As a doctor, many women ask me what should a proper menstrual cycle should be like.
Unfortunately, many women simply don't know, or have been told the wrong information.
It may be surprising to hear that many of the monthly symptoms some women experience are not meant to be happening.
Sure, there might be a sensation of heaviness and you may get the feeling that something is about to happen.
But pain, clotting and some other common symptoms are not normal at all.
Women who experience these problems are going through their monthly menstrual cycle thinking everything is perfectly normal, when there's likely something else going on underneath.
What Is A Normal Menstrual Cycle?
A normal menstrual cycle should be 26 to 32 days in length.
It should include four days of flow, and five at the most.
Flow less than four days is too short, and flow longer than 5 days is too long.
You shouldn’t have any pain at all. Not even ovulation pain.
Nor should you have:
- Breast tenderness
- Fluid retention
- Changes to the moods such as teariness or irritability
These are all signs of irregularities, and some of them need to be addressed.
While some issues such as fluid retention aren’t too much of a concern, the pain and clotting is.
Don't ever let anyone tell you period pain or irregularities are normal, because they aren't. Just because these things are common, it doesn’t make them normal either.
You should never put up with menstrual issue thinking it will go away. The above symptoms can be signs of gynaecological issues, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis or PCOS, which need to be looked at by a properly qualified women's health specialist or gynaecologist — not just a general practitioner.
Besides Gynaecological Conditions, What Else Can Affect My Cycle?
There are only a few other things that will affect a menstrual cycle and cause PMS, irregularities and pain.
The trouble is, 90% of them are self-inflicted (gasp!).
Yep it’s true, some – but not all — monthly menstrual related problems are self-inflicted.
So, if you’re wondering why you can’t get enough ibuprofen into your body when you get your cycle, then please remember what I’m about to tell you.
Have a think about what may have been going on prior to the start of your cycle. Consider what you may have been eating and what your stress levels were like. Check the list below.
If your menstrual cycle isn't like the one I described above, you probably need help. Do not ever let symptoms go on without having them checked.
What Affects a Menstrual Cycle?
#1: Poor Diet
Foods such as sugars, processed grains and junk food all cause inflammation in the body. This can lead to hormonal irregularities and painful periods. I recommend a Primal diet for all my patients
Most alcohol (and what we mix alcohol with) contains a high amount of sugars, causing inflammation in the body.
It also interferes with your hormones and affects the liver too. Of interesting note, Chinese medicine believes the liver governs the menstrual cycle.
#3: Poor Sleep
Sleep deprivation leads to a reduction in hormones, such as serotonin, which can affect your moods too.
Lack of sleep also stops the body from repairing itself, and can lead to other health issues
Whenever the body needs to repair, for example, after surgery, if you have a virus or a cold/flu, it can lead to menstrual irregularities.
The body shuts down menses so it can repair itself first
#5: Weight Gain Or Weight Loss
It’s a well known fact that many athletes do not get a menstrual cycle due to a lack of body fat.
The same goes for people who are overweight too. Too much or too little body fat interferes with your fertility and menstrual health. All your hormones are made from fats and protein.
#6: Emotional Issues
This is a big one. We already know the disease causing impact of stress in the body. But if you have bottled up emotions such as anger and frustration, it can cause blockages in the system, and as a result, physical pain.
Emotions can exacerbate or worsen pain too, and emotional issues can cause problems with hormones. Emotions are a major issue.
Hopefully, this helps to explain some of the things we’re all guilty of from time to time, which could also affect your cycle each month. However, if pain, clotting or other irregularities persist, then you need a specialist like myself to evaluate you in person too see what is going on.
Whatever you do, don't ever let anyone tell you irregularities and pain are normal, because they’re not.
Articles posted on BellyBelly which are not written by Doctor Andrew Orr are the opinions of BellyBelly and not necessarily the opinion of Doctor Andrew Orr.