Is That Normal? What is Healthy and What is Not During Menstruation

September 16 2016

Jacqueline Rosenhek


It is very likely that the vast majority of women who have ever menstruated have wondered if their period is healthy. No two cycles between women are exactly the same; some may bleed for a long time, some for only a couple days, some women experience cramps before, during and/or after varying in degrees of intensity, others may not feel a single bit of pain. There is a huge range of what is considered normal for a woman’s menstrual cycle, however there are a few things that are considered abnormal and it is not always easy to tell. Your diet, amount of physical activity, stress levels, medication, genetics and overall lifestyle can affect your period’s texture, smell, PMS, colour, regularity and/or how long it lasts.

First of all, one thing that really affects your period is birth control (oral or vaginal contraceptives). What birth control essentially does is it stops ovulation with synthetic versions of estrogen and progestin. It has been noted that birth control typically reduces premenstrual symptoms due to a lack of hormonal fluctuation (typically when you are not on birth control, when you are about to menstruate or when you do menstruate, your hormonal levels drop, thus causing most symptoms for PMS as well as the length and heaviness of your period). Many types of birth control go on a 21 day basis with 7 days for a period, thus making it much more controlled.

If you are not on birth control, you will be subjected much more to your body’s natural hormonal highs and lows. Another huge difference between being on and not being on birth control is that when you bleed on birth control it happens from hormonal withdrawal, your body is withdrawn from the synthetic hormones it has gotten accustomed to, thus making it shorter and lighter. A typical menstrual cycle is far more subjective to hormonal fluctuation and all of its wonderful side effects such as mood change, cramps, bloating and even mild irregularity can be considered normal, however birth control or not, there are some things to look out for that can be not only abnormal, but potentially unhealthy. If you are bleeding frequently between periods, after sex, after pelvic exams, during pregnancy or after menopause, this could signify that you have a bacterial infection such as chlamydia, an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage or even cervical cancer. It is not always the case, this can happen when you start birth control, experience a lot of stress and tiny amounts of spotting can even be normal in the start of a pregnancy. In any case, bleeding between periods is something that should be checked by a doctor.  Too little bleeding can be considered abnormal and/or unhealthy as well. Excessive weight gain or loss can cause missed periods as well as poor nutrition, pregnancy, menopause, eating disorders such as anorexia, excessive exercise, drug abuse and even stress. It is normal to have a certain vaginal odour when you are menstruating as well since there is more to your period than just blood (you are also expelling bacteria, vaginal mucus and vaginal tissue) and can vary from person to person, however, a sudden drastic change in odour can be a warning sign for a bacterial infection, typically if you are producing a strong fishy smell.

It is important to know about what is healthy and what is unhealthy when you are on your period. To maintain a healthy, relaxed menstrual cycle it is important to remain active by doing relaxing exercise such as yoga, pilates or jogging and to take supplements and maintain a diet rich in magnesium, iron and vitamin B12. Drinking tea made from raspberry leaves helps to relieve cramps as well as helping to reduce bloating and chamomile and/or mint infusions will help with relaxation and reduce PMS. In the end, it is important to know, respect and love your body regardless of what time of the month it is.

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