How Many Days of Bleeding Are Typical During Menstruation?

Creative interpretation of menstrual flow
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Your period occurs when the lining of your uterus sheds. In order for your normal period to come each month, your body has to ovulate, which means an egg must be released from an ovary. Typically, your period will come about 12 to 16 days after you ovulate, assuming you did not get pregnant.

What Is Normal Menstruation?

Normal menstruation can last from one to seven days, although for most women with regular menstrual cycles, their period lasts an average of three to five days.

It's important to note that nothing is wrong if your period is a couple days longer or shorter than the average three to five days. In other words, your period is unique to you, and the amount you bleed and the number of days will not be the same as everyone else. In addition, your period can vary a bit from cycle to cycle and this is normal.

Factors Affecting the Length of Your Period

Sometimes, though, lifestyle changes, birth control methods, and certain medical problems can affect your period more significantly. This is why it's important to see your doctor if your bleeding is lasting more than seven days. Heavy bleeding, too, is an indication to see your doctor. Signs of heavy bleeding include:

  • Soaking through one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row
  • Wearing more than one pad at a time to control bleeding
  • Changing pads or tampons at night
  • Periods with blood clots that are the size of a quarter or larger

    Let's take a closer look at the factors that may affect the duration of your menstrual flow:

    Medical Conditions

    There are a number of medical issues that may affect your period duration. For example, heavy and/or long periods could be a sign of endometrial polyps or uterine fibroids. This is because your menstrual flow is made up of the shed uterine lining (called the endometrium), as well as blood from the little vessels that are exposed after the lining sheds.

    Thus, factors that change the thickness of the endometrium or the number of blood vessels plays a role in how many days your bleeding lasts. 

    Other examples of health conditions that may cause persistent or heavy bleeding include:

    • Bleeding disorders or medications that thin the blood (for example, aspirin)
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome or hypothyroidism
    • Uterine cancer
    • Endometriosis
    • Ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease

    Overall, understanding the average range of a normal period is helpful. Certainly bleeding for more than seven days every month or not bleeding at all once you have passed menarche is a not normal, and you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. 

    Age

    During the first few years after the onset of menstruation, you may experience unpredictable bleeding. This is because you are not ovulating regularly. Since ovulation requires a complex interaction between hormones produced by structures in your brain and your ovaries, it can take some time for your body to get it right.

    This is why it's normal after a first period for some girls to bleed for more than the average number of days and/or skip a few periods in a row. The good news is that menstruation usually normalizes within about two years.

    But, if you continue to have very irregular periods, it could be a sign of an underlying hormonal or medical condition, so be sure to get it checked out by your doctor.

    Finally, as a woman approaches the end of her reproductive years, usually sometime in her 40's, she will begin to experience irregular periods again. This period of time is called perimenopause or the menopausal transition, and it's a time of hormonal imbalances, most notably when estrogen production by the ovaries begins to decline. With these lower levels of estrogen, there is less buildup of the uterine lining, so women also experience lighter and shorter periods, in addition to irregular periods.

    Birth Control

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

    If you are using a combined hormonal contraceptive including an oral contraceptive pill, contraceptive patch, or 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.

    For example, the oral contraceptive pill contains estrogen, so the lining of the uterus builds up but much less than it would naturally. The progesterone component of the pill counteracts the estrogen build up, so the lining to be shed is overall thinner than normal.

    This is also why using any of the combined hormonal contraceptives continuously, meaning that you skip the placebo or hormone-free week, may cause you to 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 you will have lighter and shorter periods. These include:

    • A progesterone containing IUD (for example, Mirena)
    • A contraceptive implant (for example, Nexplanon) 
    • An injectable contraceptive (for example, Depo-Provera)

    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 like the levonorgestrel-release intrauterine device (Mirena) 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 seven days, be sure to discuss these changes with your doctor.

    Sources:

    American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. (2016). Frequently Asked Questions: Heavy Menstrual Bleeding. 

    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.

    Bitzer J, Heikinheimo O, Nelson AL, Calaf-Alsina J, Fraser IS. Medical Management of Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: a Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2015 Feb;70(2):115-30.

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