Understanding everything about the different period flows
Menstruation is a natural phenomenon for people with a uterus. However, their operation still raises many questions. It's common to wonder about the "normality" of one's flow. From light spotting to more abundant flows, the variability is immense and depends on both internal and external factors. In this article, we reveal everything about menstrual flow . From the causes that influence the flow of periods to preconceived ideas, they will no longer have any secrets for you. Good reading !
A quick reminder of the different types of menstrual flow
The so-called “light” flow
What we call light flow is a flow which results in a quantity of bleeding which remains less than 30 milliliters over the entire duration of the menstruation . This low amount of blood often manifests itself as light or pink discharge , or even as small, discreet spots. This type of flow does not generally require the use of highly absorbent hygienic protections. Panty liners or low-capacity tampons are often enough to manage this level of bleeding.
At Gapianne we recommend JHO's organic panty liners .
The so-called “average” flow
Regarding average flows, they are characterized by an amount of bleeding which is generally between 30 to 50 milliliters over the entire menstrual period. This intensity of bleeding generally does not pose a significant problem for managing this bleeding. The color of discharge can vary from bright red to brown, depending on the day of the cycle.
We recommend so-called “classic” protections such as organic sanitary napkins from JHO , or organic tampons from the same brand. As a slightly more modern periodic protection, there is the menstrual cup which is perfect for managing this type of flow.
The so-called “abundant” flow
Finally, heavy flows, sometimes referred to as menorrhagia , are distinguished by a significantly greater amount of bleeding than the flow types as seen previously. This type of flow results in bleeding exceeding 80 milliliters over the entire menstrual period. Menstruating people who have a heavy flow may also sometimes notice the presence of blood clots, which can vary in size and thus make periods thicker . This intense bleeding often requires more effective hygienic protection, such as tampons, ultra-absorbent pads or menstrual panties for heavy flows , and may require more frequent changes to avoid overflow.
👉 Menorrhagia can have several causes, ranging from hormonal imbalances to medical conditions such as fibroids or clotting disorders. Sometimes the flow can be so great that it can affect our daily lives. If you experience an abnormally heavy flow or have concerns about the amount of bleeding, it is imperative to consult a gynecologist or other healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical problems.
Also read: Which hygienic protections to choose?
As for “spotting”, it refers to light bleeding which occurs between two periods of periods. Unlike regular periods, spotting often appears as small spots or light discharge, hence its name. The color can vary from light pink to dark brown, depending on the duration and cause of the bleeding. Spotting can sometimes surprise or worry, however it is quite common and can be influenced by various factors such as hormonal fluctuations, taking certain medications such as the contraceptive pill or even stress.
👉However, if spotting is frequent or accompanied by other symptoms, it may be wise to consult a healthcare professional to ensure there is no underlying problem.
What is a “normal” rule flow?
When talking about "normal period flow" , one should approach the subject with caution, as what is considered "normal" can vary greatly from woman to woman . This is because every menstruator is unique, and what is typical for one person may not be typical for another.
That being said, when we talk about a “normal” period flow it refers to the quantity and duration of menstrual bleeding which we consider to be average for the majority of menstruating people of childbearing age. . This flow typically lasts between 3 and 7 days, with total blood loss estimated to be between 30 and 50 milliliters during the entire menstrual cycle.
To give you an idea:
- The panty liners are designed for very light losses, and can hold 1 to 3 ml.
- Regarding tampons, the “regular” ones absorb around 5 ml, the “super” ones: absorb 9 to 12 ml and the “super plus” ones can absorb 12 to 15 ml.
- Sanitary napkins can absorb 5 to 7 ml for “regular” ones, 9 to 12 ml for “super” ones and up to 15 ml or more for “Night/maxi” ones.
Based on a total loss of 30 to 50 milliliters during the entire menstrual cycle, a woman could therefore use:
- 6 to 10 regular tampons, or
- 3 to 5 super tampons, or
- 2 to 4 super plus tampons, or
- 6 to 10 regular sanitary napkins, or
- 3 to 5 super sanitary napkins, or
- 2 to 3 nighttime sanitary napkins/max.
Flows vary during the same menstrual phase
In this part, we explore variations in menstrual flow within the same menstrual phase . However, it is important to remember that each woman is unique: the consistency, duration of the cycle and intensity of bleeding vary from one person to another. There is no "typical" cycle or flow, but rather a generality or an observed average. So if your flow differs from this average, it doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem with your period.
Start of menstrual phase (usually days 1-2):
- Onset (Day 1): The flow may begin rather discreetly, often with spotting or light staining. For some women, however, it can be immediately heavy from day one.
- Middle (Day 2): Often this day sees a more constant and sometimes heavy flow. For many women, the first days of periods are when the flow is heaviest, sometimes with the presence of clots.
Middle of the menstrual phase (usually days 3-4):
At this point, although some women continue to have a heavy flow, for the majority the flow usually begins to decrease. The blood may change from a bright red color to a darker red or brown, a sign that the bleeding is becoming less intense.
End of menstrual phase (usually days 5-7):
The flow of periods continues to decrease and generally becomes light or very light. The blood may be brown or even pink in color, indicating the bleeding has stopped. For some menstruators, periods may last shorter and end on day 4 or 5, while for others, they may stretch to day 6, 7, or even beyond.
Factors that influence menstrual flow:
There are also many factors that can change the flow of periods.
One of the main reasons that influences menstrual flow is age . Indeed, from our first period to menopause , they undergo changes depending on our cycles.
- Adolescence: When menstruation begins, cycles may be irregular for a few years. Hormone levels still fluctuate, which can lead to heavy or light flows.
- Premenopause : As women approach menopause, their cycles can become irregular and flow can vary significantly.
The menstrual cycle is mainly regulated by hormones , and any imbalance in these can influence menstrual flow. For example, estrogen promotes endometrial development, and an imbalance can alter menstrual flow. Progesterone prepares the endometrium for possible implantation, and its imbalance can lead to irregular periods . There is also LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) which help regulate ovulation and hormonal production; their imbalance, as in PCOS, can therefore disrupt the cycle.
Contraception, particularly hormonal contraceptives, can also influence the flow of periods because they alter the body's natural hormonal balance, which directly affects the menstrual cycle. Let's look at this together in detail:
- Combined oral contraceptives (pills containing both estrogen and progesterone): Combined oral contraceptives, consisting of both estrogen and progesterone, are commonly used. However, they modify the body's natural hormonal balance. First, they effectively suppress ovulation, preventing the release of a mature egg ready for fertilization. Then, they influence the consistency of the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus, making it thinner. This can, as a result, lead to lighter and shorter periods.
- Progestin-only contraceptives (such as the progestin-only pill, implant, or progestin-only intrauterine device) : Contraceptives such as the progestin-only pill, implant, or progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) ( "progestin" means a class of drugs that mimic the action of progesterone ), are alternatives to combined methods containing estrogens. These contraceptives work mainly by influencing the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. They thus make this wall thinner, which can, depending on people, considerably reduce menstrual flow or even stop periods.
- Copper intrauterine device (IUD) : The copper intrauterine device (IUD) is a non-hormonal contraceptive method that stands out for its longevity and effectiveness. Placed inside the uterus, this small “T”-shaped device continually releases copper ions which are toxic to sperm, thus preventing fertilization. Unlike other birth control devices or pills, the copper IUD does not introduce any hormones. However, a notable consequence of its use is the modification of menstruation. Many users report an increase in the amount of their bleeding as well as an extension of its duration. Additionally, some women may experience more intense or more frequent menstrual cramps after inserting the device.
Pregnancy and childbirth:
Pregnancy and childbirth are major events in a woman's reproductive life and can lead to significant physiological and hormonal changes that also influence menstrual flow. For example, post-delivery hormonal changes, coupled with cervical dilation during vaginal delivery, can modify flow. There are also changes in the endometrium and possible trauma or scarring from childbirth which can also influence bleeding. To this we can add breastfeeding which can delay or modify periods by suppressing ovulation. We can also talk about childbirth which can delay the return of periods. Finally, stress related to motherhood can also play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle.
The stress :
Indeed, stress can also influence menstrual flow by disrupting the body's hormonal balance , in particular by releasing cortisol, which can alter the sex hormones regulating the cycle. This disruption can inhibit ovulation, leading to irregular cycles. Additionally, stress changes the thickness of the endometrium, which affects the nature of flow. Activation of the nervous system due to stress can also impact blood circulation to the reproductive organs, therefore impact flow. And stress-induced behaviors, such as poor eating habits or lack of sleep, can also influence the cycle.
The weight :
Another reason that can be cited is weight. It can interfere with the body's hormonal balance. Adipose tissues produce and store hormones, including estrogen; therefore an excess or lack of fat can disrupt this process. Extreme weight, too high or too low, can affect ovulation, making cycles irregular or non-existent. We can mention obesity which increases the risk of insulin resistance, often linked to polycystic ovary syndrome, thus affecting the cycle. Conversely, low weight can indicate malnutrition, affecting hormone production, which can cause amenorrhea . Finally, physical stress due to inappropriate weight can also disrupt the menstrual cycle.
Malnutrition, whether due to undernutrition or eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, can cause periods to be interrupted due to decreased body fat and hormonal imbalances. Also, unbalanced consumption can disrupt hormone levels, affect body weight, lead to nutritional deficiencies and impact ovulation and the flow of periods.
Intense physical exercise can disrupt the menstrual cycle in several ways. It influences hormonal balance, can reduce body fat to the point of affecting menstruation, and can cause physical stress that can delay or inhibit ovulation. Additionally, if the energy consumed is not enough to cover the body's energy expenditure, the body may suspend functions such as menstruation to save energy.
Certain medical conditions can modify menstrual flow . Let's see some examples:
- Uterine fibroids: Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop from the muscular lining of the uterus. This can create symptoms in some people such as heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, pelvic pain, or a feeling of heaviness. Excessive bleeding caused by fibroids can also lead to anemia.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to those in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grow outside of it, often on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvic tissue. This endometrial damage can cause extremely painful periods, heavy bleeding, and other symptoms like pain during sex. Over time, endometriosis can also lead to fertility problems.
- Thyroid diseases: The thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck, produces hormones that regulate many body functions, including metabolism. A hormonal imbalance due to hyperthyroidism (excessive production of thyroid hormones) or hypothyroidism (insufficient production) can disrupt the menstrual cycle. Thus, women with thyroid disorders may notice changes in the regularity, duration and abundance of their periods. Medical monitoring is essential to manage these conditions and minimize their effects on menstruation.
👉 If you are prone to pain during your period, we have natural solutions that will bring you comfort and relief. For mild pain we recommend the super Mijane herbal tea specially formulated for period pain. For acute pain , Equilibre CBD oil, which has helped many women with endometriosis, combined with Nideco massage oil will work wonders. And finally, in times when the pain becomes almost debilitating, we offer you the Bluetens medical device , a great ally that uses electrostimulation to naturally and instantly relieve your pain.
Medications and treatments:
Medications and treatments can influence menstruation in various ways. Some interfere with hormonal levels, thereby altering the cycle. Others can affect clotting, increasing or decreasing bleeding. For example, chemotherapy can disrupt ovarian function, and aspirin can increase bleeding.
When does menstrual flow become worrying and what to do?
If your menstrual flow worries you, the symptoms we will discuss below may be a reason to call a healthcare professional, if only to reassure you.
Extremely abundant flow:
If you need to change your sanitary protection every hour, or if your periods last more than 7 days.
Very light or absent flow:
Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) can be normal in some situations, such as during pregnancy or breastfeeding, but it can also signal other underlying problems.
Painful periods :
If the pain is so bad that it interferes with your daily activities despite painkillers, or if the symptoms worsen over time.
If your cycle is often irregular, or if it changes suddenly.
Bleeding between periods:
Bleeding that is not related to your period and is not typical for you.
Other unusual symptoms:
Such as large blood clots, symptoms of fatigue (which could signal anemia due to excessive blood loss), or any other symptoms that concern you.
Menstrual flow can vary over the course of a lifetime for various reasons, but also within the same cycle. This is not necessarily alarming and does not necessarily mean that you have a health problem. However, in the presence of unusual or worrying symptoms, it is recommended to consult a doctor
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