I don’t know about you, but my cycle is consistently unique. While I can expect the same cycle every 28 days, it is infrequent in flow size than what the “average” period is deemed.
Still, my OBGYN assures me that I am fine. With a heavy first two days, a tapered third day, nothing or spotting on day 4 and then a heavy bleed again on day 5, my period does its own thing, every month.
Having discussed this with other staff here at Apele, it is clear that none of our cycles are exactly the same, yet none of our providers seem to think there is much concern. So, what then, makes for a “normal” period? What’s too heavy or too light?
I sat down with my OBGYN to further clarify and this is the guidance that she and other professionals gave regarding flow and frequency for an otherwise average period not affected by the use of medication or medical diagnoses:
A Typical Period. A normal amount of blood flow during a cycle is between 5mL and 80mL. That’s a pretty big range that many women can expect to see and secrete.
This may be difficult to measure, because well, who has a small mL syringe they carry around? To make it easier, let’s reference sanitary products themselves.
Each soaked normal-sized tampon or pad holds a teaspoon (5mL) of blood . That means it is normal to soak anywhere from 1 to 7 normal-sized pads or tampons during the duration of a whole period.
A Light Period. As you may have guessed, a lighter-than-usual period would be typically less than or lower on the spectrum of blood loss being between 5-80mL. Rather, it could look more like spotting and light streaks of blood rather than soaked products. You may also notice that the use of even a small-sized tampon is a little bit uncomfortable to place in or pull out as less bleeding means more friction and a “dryer” feel when discarding. The same is true of menstrual cups (which typically have mL readings on the side that you can use to measure blood volume.)
Surprisingly, a light period doesn’t always mean irregular and sporadic spotting. It could also simply manifest as a consistent flow that is never heavier or lighter on specific days during the cycle. On the other side of the coin, a lighter cycle could be shorter in duration that a typical 5-7 days of bleeding.
A Heavy Period. With the above situations helping us navigate the waters, it is easy to conclude that a heavy period is typically more than 80mL lost in any one cycle. Soaking through one or more sanitary pads or tampons every hour for several consecutive hours could certainly be considered heavy. In addition, bleeding for longer than a week also is categorized as heavy bleeding.
While light and heavy bleeding can come and go for just a few days and still fall into the 5-80mL range, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider to further discuss any concerns or curiosities you may have around your flow and frequency.
There are many factors that influence your flow (diet, lifestyle, medications, contraceptives, medical diagnoses and more). Know your “normal”. Everybody and every body is different.