May we introduce? Your menstruation, also called period
Menstruation is also called period and other names such as the Red Wave, Strawberry Week, Bloody Mary, or ‘visit from Auntie Rosa’. The many synonyms testify to decades of tabooing menstruation. We think it’s about time that we all stop referring to a woman’s period as an “embarrassing thing” or “that dreadful time of the month”. Menstruation is also quite correctly often called the “fountain of new life” because without a period there is – usually – also no ovulation.
The menstrual cycle
The first day of bleeding is also the first day of the cycle and the first half of the cycle. The first step for any woman who wants to balance her hormones is to get to know her cycle well. Knowing what the female body needs at each stage of the cycle is the key not only to optimal hormonal health, but to optimal health in general.
In the course of a complete cycle, the body prepares for a possible pregnancy by maturing eggs and building up the lining of the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus is shed with menstruation and the cycle begins again.
What happens during the period?
Progesterone production decreases as the corpus luteum disappears. This triggers the breakdown of the uterine lining during the menstrual phase and menstruation begins. Estrogen production peaks and then drops again. This stimulates the hypothalamus to prepare for another ovulation cycle.
The hormones in the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is regulated by different hormones. Luteinising hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, promote ovulation and stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone stimulate the uterus and breasts to prepare for possible fertilization and pregnancy.
The colour of menstruation
It’s a taboo subject that we desperately need to normalise: Period blood. The colour, consistency and texture of your period blood can reveal a lot more about your overall health than you think. It’s time to destigmatize period blood and learn to decode our body’s signals. Our period blood is something we don’t like to talk about. In fact, most of us have been brought up to hide it. Think of any maxi pad or tampon advert. All you see is the same blue liquid, over and over again.
I have a light pink bleed
The colour of your period blood is a light pink. You can’t tell the consistency because the bleeding is so light. Your period lasts 3 days or less and does not occur regularly.
What does this mean? A very short period and particularly light bleeding can indicate low estrogen levels. Don’t forget: Your hormones are made from the food you eat. Low estrogen levels can indicate vitamin and nutrient deficiencies due to extreme dieting and/or being underweight.
I have a brown period
The colour of your period blood is brown. The consistency is thin and/or greasy. The length and frequency of your period varies. What does this mean? The brown discharge is old, oxidised blood that was not expelled from the uterus during the last cycle. This is usually caused by low progesterone levels. Low progesterone levels can be the cause of uncomfortable symptoms and can also cause you not to ovulate regularly.
I notice blood clots during my period
Dark red or blackish blood clots can appear during the first few days of your period, when bleeding is heaviest. Generally, there is nothing to worry about if the blood clots are rather small and they do not occur excessively.
I have dark red menstrual blood
The colour of your period blood is dark red, purple or blue-ish.
The consistency is thick with clots. Your period lasts longer than a week and is not regular.
This colour can be a sign of too much estrogen. Estrogen levels that are higher in relation to progesterone cause many of the typical symptoms associated with problem periods and, according to research, may lead to endometriosis, cysts or fibroids. In the long term, excess estrogen can lead to serious health consequences.
The menstrual calendar
In a menstrual calendar, similar to a cycle calendar, you record the start, duration and intensity of your period. Of course, we recommend that you always record the entire cycle to get an overview of the full cycle and the symptoms associated with it. The breathe ilo app offers exactly that and much more. Here you can enter a wide range of symptoms with just one click and make notes on every single day in the cycle if needed.
My period is late or missing
Provided you are healthy and usually have regular cycles, your period should occur at regular intervals of 24-36 days. Small fluctuations of a few days are not unusual and nothing to worry about. However, if your period is significantly delayed, you should look for the cause. After six weeks without bleeding, a delayed period can be considered a missed period. There are several things that can affect your period: From basic lifestyle changes to chronic illness. Think of stress, being overweight or underweight, PCOS, chronic illnesses such as diabetes or coeliac disease, thyroid problems, the onset of menopause or, of course, a possible pregnancy.
My period comes too early
Even an early period from time to time is not usually a cause for concern. In science, cycles that are 24-36 days long are considered healthy cycles. If your cycle is often shorter than 21 days – and your bleeding comes early – this can be a sign that something is wrong. Again, think about stress, being overweight or underweight and chronic illness and look for the cause.
I have a heavy period
Of course, it is relatively difficult to define what constitutes heavy bleeding. After all, every period is unique. Most women lose less than 80 ml of blood during their period. The average is about 30-70 ml.
A period is considered heavy when there is blood loss of 80 ml or more per period. But it is also the case if your period lasts longer than 7 days, or if both.
This is how you can tell that your period is unusually heavy:
- You need to change your female hygiene products every one to two hours.
- You notice blood clots that are bigger than 2.5 cm in size.
- You have to use 2 types of female hygiene products at the same time because your bleeding is so heavy (e.g. tampons and pads).
I have a light period
A very short period and particularly light bleeding can indicate low estrogen levels. You should always look for possible causes.
I have continuous bleeding
If you have continuous bleeding, there can be a range of possible reasons why your period doesn’t stop, from taking medication to having a medical condition.
For example, you might think of causes such as:
- Taking certain medication
- ulcer or myoma in the uterus
- wearing a copper IUD
- an ectopic pregnancy
- a miscarriage or pregnancy
Periods during pregnancy
The difference between having a period and being pregnant should be obvious: When you are pregnant, you no longer have a period. But is it always so obvious? Well, in the first trimester of pregnancy you may experience spotting. That doesn’t have to mean anything bad. However, if you experience bleeding during pregnancy, it has nothing to do with your period.
Having periods despite pregnancy?
Despite persistent claims, it is not possible to have a period during pregnancy. In early pregnancy, however, it is possible to experience “spotting”, which is usually recognizable by a light pink or dark brown colour.
If pregnancy has been confirmed and there is still heavy bleeding, we strongly recommend that you see a doctor.
Pregnancy despite periods
Despite pregnancy, bleeding similar to menstruation can occur. At the very beginning, you may experience what is called implantation bleeding. This is a small bleed that occurs when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of the uterus. Many women think that this is a somewhat unusual menstrual bleeding and are then very surprised when they find out that they are pregnant despite having a “period”. There are even women who only find out about their pregnancy after several months.
Periods after childbirth
When your period will return after pregnancy and how heavy it will be varies greatly. It can be a few weeks, but it can also be more than a year. The menstrual flow is light red at the beginning and darker in colour later. If there is light red bleeding again afterwards, it is most likely the first period after pregnancy. Many breastfeeding mothers do not have a period at all for a longer period of time. However, ovulation cannot be completely ruled out and you must therefore use a suitable method of contraception shortly after birth.
Spotting / intermenstrual bleeding
Spotting is usually characterised by a light red or brownish color and a thin, greasy consistency. Spotting can occur before or instead of your period, but it can also happen in the middle of your cycle. Of course, this does not mean that spotting is normal. The reasons can be varied. If spotting is not related to pregnancy, it may be due to stress, hormonal imbalances, inflammation or serious illness. If you have frequent spotting, you should consult a doctor you trust.
Spotting instead of periods?
Even though many women report that they often experience spotting instead of a real period, this is not normal. A healthy cycle is characterised by regular periods. Ideally, you will notice a strong red (cranberry colored) bleed and your period will last about 3-7 days.
Can you shorten your period?
Of course we understand that periods are not always convenient. But can you really influence your period so that you can shorten it? Well, even if it is not proven, there are some home remedies that many women swear by. Of course, anything that stimulates the body’s blood flow can also speed up bleeding (and thus your period). These include heat, light exercise (for example, a walk or gentle yoga), but also some herbal teas.
Periods when taking the pill
When a woman uses hormonal contraception, ovulation does not usually take place, so there is no natural menstruation. In this case, a woman does not have a natural cycle.
I stopped taking the pill and have no period
If your period is late after you stop taking the pill, this is ‘normal’ to a certain extent. Basically, it just means that the body is out of balance and is trying to get back into balance. Of course, it makes sense to prepare well if you’re planning to come off the birth control pill in order to support the body in the best possible way.
I have a bleed despite taking the pill
So what is it about ‘menstruation’ while taking the pill? This bleeding is artificially caused by the pill-pause. The body reacts to this pill-break with a ‘menstrual bleed’, which is also called withdrawal bleeding. This bleeding is therefore not a ‘real’ menstruation.
Period pain / menstrual cramps
Menstrual cramps are often referred to as period pain. This refers to different types of pain that are associated with menstruation. These include abdominal cramps, digestive problems and headaches. Cycle-related pain and symptoms that occur mainly before your period can be categorised as PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Although these symptoms are common, it should be mentioned here that severe discomfort before and during menstruation is not normal and should always be a reason to investigate and look for the root cause.