How Many Days Of Bleeding Are Typical During Menstruation?

Creative interpretation of menstrual flow
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Your period is the shedding of the lining of your uterus. Your menstrual flow is partly made of this shed lining called the endometrium. In order for your normal period to come each month, your body has to ovulate. Once you ovulate hormonal changes happen that then cause you to have your period. Usually, your period will come about 12-16 days after you ovulate if you did not get pregnant.

There Is A Wide Range Of Normal

Normal menstruation can last from one to eight days.

For most women with regular menstrual cycles, their period will last on average three to five days.

But that doesn't mean that anything is wrong if your period is a few days longer or shorter. Your period is unique to you and how much you bleed and for how many days you bleed will not be the same as anyone else.

It is important to know that your period can also vary a bit from cycle to cycle. But, there are certain lifestyle changes and certain medical problems that can affect your period more significantly.

Your menstrual flow is made up of the shed endometrium and blood flow from the little vessels that are exposed after the lining sheds. Factors that change the thickness of the endometrium or the number of blood vessels plays a role in how many days your bleeding lasts. For instance, if you have heavy or longer periods it could be a sign of endometrial polyps or uterine fibroids. 

Understanding the average range of a normal period is helpful.

Certainly bleeding for more than eight days every month or not bleeding at all once you have passed menarche is not normal and you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. 

The Length of Your Period Usually Changes As You Get Older

During the first few years after the onset of menstruation, you may experience unpredictable bleeding.

This is because you are not ovulating regularly. Your menstrual cycle includes both ovulation and then your period. Ovulation happens because of a complex interaction between hormones produced by structures in your brain and your ovaries. 

Once you have had your first period it can still take some time for this interaction to function properly. During that time you may bleed for more than the average amount of days and you may skip a few periods in a row. The good news is that menstruation usually normalizes within about two years. If you continue to have very irregular periods it could be a sign of an underlying hormonal or medical condition.

As you get toward the end of your reproductive years usually sometime in your 40's, you enter into the menopausal transition. This is a time when hormonal imbalances can cause the return of irregular periods. As you get closer to menopause you have lower levels of estrogen which results in less endometrium build up so you will have a lighter and shorter period.

 

 Birth Control Can Affect The Length Of Your Period

Using hormonal birth control can affect the number of days your period lasts.

If you are using a combined hormonal contraceptive including

  • oral contraceptive pill
  • contraceptive patch
  • contraceptive ring

it is likely that you will experience shorter periods, as well as lighter flow. This is because the hormones in the birth control pill override the hormones produced by your ovaries.

The pill contains estrogen so the lining of the uterus builds up but much less than it would naturally. And the progesterone component of the pill counteracts the estrogen build up so the lining to be shed is overall thinner than normal. The hormones in the birth control pill override the ovaries and essentially take over control of the endometrium. In fact, if you use any of the combined hormonal contraceptives continuously, meaning that you skip the placebo or hormone-free week, you can stop your period altogether or at least decrease the number of times a year that you have a period.   

If you are using a progesterone only contraception like

  • progesterone containing IUD (Mirena)
  • contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) 
  • injectable contraceptive (Depo-Provera)

you will have lighter and shorter periods. Often, using these methods can lead to no period at all. This is because progesterone has an effect that thins the endometrium.

Since all hormonal contraceptives change your menstrual flow if your periods are heavy or you bleed for too many days, your doctor may suggest using a hormonal contraceptive to help control your bleeding

A Word From Verywell

Because your period is the result of a complex hormonal process in your body there is a wide range of what is considered normal. Once you have started menstruating, if you miss your period or if your period lasts longer than eight days you have not had a normal period. Anytime your period is excessively heavy, long lasting, or doesn’t seem normal, you should discuss these changes with your healthcare provider.

Updated by Andrea Chisholm MD

Source:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Committee Opinion No. 651. Menstruation in girls and adolescents: using the menstrual cycle as a vital sign. Obstet Gynecol 126 (6):1328.

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