What Is Considered a Normal Period Cycle?

Every woman has a different body, which means that everyone has a different cycle as well. Many get their periods on time, and some have trouble predicting theirs. Menstruation is a normal part of life that everyone goes through. According to experts, a normal period cycle occurs between 21 and 35 days and lasts for a week. Your menstrual flow should be heavier at first and then gradually become weaker until stopping. There are a lot of things that can affect it to be longer or shorter than that. On the other hand, if your period is missing for more than six weeks, feel free to contact us at University Park OBGYN so we can schedule an appointment for you and answer all your questions. 

Gynecologist Consulting a Woman Patient and Pointing on Anatomical Illustration of a Uterus on a Monitor

What Causes Irregular Periods?

Many things cause your menstrual cycle to get longer, such as different health conditions, stress, hormonal changes, pregnancy, or nutritional deficiencies. The most common reasons include the following:

  • Having IUD – Some women who have IUDs can have lighter periods or stop getting them at all.
  • Changing birth control pills – This can lead to a missed period due to hormonal shifts. 
  • Rigorous exercise and strict diet regime – A combination of not eating enough and exercising too much can drive your body to stop ovulating. 
  • Stress – If you are stressed, your periods may become longer, shorter, or even stop.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – One of the main symptoms of PCOS is missed or irregular cycle. 
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) – These two conditions can also lead to amenorrhea. 
  • Pregnancy 

Amenorrhea is a medical term that describes a missed period, which is absent for at least three months. How you treat irregular periods or amenorrhea depends on the health issue you have:

  • Changing birth control – If you are taking a birth control pill and are not getting your period normally after three months of usage, you may consider changing it to another brand. Not everyone reacts the same to every medication. If you have an IUD, you can also try switching to oral birth control. There are other hormonal methods, such as implants, injections, vaginal rings, and skin patches. This is usually not a severe issue; your body probably needs some time to adjust. 
  • Hormone therapy – If you are not on the pill at the moment, your doctor may recommend oral contraceptives that contain two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which will balance your menstrual cycle. There is another one called progestin, which can trigger a period in women who suffer from amenorrhea. 
  • Lifestyle changes – Sometimes, simple modifications in your everyday life can help balance your hormones and period. Exercise, a healthy diet, and stress management are beneficial. 
  • Surgery – Scarring on the uterus can cause your period to flow heavily or not at all. In that case, surgery is needed to remove any abnormalities and help you with your menstrual issues. 

Why Is My Menstrual Cycle Getting Longer?

Your body changes as you age, which means your period does as well. It especially varies when women enter perimenopause and menopause. Many of them enter the perimenopause stage in their mid-40s while still ovulating. Their ovaries start producing less estrogen at that point, making it harder to get pregnant. As for your cycle, you can expect some changes, such as it getting shorter, skipping periods, and menstrual flow getting lighter or heavier. In menopause, periods usually completely stop. For many, it happens between the ages of 45 and 60. 

How Can I Track My Cycle?

There are four menstrual period phases:

  • Follicular phase
  • Ovulation
  • Luteal phase
  • Menstruation

Each of them is different and uniquely affects your body. The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and lasts all up to ovulation. Most women usually start ovulating on the 14th day of their period. You may notice watery discharge, which is a common sign of ovulation. After it, the ovaries release progesterone, which causes the uterus to thicken and prepare your body for pregnancy. If the egg was not fertilized, women get their menses. When you menstruate, your uterus lining is shedding, causing blood to flow out of the vagina. 

Calculating period cycles can help you determine if you’re experiencing normal symptoms. It can also help you detect health issues such as PCOS or infertility and help you prevent unwanted pregnancy. The key is to track continuously so that you can spot any irregularities, such as:

  • Ovulation date
  • Length 
  • Deviations from your regular cycle 

Aside from listening to your body and learning about different symptoms, there are many ways to keep track of your periods: 

  • Make notes – You can write down things such as blood flow, changes that you noticed, if you had any cramping, whether it was heavier or lighter than usual, etc. 
  • Calendar – Use it to mark the start and the end of your menstrual cycle. There are many applications as well that you can download that will do it for you. 

By doing so, you are not only learning about yourself but also preparing for PMS symptoms such as mood swings or cramping. By knowing when these signs will show up, you will have time to plan how to lessen the pain and unwanted emotional fluctuations. Exercises such as yoga and lighter weightlifting, eating according to the menstrual phase you are in, relaxation techniques, and medication can also be beneficial in easing your symptoms. 

A Young Woman Holding a Period Calendar

How Can I Track My Menstrual Cycle to Get Pregnant?

Another helpful reason for you to track your cycle is if you are trying to get pregnant. Irregular periods don’t necessarily cause infertility, but many women have trouble getting pregnant because they can’t predict days of ovulation accurately. A woman is most fertile 48 hours before ovulation. However, sperm can survive in the cervix for up to 5 days. Here are some ways to track your period to increase the chance of pregnancy:

  • Using a calendar method 
  • Checking your body temperature (basal body temperature)
  • Writing down your standard days (for example, if your cycle is 28 days long, that means that you will probably ovulate on the 14th day)
  • Keeping an eye on your discharge
  • Ovulation predictor kits
  • Consult with your doctor

When Should I Visit a Doctor?

Missing a period can be highly distressing for a woman. If you missed only one or two cycles, there is no need to worry. It will probably resolve on its own. However, if your period is missing for three months or longer, you should consider giving your gynecologist a call and scheduling an appointment. Aside from long menstrual cycles, you should mention any other symptoms, such as spotting, bleeding, discomfort or pain in your pelvic area, heavy flow, discharge, and others. If left untreated, many of those could cause problems in the future. Questions like, “Why is my menstrual cycle getting longer?” or “How can I track my period?” are commonly heard in gynecologists’ offices. Regular check-ups are extremely helpful for women to stay in tune with their bodies. 

As a matter of fact, you can reach out to our practice if you have any concerns that you may like to discuss.