Why do you have long menstrual cycles and what to do?
Beliefs die hard: it has always been assumed that women's menstrual cycles are aligned with those of the moon. The perfect menstrual cycle lasted 28 days. Except that the reality is quite different. Women sometimes see their menstrual cycles last between 17 and 40 days without this being a problem! Not to mention the variations that can occur from one cycle to another! In this article, we talk about long menstrual cycles : what do they mean, is it normal to have long menstrual cycles and does it harm your fertility? Let's answer your questions about long cycles together.
Let's start at the beginning: what is a menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a natural cyclical process which brings together all the physiological phenomena of menstruating people preparing their body for possible fertilization. It repeats itself, mostly continuously, in the bodies of people of childbearing age from puberty to menopause.
- The menstrual phase: also called “periods”, this phase corresponds to the evacuation by the body of the previous cycle (unfertilized egg and uterine mucosa);
- The follicular phase: this phase begins at the same time as the menstrual phase. It is the phase during which the eggs grow inside the ovaries, in the ovarian follicles. One of them becomes dominant: it is the one which will be released by the ovaries at the time of ovulation;
- The ovulatory phase: during this phase, the egg is released. It travels through the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. This is the time in the cycle when menstruating people are fertile;
- The luteal phase: this phase coincides with the end of the follicular phase. Once the dominant egg is released, it is replaced in the ovarian follicle by a corpus luteum. The latter releases progesterone which prepares the body for potential fertilization: the endometrium (uterine mucosa) thickens to accommodate the egg, the mucus becomes stringy to encourage the movement of spermatozoa in the body... If ovulation is not does not take place, hormone levels gradually drop and the body expels the unfertilized egg: these are the rules. A new cycle begins.
What about a long menstrual cycle?
A long menstrual cycle is a menstrual cycle that lasts more than 31 days . When the cycle is longer than 35 days, it is called oligomenorrhea . Some women may even have menstrual cycles that exceed 40 days.
Although the average length of a menstrual cycle is estimated at 28 days , it can be very different from one woman to another without this indicating a health problem. A majority of women have a menstrual cycle between 24 and 32 days, with an average of 28 days. But it can happen that women have much shorter or longer menstrual cycles .
⚡The length of the menstrual cycle is not, in itself, sufficient to indicate poor health or potential infertility. Many women have long cycles without it being a problem! Beyond the length of your menstrual cycle, we recommend that you monitor its variations. The disruption of your menstrual cycle is a subject to be particularly monitored.
The phases of a long menstrual cycle
In the context of a menstrual cycle which lasts 35 days, it is estimated that the duration of the phases which compose it are distributed as follows:
- 21 days for the follicular phase: the menstrual phase (periods) and the follicular phase begin at the same time. Please note: it is not because the menstrual cycle is long that the periods are also long;
- 1 day for ovulation
- 14 days for the luteal phase : this last phase begins at the same time as the ovulatory phase.
My menstrual cycle is longer than usual: why and what are the causes?
In the vast majority of cases, it is the preovulatory period which sees its duration lengthen and thus causes longer menstrual cycles.
The follicular phase corresponds to the phase during which the egg matures in the ovaries before being released at the time of ovulation. In an average 28-day cycle, this phase usually lasts 14 days. In a 35-day long menstrual cycle, the follicular phase lasts 21 days.
The reasons for the lengthening of the preovulatory period are numerous:
Naturally long cycles without any physiological abnormalities:it is not uncommon to have a cycle of 33 or 35 days. This particularity is often linked to heredity and genetics. Ask the women in your family to find out more!
Natural age-related variations:
At the beginning and end of ovarian life (puberty and menopause), the hormones responsible for the smooth running of menstrual cycles can be disrupted. The resulting menstrual cycles can be long.
Stopping a hormonal contraceptive:
If you have just stopped taking the pill or had your hormonal IUD removed, it may take time for your cycle to restart. It may be longer during the first months.
Sudden weight loss or gain:
Eating disorders and obesity are linked to significant hormonal variations. These can cause a lengthening of the follicular period, thus leading to a lengthening of the menstrual cycle.
Very intense physical activity:
because very intense physical activity leads to a caloric deficit and stress, it can be the cause of hormonal imbalances leading in turn to a lengthening of the menstrual cycle.
Hormones are at the heart of the proper functioning of the menstrual cycle. However, stress, whether situational (exam, breakup, marriage, death, etc.) or chronic, disrupts the hormones of the menstrual cycle by causing the body to secrete other hormones.
Medications can cause delays in ovulation and thus lengthen the menstrual cycle. Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor if you notice this effect.
Breastfeeding and postpartum period:
Prolactin is a hormone that is generated in the body during breastfeeding to activate the mammary glands and produce milk. It is also responsible for slowing down the hormones of the menstrual cycle to prevent the breastfeeding woman from becoming pregnant again too quickly. It can help lengthen menstrual cycles.
In very rare cases, a series of early miscarriages:
which can delay the due date of periods for several cycles in a row.
Let’s lift the veil on the myths around long cycles
What if we started by reassuring you? Long cycles, like short cycles, are accompanied by myths and beliefs that we need to explain! By knowing better how your body works, you will be better able to respond to the challenges it is going through.
Myth #1: A long cycle means infertility
No, a long cycle does not in any way mean “infertility” or even difficulty getting pregnant.
We mentioned it in this article: the causes of long cycles are numerous. Some are completely natural and normal (heredity or age) and have no impact on fertility while others are linked to health problems. These can hinder fertility if left untreated.
Myth #2: A long cycle is abnormal
The often cited "norm" is a 28-day cycle, but in reality, many women have cycles that deviate from this key number. On average, we consider menstrual cycles that last 26 to 30 days, while cycles shorter than 26 days are called short and longer than 30 days are called long. We speak of polymenorrhea when cycles are less than 21 days and oligomenorrhea when they exceed 35 days. These durations can be pathological and require a consultation to check that everything is okay.
In other words, a cycle longer than 28 days is not abnormal . It becomes abnormal from a duration of 35 days or more, this duration requiring a consultation with a health professional. This being said, a cycle lasting more than 35 days does not necessarily have a pathological origin and can be completely normal and without danger for health and fertility.
Myth #3: Heavy flow is normal with a long cycle
Contrary to popular belief, abundant flow and long cycle have nothing to do with each other . Cycle length is the time it takes for the body to create, release, and then expel an egg, while flow is menstruation and the material expelled during the menstrual phase. To go further, the length of the menstrual cycle also has nothing to do with the length of periods.
Confusion can arise from the fact that a long cycle is sometimes linked to a health problem (such as endometriosis) which is the cause of bleeding periods.
If your flow is particularly heavy, it is totally ok to go for a consultation to find out more. If the intensity of the flow is giving you a hard time, help yourself with very heavy flow menstrual panties which will support you throughout your days.
A hemorrhagic flow can lead to various health problems (notably anemia) and be disabling on a daily basis.
Myth #4: A long cycle is always linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
While polycystic ovary syndrome can be one of the causes of longer menstrual cycles, it is by no means the only cause of them.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, different causes can come into play. Some are natural, such as heredity and age, while others are actually linked to health issues, such as PCOS. If you think your long cycles are not “normal”, you can consult a healthcare professional. We offer you, a little further down in this article, 6 questions to ask yourself before worrying.
Myth #5: Long cycles always require treatment
No, long menstrual cycles do not always require treatment .
At the risk of repeating ourselves: different causes can lead to long menstrual cycles. Some are completely natural, such as heredity and age, and may not require treatment. Causes linked to illnesses can be managed or reduced through treatments. Your healthcare professional will be able to advise you based on your profile and your problems.
When should you worry?
There will be no need to worry in the same way that your menstrual cycle is regularly long or that it is occasionally longer than usual.
When to worry if your cycle is regularly long?
If your menstrual cycle is regularly long (it lasts 32 days, 35 days or even 38 days), there is no necessarily cause for concern. It is entirely possible that your menstrual cycle is naturally long and that this is due to hereditary causes. If speech is free in your family, do not hesitate to talk to the women in your family to find out more. It is therefore possible that you will spot similarities between you!
It may be worth worrying if your cycle regularly exceeds 35 days. This duration being quite far from the average duration of 26 to 30 days, it can be induced by underlying problems and a consultation will be interesting to find out more.
When should you worry if your cycle is occasionally longer?
While your cycles are regular, one of them turns out to be longer and you start to worry. In this case, there are three times to worry when your period doesn't start as expected:
- As soon as your menstrual cycle ends if you have had unprotected sex / without contraception. You may be pregnant! Take a pregnancy test.
- If the irregularity exceeds 9 days: cycles of varying lengths are the daily life of many women and a delayed cycle does not necessarily mean that there is a problem. If your cycle is late, start by taking a pregnancy test and, if it turns out to be negative, follow your cycle for three months before really worrying.
- Beyond a cycle without a period: it has now been almost 60 days since you had your period and a negative pregnancy test has ruled out the risk of pregnancy? Start by doing a second test, in the event of a false negative (performed too early, a pregnancy test can be negative even though fertilization has occurred). Amenorrhea (absence of periods) is a medical situation which can be explained by different causes, such as menopause and early menopause, stress, anorexia nervosa, or even endometriosis. Do not hesitate to consult if you no longer have periods after 60 days.
Will I need to take treatment?
It's not because you have long cycles that you will necessarily have to take treatment. It all depends on the reasons why your cycles are long and why you are consulting. Also note, beyond the treatments, the healthcare professional can prescribe hormonal contraception to regulate the length of your cycles.
Cases that may require treatment
If you have long cycles, it is possible that after examination, your gynecologist will offer you treatments if:
- Hormonal disturbances/diseases: if you suffer from a hormonal imbalance or an illness which lengthens your menstrual cycles, you will be required to take treatment aimed at treating the illness. This may have the effect of reducing the length of your cycles but not necessarily: the body has its own functioning and it is possible that it maintains its rhythm even once the condition or imbalance has been managed.
- Conception project: if you have consulted because you are considering a baby project or because you are having difficulty conceiving, it is possible that the gynecologist will prescribe a treatment to support you in this process.
- Discomfort: if the irregularity of your cycles is poisoning your life, the gynecologist may be able to prescribe treatments to help you cope with the discomfort caused by your periods.
Existing treatments to treat long menstrual cycles
The range of treatments and possible solutions is as wide as that of the factors causing the long menstrual cycle. Indeed, the treatment of a long menstrual cycle essentially depends on the cause of the phenomenon and the reasons why you are seeing it.
Thus, one of the responses to a naturally long menstrual cycle is the use of hormonal contraception . The latter makes it possible to trigger periods artificially and thus find a cycle as close to 28 days as possible.
This solution will not be interesting if you have a baby plan or if you suffer from an illness and/or hormonal imbalance. In this case, your gynecologist can prescribe concentrated hormones to chemically trigger a cycle or offer treatment to address the condition you suffer from.
7 questions to ask yourself before seeing a gynecologist
Before consulting a gynecologist for your long menstrual cycles, here are 6 questions you should ask yourself. This will allow you to reassure yourself and know what topics to discuss with him, if necessary.
1. How long do my periods usually last?
If your cycles have always been longer than average, this may just be the normal length for you. However, if you notice a sudden change in the length of your cycles, it's worth questioning: this may be a sign of an underlying problem!
2. Are my periods very heavy?
Heavy periods are not linked to long cycles. However, heavy periods may be symptomatic of a health condition that deserves attention, such as endometriosis or PCOS. This information will be interesting for a gynecologist.
3. Do I have bleeding between my periods?
Spotting or actual bleeding between periods can be a sign of hormonal dysfunction or a sexually transmitted disease. It is important to mention this to your gynecologist when you meet him.
4. What other symptoms do I have?
Severe abdominal pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods, sudden weight changes, severe acne, excessive facial or body hair, fatigue, or mood changes are some symptoms. who can question you. They may be a sign of hormonal imbalance or other health problems. You will need to bring them to the attention of your doctor. While waiting for an appointment, you can also regulate your emotional and physical imbalances linked to hormonal variations with the Miyé solution: My Feminine Balance .
5. Has my lifestyle changed recently?
Upcoming exam, burnout, moving, breakup/divorce, death/difficult bereavement… all of these life moments can be synonymous with stress. However, stress has a significant effect on the hormones which regulate menstrual cycles and thus on the smooth running of menstrual cycles. If this resonates with you, check out our products dedicated to stress such as CBD oil, anti-stress infusions, relaxing bath salts...
6. What contraceptive methods do you use?
The hormones delivered into the body by hormonal birth control methods can impact how well your menstrual cycles go. Certain pills can thus help to lengthen your cycles. It is quite possible that your contraception is no longer suitable. This is also information that you will need to provide to your healthcare professional.
7. Are you trying to conceive?
If you are trying to conceive and have long menstrual cycles, this may impact the prediction of more difficult ovulation and thus your fertile window. This can make the design more complex: do not hesitate to talk about it with your healthcare professional so that they can support you in this project.
If the answer to one (or more) of these questions is "yes", we recommend that you consult a healthcare professional . You will discuss your symptoms and determine together whether there is any cause for concern. He will suggest additional examinations if necessary. Don't panic: although the symptoms can be stressful, there are many treatment options to normalize your cycle and reduce discomfort!
Living well with long cycles, advice from our experts
Questions/answers from our community
If you still have questions following this article, you can send them to us by email or by PM on Instagram. We in no way wish to replace your doctor but these questions/answers are intended to help other women find solutions and answers!
Is it possible to have a 40 day cycle?
Yes, it is possible to have a 40 day cycle. And yes, it is possible to have a 40 day cycle and be fertile and healthy. However, it will be recommended to consult about this to check that everything is going well – cycles of more than 35 days are quite far from the average duration of 26 to 30 days.
Is it normal to have a 45 day cycle?
We tend to say that there is no standard for menstrual cycle length but we can still say that there is an average and the average is 26 to 30 days. A menstrual cycle of 45 days is therefore very far from the average duration. However, it is possible to have a 40 day cycle and be fertile and healthy. We still advise you to consult a specialist on this subject to check that everything is fine.
What is the maximum duration of an irregular cycle?
There is no maximum duration recorded for an irregular cycle (because we find ourselves straddling two menstrual cycles) but some women report cycles lasting more than 60 days. This is particularly the case during premenopause, when hormones decline in the body and reproductive functions slow down. However, it is important to note that a cycle can be very long once without this being considered worrying or pathological. Indeed, cycles can be impacted by multiple factors.
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