How long does a menstrual cycle last?
Let's see what a menstrual cycle is
A menstrual cycle is a natural process that occurs every month in women of childbearing age. It is divided into four phases:
- menstruation (also called periods),
- the follicular phase during which an egg is created,
- ovulation, which sees the release of the egg from the ovaries,
- and the luteal phase, which corresponds to the preparation of the body for nesting in the event of fertilization.
These four different stages are regulated by hormones and prepare the body for possible pregnancy. In the event of non-fertilization, the cycle ends with menstruation: a new cycle begins!
So, what is the “normal” length of a menstrual cycle?
The length of a cycle is the number of days between the first day of a menstruating person's period. Contrary to popular belief, there is no normal length for a menstrual cycle . A majority of women have a menstrual cycle between 24 and 32 days, with an average of 28 days. These durations are healthy and are not, in themselves, limits to women's fertility.
Within the framework of a 28-day menstrual cycle, the duration of the phases that make it up is distributed approximately like this:
- 13 days for the follicular phase (periods and follicular phase overlap)
- 1 day for ovulation
- 14 days for the luteal phase
These phases vary with the length of your menstrual cycle.
⚡ The length of cycles can change over the course of a woman's life. Several factors affect the length and regularity of menstrual cycles. We talk about this a little further down in this article.
Why this figure of 28 days?
The figure of 28 days fixed for the duration of menstrual cycles is, neither more nor less than a construction of doctors of the past which has been anchored in popular beliefs and continues to spread today.
Indeed, women were associated with the moon and lunar cycles lasted 28 days: the duration of women's menstrual cycles was aligned with lunar cycles.
More than the duration of cycles: the regularity of cycles
Beyond the length of the menstrual cycle (number of days between two periods), it is interesting to look at the regularity of your menstrual cycle. This is the repetition of the length of your menstrual cycle. Is your menstrual cycle always the same length or does it vary from month to month?
Just as the length of cycles can change over the course of a woman's life, their regularity can also change a lot due to different factors. It is interesting to follow the length of your cycles over the long term.
I have short menstrual cycles
Your menstrual cycles last less than 28 days: you therefore have shorter menstrual cycles than the majority of menstruating people. However, your menstrual cycle will be considered short if it lasts less than 21 days.
💡Short and/or light periods do not necessarily mean that you have short menstrual cycles. These are two different concepts. To check that your menstrual cycle is short, refer to the number of days between your first two days of periods.
Having short menstrual cycles is most often harmless and without consequences . This in no way means that you will have more difficulty getting pregnant or that you will have health problems. However, this can be annoying on a daily basis since you have your periods more frequently.
When should you worry about a short menstrual cycle?
You should talk to a healthcare professional about the length of your cycles if:
- your cycle is less than 21 days
- over a period of more than 6 months
A short menstrual cycle, repeated over the long term, can therefore be a sign of medical conditions which disrupt the hormonal system or the reproductive system. This is why it may be interesting to consult a health professional and share your concerns on this subject: a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a midwife. These professionals will answer your questions and assess your medical situation to answer your questions.
My short menstrual cycles bother me
Having a short menstrual cycle means, for some women, having periods several times a month. This can be particularly disabling and does not have to be inevitable: you can use hormonal contraception to artificially lengthen your cycles and make them easier to live with. They will then be punctuated by your contraception.
For this purpose, we can only recommend that you consult a health professional: a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a midwife. This person will assess your medical situation, take your medical history into account, answer your questions and can prescribe the hormonal contraception best suited to your profile.
I have long menstrual cycles
Your menstrual cycles last more than 28 days: you therefore have longer menstrual cycles than the majority of menstruating people. A menstrual cycle will be considered long if it lasts more than 35 days: between 28 and 38 days, the menstrual cycle is considered average.
💡Long and/or bleeding periods do not necessarily mean that you have long menstrual cycles. These are two different concepts. To check that your menstrual cycle is long, refer to the number of days that separate your first two days of periods.
Experiencing long menstrual cycles is most often harmless and without consequences . This in no way means that you will have more difficulty getting pregnant or that you will have health problems. However, this can worry you and cause problems when getting pregnant.
When should you worry about a long menstrual cycle?
You should talk to a healthcare professional about the length of your cycles if:
- your cycle is longer than 38 days
- over a period of more than 6 months
Just as a short menstrual cycle can be a sign of different medical conditions, a long menstrual cycle over the long term can have medical factors. This is why it is important to consult a health professional to communicate your concerns: a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a midwife will be able to answer you and carry out additional examinations.
Help! 👋 My cycles are irregular, is this serious?
Menstrual irregularity is most often without cause and without serious consequences. However, it can be disturbing on a daily basis (to anticipate the occurrence of your period in particular) and in the context of a pregnancy project, the day of ovulation and fertility can be very variable.
Irregularity of menstrual cycles corresponds to having cycles that vary greatly in length from one month to the next. Sometimes your cycle lasts 28 days, sometimes 32 days, sometimes 24 days. The duration of menstruation can also vary, as can the symptoms associated with your cycles (stomach cramps of varying severity, chest pain of varying duration, etc.).
Adolescent girls who are newly menstruating are often affected by menstrual irregularity, as are people who have used hormonal contraception (pill, hormonal IUD, implant, etc.) for a long time before stopping it. Other factors come into play, such as heredity.
When should you worry about an irregular cycle?
You should talk to a healthcare professional about the length of your cycles if:
- the variation in your cycles exceeds 9 days (for example a 24-day cycle which increases to 31 days the following month).
- over a period of more than 6 months
Long-term menstrual irregularity can be linked to various hormonal and/or reproductive organ conditions. Consulting a health professional such as a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a midwife is interesting in this context to carry out the necessary examinations and check that everything is fine.
When should I worry? 😟
Let's repeat it again: the duration of the cycles (long or short) and the irregularity of the cycles are, most often, nothing to worry about. Many factors can be involved in the duration and irregularity of the menstrual cycle and these do not necessarily have serious causes and consequences.
However, the persistence of very short (less than 24 days), very long (more than 38 days) or irregular cycles (variation greater than 9 days) beyond six months may raise questions for you. Do not hesitate to consult a health professional to ask your questions and answer your concerns and questions. He will conduct the necessary examinations based on your profile and your symptoms.
Difficulty getting pregnant
If your cycle is long, short and/or irregular, and you are having difficulty getting pregnant, it is possible that it is related. In this case, consulting your healthcare professional seems like a good idea. You can talk to him about the duration and irregularity of your cycles and, after assessing your profile and your medical situation, he can prescribe the necessary medical examinations. If you are looking to better monitor your cycle, you can use a basal thermometer which will identify your ovulation period naturally .
The disappearance of your cycles
If the irregularity of your cycles results in the disappearance of your periods, it also seems important to consult your healthcare professional. Indeed, the disappearance of periods is called amenorrhea and can be due to pregnancy, menopause or even various health problems (anorexia can thus cause periods to disappear). This will allow you to understand the cause.
Factors influencing the length of a menstrual cycle
The duration and regularity of menstrual cycles can be influenced by various more or less serious factors. These can also be added for an embarrassing cocktail effect.
The first factor that influences the duration and regularity of menstrual cycles is heredity. In other words, your cycles are likely to be similar to those of the women in your family – mother, grandmothers, aunts… Do not hesitate to ask questions in your family if you can and feel comfortable. comfortable with the subject.
During adolescence, young women often have very irregular menstrual cycles. Their reproductive system and associated hormones are still developing and regularity may take several years to stabilize. This is a period that can be stressful for some girls who sometimes experience leaks due to the irregularity of periods and the difficulty of anticipating them. To overcome these situations, you can opt for menstrual panties for adolescents with medium flow or heavy flow.
In most women, the menstrual cycle then stabilizes before being disrupted again by a new stage in the life of every menstruator: menopause. Because during this period the number of ovaries becomes more and more limited, the body gradually struggles to produce them. Ovulation may therefore not take place and the cycle may lengthen.
These two stages are normal in the life of a menstruator, so there is no need to worry. However, it may be interesting to consult your doctor, if only to ask your questions and reassure yourself.
We told you about it in our article on the menstrual cycle: five different hormones act on the menstrual cycle . It is therefore quite logical that in the event of a disruption in the functioning of these hormones and/or a disruption in their number and presence in our body, menstrual cycles are impacted.
Because it has the ability to disrupt a person's hormonal functioning, stress can be the source of problems with the duration and regularity of the menstrual cycle.
How can stress impact periods and the menstrual cycle? Stress can lead to increased production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. These can disrupt normal hormonal balance and affect the production of other hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. The menstrual cycle is disrupted while periods are delayed. If you are currently under stress, find our natural solutions to soothe you, relax and regulate your body and mind . You will find CBD oil , food supplements , anti-stress infusions or even magic chocolate !
Methods of contraception
Hormonal contraception (pill, implant, hormonal IUD, etc.) has an impact on the length of the menstrual cycle. It is in fact the hormones distilled into the body by contraception which will block / rhythm / trigger the menstrual cycle. It is with this in mind that you can take a hormonal method of contraception to lengthen a menstrual cycle that is too short or regulate an irregular menstrual cycle.
Even more, stopping a hormonal method of contraception can be synonymous with a change in your menstrual cycles: it is not uncommon for women who had a menstrual cycle of to have a menstrual cycle of Y days. The duration and abundance of periods can also be permanently modified.
💡Please note: although the copper IUD is known to extend the duration of periods and their abundance, it is not supposed to modify the duration and regularity of your menstrual cycle. This being said, it is possible that the stress linked to the IUD insertion changes your cycle.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
The occurrence of pregnancy has a lasting impact on menstrual cycles. This is even one of the reasons why the menstrual cycle stops (there are a few exceptions, notably in cases of denial of pregnancy). It then resumes at the end of the pregnancy, it is the return of childbirth, a particularly fertile period for women.
Because it stimulates the hormone prolactin which slows down the resumption of the menstrual cycle, breastfeeding can block the resumption of the menstrual cycle post-partum. It is even a natural method of contraception although it is not 100% effective.
Even more, the menstrual cycles of a menstruating person can change permanently following a pregnancy. It is not uncommon for women who had a menstrual cycle of X days before pregnancy to, after childbirth, have a menstrual cycle of Y days. The duration and abundance of periods can also be permanently modified, as can the symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle.
Taking certain medications can have an influence on a woman's menstrual cycle . Apart from hormonal contraceptives whose role is specifically to act on the menstrual cycle, certain medications such as oral corticosteroids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, certain vaccines or anticancer drugs can disrupt the cycle and cause a delay or absence of periods for several month.
If you are currently on treatment and notice a change in the occurrence of your cycles, do not hesitate to ask your doctor for more information.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome and other diseases
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries in menstruating people of childbearing age. It is characterized by the presence of multiple cysts in the ovaries and can have other consequences such as menstrual irregularity and hormonal imbalances leading to acne, increased hair growth (hirsutism) and hair loss. 10% of women are affected, with more or less serious consequences that can range from menstrual irregularity to infertility.
PCOS is not the only condition that can impact the menstrual cycle. Endometriosis, ovarian cancer but also depression and anorexia can disrupt the menstrual cycle and make it irregular – or even cause amenorrhea. This is why it is important to consult your doctor on these issues if you have concerns and irregularities that last beyond several months.
If you've been looking for a good reason to quit smoking, you've come to the right place. This is little known, but tobacco also has consequences on your menstrual cycle, which it makes irregular. This, for two reasons:
- Smoking causes a decrease in estrogen secretion
- Smoking acts on the liver by causing an acceleration of the destruction of these hormones
As a result, menstruating people who smoke are more likely to suffer from menstrual cycle disorders, such as irregular cycles and increased pain.
Alcohol consumption affects the body's hormone levels. After drinking alcohol, numerous studies ( in 1989 , in 1993 , in 2010 ) have noted an increase in estrogen levels, and sometimes an increase in testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH). However, these hormonal variations are more likely to occur with heavy and recurrent alcohol consumption.
People who chronically consume alcohol may thus experience various menstrual disorders, such as a prolonged absence of periods , irregular cycles or anovulation (absence of ovulation during the menstrual cycle).
Weight gain/weight loss
Drastic and restrictive diets leading to sudden weight loss such as obesity are the cause of irregular cycles. Anorexic people may thus lose their periods (amenorrhea) while obese people naturally produce more male sex hormones (androgens), leading to a reduction in their ovulations and therefore their periods.
Even more, the more rapid the weight gain or weight loss, the more the body is disrupted and the more the menstrual cycle can be modified.
Whatever your situation, don't hesitate to consult your doctor if you notice any changes in your menstrual cycle following a change in weight. He can accompany you.
And even travel!
Fun fact, to ease the mind a little and help you assimilate all this information, another factor in changing the length and regularity of menstrual cycles is… travel! And yes, traveling, and particularly changing time zones, can disrupt your body enough to shut it down or impact the length of your menstrual cycles! Everything must come back into place little by little, without intervention on your part.
If, after a few months after a trip, your cycles have not returned to their rhythm, do not hesitate to tell your doctor. It is possible that other reasons could be involved.
Why is it important to know the length of your menstrual cycle?
As a menstruating person, it is quite easy to see the benefit of knowing the length of your menstrual cycle to anticipate your period and avoid finding yourself without menstrual protection on the big day... But that is not the only reason why it is important to know the length of your cycle!
Anticipate your period
By having an idea of when your period will arrive, you can prepare yourself, both physically and emotionally, and above all avoid being surprised. Whether it's to have the essentials on hand or to better navigate the emotional roller coaster of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), anticipating your period can be a sweet comfort.
Anticipate your symptoms
Some women, perhaps you yourself, experience more severe symptoms during their cycle, such as cramps, bloating, headaches or breast pain. By being aware of the phase of your cycle, you can anticipate and alleviate these symptoms with targeted approaches.
Understanding and living better with your moods
Along the same lines, many women experience mood swings throughout their cycle due to hormonal fluctuations . Stress, emotional irritation, tendency to annoyance or depressive and paranoid episodes... Understanding your moods and matching them with a period of your menstrual cycle can help you understand yourself better, manage your emotions better and share more easily. your feelings with your loved ones.
Strengthen your emotional well-being
For some women, following your cycle can have both a spiritual and emotional dimension. Which helps them feel more in tune with their body's natural rhythms. The rituals of ovulation or the arrival of periods have been practiced since the dawn of time.
Planning (or not) your pregnancy
Do you aspire to start a family? Understanding your cycle and pinpointing your ovulation days can be a valuable ally, bringing you a little closer to that sweet dream of motherhood.
On the other hand, if this is not your plan and you wish to take other paths, this knowledge offers you greater peace of mind to prevent you from experiencing an unwanted pregnancy. Please note, however, that natural contraception based solely on ovulation and fertile days is not infallible. Consider adding another form of birth control to ensure you don't get pregnant.
Sometimes a erratic cycle can be a reflection of small health concerns, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or fibroids, to name a few. By keeping a close eye on your cycle, you can detect these irregularities earlier and consult a healthcare professional.
Communicate better with healthcare professionals
If you have concerns about your cycle or reproductive health, knowing the length and specifics of your cycle can be valuable during medical consultations. It is important to be able to provide detailed information to the healthcare professional.
As menopause approaches, cycles may become more irregular. By tracking her cycle, a woman can better understand and anticipate the changes that occur during this transition.
Learn how to calculate the length of your cycles!
We mentioned it: knowing how to track the length of your cycles is interesting and can help you better understand your body and take better care of yourself. To calculate the length of your menstrual cycles, the procedure is as follows: locate the first day of your cycle, count the days until the arrival of a new cycle and repeat the counting operation for at least three cycles.
Identify the first day of your cycle
The first step to calculating your cycle length is to identify the first day of your menstrual cycle. It will be easier to start your count from the first day of your period. Depending on your period, it could be spotting or an actual flow of blood.
Count the days
The first day of your period counts as 1 day.
From this day on, count down the following days until your period occurs again. An entire menstrual cycle then took place. You will then have an idea of the length of your menstrual cycle.
To help you make this calculation, you can use your calendar or you can trust an app to track your cycle. The latter also allows you to follow your symptoms at different times of the cycle, which can be interesting. The goal is not to add mental load to you, see what helps you the most.
Follow at least 3 cycles
From one month to the next, your cycle can vary by a few days or a lot more (we talked about it in this article: there can sometimes be up to 10 days of difference!). Even more, it is the repetitiveness of an irregularity (cycle too long, cycle too short, irregular cycle) which signals a health problem.
This is why it is interesting to follow at least 3 menstrual cycles in a row to get an idea of the average length of your menstrual cycle.
Do you prefer simplicity? Download a tracking app!
Don't want to check off your calendar for each new day of your period? Would you like to have a more precise idea of the length of your menstrual cycles so that you can anticipate them, consider a pregnancy plan or even answer questions you have about your health?
We can only recommend that you trust an application that tracks your menstrual cycle . Often geared towards tracking your period, there are more and more period apps that allow you to list the symptoms that accompany your menstrual cycle and track them.
These applications save you mental load and are an important source of information for the healthcare professionals who follow you on a daily basis.
Menstruators' menstrual cycles last between 24 and 32 days, a far cry from the once-repeated norm of 28 days. A shorter or longer menstrual cycle can, however, be your daily life without this being synonymous with a health problem, heredity accounting for a lot in the length of the menstrual cycle. However, it is worth consulting a doctor if you observe strong variations in your menstrual cycle for more than six months.
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