Girls begin to have periods at the onset of puberty. This usually happens anytime between ages 9-12 in an average.
However, if the physical changes have occurred and the periods have not begun for three years until then, visit a doctor for consultation. Normally, the periods in the initial phase do not follow a regular cycle.
It may be delayed for as many as 35 days or schedule itself anywhere between 21-25 days. This is due to several contributing factors that shall be highlighted subsequently.
The average and ideal period cycle is about 28 days and it follows the pattern unless affected by other factors.
Here’s how long periods should last according to age group:
12.5 – 12.7 years (Age of menarche)
Menarche, or the first period brings with it a lot of things that is a completely new experience for a girl. Dealing with it tenderly is necessary so that the child does not undergo an emotional setback or has a negative notion about it.
For teenagers, bleeding may occur for about 5-7 days initially which depends on how the body reacts to the changes at the beginning. For girls who are active physically, the chances of bleeding regularly or early are pretty high as opposed to those who have limited physical exertion.
The flow in initial phase is generally heavy for about 4-6 months, after which the body develops a normal cycle and flow.
Problems associated with periods include severe cramps, bloated feeling, mood swings, pain in the back and thighs, and dryness in pelvic region.
Changes in skin colour, hair texture, and physical appearance are also commonly observed.
Girls often face itchiness in the pubic region during periods which should be avoided as it might leave scars.
25 – 35 years
In mid twenties and thirties, that is, the age group 25-35 years, there usually are changes that women undergo in the body relating to sexual encounters, pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding, consumption of oral contraceptives etc.
These have a great impact on hormonal levels which might affect the menstrual cycle initially. Then, the body might regain its regular cycle or form a new cycle altogether.
At this age, bleeding lasts for 3-5 days ideally. For a few, it might last only for a day or two in the beginning and fade out by the third day.
The body also reacts to any change in weight at this age and the result can be seen in the form of irregular, heavy, or light periods.
A change in diet is highly recommended at this age. Those who consume alcohol are likely to have a short cycle as compared to those who do not indulge in liquor.
After 45 years
After 45, the period starts indicating that production of eggs in the ovaries have reduced which causes light flow and rapid weight changes in a lot of women. The periods also become irregular and may not arrive in as many as 75 days.
Besides being a painful affair, periods cause hot flashes, loss of diet, mood swings, irritability, and bloated feeling. Physical changes like weight loss/gain, and hair and skin problems also follow when the body reaches the menopausal phase.
At this age, proper body care is essential so that the periods fade out without any major infections and abnormalities which are a common affair.
Other contributing factors that can affect the periodic cycle:
Multiple other factors also affect the periodic cycle, flow and kind of discharge from the body. Here are a few common things one needs to know.
Being active physically is essential for everyone irrespective of age group. Exercising maintains a healthy blood flow in the body and also maintains hormonal levels. During periods, cramps can be treated without medication with some simple exercises.
Exercises help release hormones, which act as natural painkillers for the body. Those who have a regular exercise regime are likely to have normal and hassle free period that lasts for 3-4 days in a normal cycle.
2. Stress levels
Being stressed, anxious, excited, nervous, bored, relaxed, or happy has an impact on hormonal secretion in the body. The body reflects all of it through the way it appears and feels and who can know it better than women. Often, prolonged feeling of any kind will cause the periods to arrive early/ late and impact the duration, volume, and quality of discharge.
3. Hormonal changes
From having the first period, intercourse, pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding, and weaning process, hormonal changes are a constant factor in a woman’s body. It is natural for a body to react differently to each situation and the duration of period varies in each case.
For instance, after childbirth, a few women have normal periods within 2-3 months, while a few do not have it back till the time the child is breast fed.
4. Using oral contraceptives
Oral contraceptives meddle with the normal hormone formation of the body and thus have an effect on the duration and arrival of periods. For many, these pills reduce cramps, nausea, heavy bleeding, and headaches that are associated with menses.
The flip side includes spotting, irregular menses, unscheduled bleeding, and heavy bleeding which appear for a few months when the pills are introduced. These usually disappear after a few months of continuous intake of oral pills.
5. Eating behaviour
Observed closely, there often are several food items that can affect the periods. As a matter of fact, vegetarians and non-vegetarians also have a different periodic cycle. The logic is very simple, since the hormones can affect our food habits, vice versa also holds true.
For a normal cycle, intake of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in balance is necessary. Avoid excessively spicy, oily, frozen foods, junk foods, and complex carbs.
6. Medical history
In quite a few cases when women have to take strong doses of medication, it is normal to have scanty, delayed, and painful periods. The periods may not occur for several months or years due to prolonged illness.
Those having kidney problems often have irregular periods that occur once in several months. Certain medications may also cause spotting or heavy bleeding at irregular time frames.
It is important to know that any excessive bleeding is also dangerous for the body as it may cause a drop in iron levels making the immune system weak and the body prone to diseases.
Therefore, maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle is essential for the body to behave normally in all situations. There often are cases when there is no immediate effect in the initial level, but later ovarian cyst, conception issues, infertility, and other such problems occur with time.
What it means when your period lasts for 2 weeks or longer?
Normal menstrual phase in the 28 days menstrual cycle lasts for 3 to 5 days. But, at times it so happens that the bleeding lasts for more than a week and sometimes even more than 2 weeks. This is an absolutely clinical and abnormal process.
You need to go to a doctor to get yourself diagnosed.
Menorrhagia is a clinical condition which describes a prolonged bleeding phase. The condition calls for expert help. You should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Treatments are possible as well as fruitful.
Physiology of prolonged periods
Let us first discuss what are the normal physiological conditions in which a prolonged period for more than 2 weeks can occur.
1. If you have missed your periods for a month or two, the next period can last for more than 2 weeks.
It is a normal tendency when you have just had your first periods ever.
During teenage, to be more precise when you have menarche, it might happen once or twice that you miss your periods.
The reproductive monthly cycle does not attain the perfect rhythm and pace right from the beginning. So, prolonged periods can be a case at such times.
2. If you are on a continuous medication that involves a blood thinning agent like aspirin, then it can be a case that you have a prolonged period for more than 2 weeks.
3. Miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy can also lead to prolonged and ample bleeding. If it occurs during any time of the gestation period, immediate consultancy with a doctor is essential.
Why does your period last longer? – The probable causes of prolonged menstrual bleeding
1. Uterine fibroids: Fibroids are a common issue that women face mostly when they have crossed 50 years of age. They are essentially benign tumors that develop in the uterus of a woman.
Prolonged bleeding is an early indication of uterine fibroids. However, sustained periods for 2 weeks or more is not the only symptom of fibroids.
If it is backed by other symptoms like pain during intercourse, you can be sure that it is most probably fibroids.
2. Ovarian cysts: Small cysts filled with fluid in the ovaries is a common problem that many women face. These days poly cystic ovarian syndrome has become a common problem.
Ovarian cysts might or might not affect the period rhythm, but polycystic ovarian syndrome does affect the menstrual rhythm. Due to cysts, the periods may get missed for a month or two. Then, on the next period, the bleeding become heavy and become prolonged.
3. Any kind of urogenital infection: if there is any urinogenital infection, bleeding is normal. It might happen, that any part of the urinogenital tract has been wounded and there is heavy bleeding that adds up to your period flow.
In this case, it is essential that you visit a doctor urgently because the infection if not treated on time can spread to other parts and be harmful.
4. Polyp in the uterus: Polyps are also a kind of uterine outgrowth. They are most commonly seen in menopausal women.
Prolonged periods and excessive bleeding can be indication of polyps in the uterus. Surgical and non-surgical treatments are also available for uterine polyps.
You should always opt for an early diagnosis in case of uterine polyps because they are at times cancerous in nature.
5. Problem with thyroid gland: Underactivity of the thyroid gland is called hypothyroidism. Thyroid gland plays an important role in regulating the sexual activities.
6. Endometrial thickening or hyperplasia
7. Long periods can be indicative of a cancer.
8. If you are obese, then you can have long periods.
9. Adenomyosis or an outgrowth in the uterus can also cause prolonged periods.
10. If you are taking certain medications like contraceptives, birth control pills, or any intra uterine devices are inserted, then periods lasting for more than 2 weeks is a common problem.
When you visit a doctor with a complaint of prolonged periods that lasts for more than 2 weeks, a few preliminary diagnostic tests will be carried out to have a clear idea about your condition.
Moreover, if the situation is grave and calls for special treatment, then the first priority should be visiting a doctor.
At first, the doctor will have an ample information from you such as –
- Dates of onset of periods
- Rhythm of the last few menstrual cycles that you had
- Frequency and issues regarding your sexual activity.
- Number of pads that you use per day is also a good indication of the rate of flow
- Color of the period blood as it will also help to analyse the underlying disorder.
If the physician can well make out from these data, then it is fair and good.
However, at times it becomes impossible to diagnose just from information.
Then, a few diagnostic tests have to be carried out such as –
- A complete abdominal ultrasonography including transvaginal
- A hormone profile test of the blood
- A hysteroscopy
These test reports will confirm the kind of problem that is probably causing the prolonged bleeding.
Complications that might arise if the periods continue for longer
- The first problem that can arise is extreme blood loss and subsequent loss of iron along with it.
- The person might become anemic and thus feel extremely weak.
If the condition worsens, then the doctor might go for two types of treatments.
- First is the short time treatment that will actually stop the current bleeding and bring back the person to a stable state.
- Secondly, the doctor might go for a long-term treatment that involves either endometrial ablation or hysterectomy.
Prolonged periods can definitely be an alarming situation and without proper treatment it can be fatal. So, do not leave prolonged periods unattended.