This may seem like a silly question. But actually it’s a question that all women should ask themselves. In this article I will be discussing what actually is a ‘normal’ period, the different factors that affect the menstrual cycle, and how to spot that your period is not normal.
NHS England states that, between the ages of 12 and 52, a woman will have around 480 periods, or fewer if she has any pregnancies. The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, but the average is to have periods every 28 days. Regular cycles that are longer or shorter than this, from 21 to 40 days, are normal.
So if a girl starts her period at 12 years old and has a period every 21 to 40 days until she is 52, she has had a normal menstrual cycle. How many of you reading this can say that this is you? I can definitely say that I am not normal, and I will be discussing why.
Amenhorrea is the absence of menstruation. Women who have missed at least three menstrual periods in a row have amenorrhea, as do girls who haven’t begun menstruation by age 15. Amenhorrea is problematic as it results in infertility, weakened bones, hair loss, and more. If you think you suffer from amenhorrea you should book an appointment with your doctor to discuss this.
For a number of years I suffered from amenhorrea without even realising it. I started my period about age 13 and suffered from severe PMS (period pains), so at age 16 I had enough and started taking the combined pill. I then had relatively pain free regular periods, or at least I thought so. During my late teens (16-20) I maintained a very low body fat, and excessively trained in dance and at the gym. However, as I was having a period each month I thought I was healthy. It was not until I met my coach in 2017 and she spotted the signs straight away. No doctor had explained to me that my periods were caused by the pill artificially and not by my body releasing hormones. So I decided to come off the pill (that I had been on for 6 years), and what happened… I had no period for over a year. All this time I thought my body was releasing an egg and that I was normal, but I wasn’t. My coach increased my food and I put on some body fat and muscle, and finally I had my first period in 7 years. Also I did not suffer from PMS as bad as my younger days as I was able to manage my symptoms. Since getting my period back in 2018 I have since had scattered months of amenhorrea, caused by competition prep, low body fat and stress, but as I was able to recognise the importance of having a healthy period, it was not long before they came back.
I am 24 years old and I have only had healthy periods for the past 2 years of my life. I have to thank my coach for spotting that I suffered from amenhorrea, and providing me with the support and knowledge to have a healthy period.
Factors that cause amenhorrea.
The pill, the implant, the coil, the injection. All of these contraception methods contain hormones that either stop your period all together or cause an artificial bleed.
The female body is a very smart but fragile system, and can adapt to different circumstances. If the females body fat drops too low the body will not release eggs to be fertilised. This is because the body does not have enough energy reserves to sustain a pregnancy, so a lack of period prevents this from occurring.
Such as, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS causes relatively high and sustained levels of hormones, rather than the fluctuating levels seen in the normal menstrual cycle. Thyroid malfunction, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can cause menstrual irregularities, including amenorrhea.
Women who participate in activities that require rigorous training, such as ballet, may find their menstrual cycles interrupted. Several factors combine to contribute to the loss of periods in athletes, including low body fat, stress and high energy expenditure.
Mental stress can temporarily alter the functioning of your hypothalamus, which is an area of your brain that controls the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. Ovulation and menstruation may stop as a result. Regular menstrual periods usually resume after your stress decreases.
So, after reading that it may now be clear to you if you have a normal period or not. If you have a normal period each month then it is definitely something to be happy about! But if you think your period is abnormal, hopefully this article explains why it is.
Again if you think you may suffer from amenhorrea please contact your doctor, however by eliminating any of the above factors that affect your cycle, you may be able to gain a healthy period all on your own.
I will be doing another blog all about my tips on how to reduce PMS symptoms and probably some more stuff about periods. Please contact me if you have any questions or if there is a topic you would like me to discuss.
Alicia Burke Coaching x