Duration of menstruation and the periodic cycle in women

The average menstrual period lasts 4 to 5 days, and the average menstrual cycle 28 days. For some women, however, these times can be longer or shorter. Blood flow can also be more or less abundant, depending on the individual. What are the reasons for this? When is there cause for concern? Elia Lingerie answers your questions.

Period length: what is a menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle corresponds to a precise period: it begins on the first day of menstruation and ends on the first day of the following period, and so on. It continues in theabsence of fertilization. From one woman to another, this cycle can vary significantly. This variation can also be observed within the same woman, depending on the period. For example, instead of the usual 28 days, the menstrual cycle can fluctuate between 21 and 35 days. For a woman with a regular menstrual cycle, this is referred to as early menstruation or late menstruation.

How long do periods usually last?

The average period lasts between 3 and 7 days. However, it can be shortened or extended, depending on the stage of life.

Average period length for teenagers

Menstruation in adolescence generally lasts between 2 and 7 days, but can be shorter or longer. Menstruation is often irregular in the early years. This means that one menstrual cycle is longer or shorter than the previous ones. Sometimes, teenage girls may even have no periods (amenorrhea) for several months (in the event of risky sexual intercourse, pregnancy should still be ruled out). From one cycle to the next, menstruation can also vary greatly in duration and quantity.

Only 13% of girls have or will have a 28-day menstrual cycle. Fortunately, with time, the length of periods and cycles tends to become more regular, even if it remains somewhat fluctuating. If, 3 years after menarche, periods are still very irregular, it's best to make an appointment with your GP or gynecologist to take stock.

However, there's rarely any cause for concern: in teenagers, irregular periods are usually linked to a variation in hormone levels. It can also be due to stress, anxiety or depression. In these cases, treatment is essential.

Average menstrual period length for adult women

In adults, menstruation can last up to 7 days, with bleeding often heavy during the first 2 days. Bleeding then progressively decreases over the following days. As with teenagers, there are frequent variations in both the length of the period and the length of the menstrual cycle. The cause? Hormonal changes during reproductive life.

Does hormonal contraception affect menstrual length?

Certain contraceptive methods can indeed have an influence on the length of menstrual periods. There are three types of contraception: hormonal, progestin-only and non-hormonal.

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraceptives include

  • the conventional contraceptive pill ;
  • vaginal ring ;
  • the contraceptive patch.

These contraceptives contain both progestin and estrogen. They work by blocking ovulation and keeping the cervical mucus (located at the cervix) impermeable, so as to block the passage of spermatozoa. In the absence of ovulation, the endometrium (the lining of the uterus responsible for menstruation) proliferates less, if at all. This means less bleeding and, potentially, shorter periods. Periods are also less painful.

Progestin-based contraception

Progestin-based contraceptives include :

  • the micropill (containing a low dose of synthetic progestin);
  • injectable progestins ;
  • contraceptive implants;
  • the hormonal IUD (containing a synthetic hormone similar to progesterone).

While they do not suppress ovulation, they do thicken cervical mucus to act as a barrier to spermatozoa.

The micropill is taken continuously. As a result, women no longer menstruate (although some light bleeding may occur). Other progestin-only contraceptives often have the effect of shortening periods and making them less abundant. In 20-30% of women, the implant even stops menstruation in whole or in part during the first few years.

Non-hormonal contraception

The copper intrauterine device (IUD) is one of the main non-hormonal contraceptives. Copper acts by rendering sperm inactive. This is known as spermicide. With this type of contraceptive, the cycle is therefore natural. On the other hand, the copper IUD can be responsible for long, heavy periods, particularly in the 6 months following insertion. The cause? Inflammation of the uterus. This usually subsides with time.

How do I calculate my next period?

Menstruation occurs 14 days after ovulation. If you have a 32-day cycle, for example, ovulation will take place on the 18th day of the cycle (32 - 14). With irregular periods, however, it's difficult to know when you'll ovulate. To estimate the date of your next period, first calculate the average length of your menstrual cycle. Then add the number of days from the date of your last period. Keep a menstrual calendar.

What to do about irregular periods?

An isolated irregularity is nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if your periods are irregular over several cycles, you need to look for the cause. It may be mechanical, psychological or hormonal.

Periods lasting less than 3 days

Do you often have short periods, but aren't taking any contraceptives that might explain this phenomenon? There are many other causes:insufficient estrogen levels (especially in slim women), over-intensive sports, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, certain medications (anti-epileptics and neuroleptics, in particular). Only your gynaecologist will be able to make a reliable diagnosis and suggest anappropriate course of treatment.

Periods lasting more than 7 days

If, on the other hand, your period regularly lasts longer than 7 days, it's best to consult your gynaecologist, especially if your periods are haemorrhagic. Again, in theabsence of contraception, this may conceal various health problems (hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids...). Rest assured, most are benign.

When it comes to menstruation, every woman is different. So it's not necessarily a cause for concern if your period and/or menstrual cycle is shorter or longer than average. Whatever the case, menstrual underwear remains your best ally! Safe, discreet and comfortable, they are also available in different absorbency levels. On the Elia Lingerie e-shop, choose from a wide range of models, each more elegant than the last!

FAQ about the duration of menstruation

What is the normal length of a period?

Red periods are normal. They generally take on this color around the middle of the cycle, when discharge is abundant and has no time to oxidize. They are the most common.

When is the end of menstruation?

On average, menstruation lasts between 3 and 7 days. But for some women, they can be shorter or longer. Various factors can explain this phenomenon (age, contraception used, health problems, etc.).

Why is my period only 3 days long?

Menstrual periods can be short for a number of reasons: progestin-only contraception, high-level sports, low estrogen levels linked, for example, to extreme slimming, thyroid disorders, anti-epileptic medication....

Why do periods decrease?

From one cycle to the next, menstruation can be more or less abundant. This is often the case with teenage girls, as their hormonal system is not yet sufficiently mature.

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