopian tubes in under four minutes?!?!? Crazy right!
When our bodies ovulate, one of our follicles are swelling and then finally ruptures to release it’s egg. It is quite a brief, but slightly violent event! It occurs in just a few minutes – you may feel a twinge or mild pain on one or both sides of your lower pelvis.
Ovulation is a super important event as it is the ONLY way to make estradiol and progesterone.
How to help track your periods?
- When does your bleed start? That is called ‘Day 1’ of your cycle.
- How many days of bleeding?
- Do you see mucus within the month and when?
- Do you experience pain when you ovulate?
You can use Apps, or simply a pen or paper to note this down on a monthly basis.
We will delve deeper into painful periods and other symptoms when having periods in another blog! Stay tuned!
Ref: (Book) Period Repair Manual, Lara Briden (2015)