Your period will feel—and look—different from your mom’s, sister’s, or friend’s: that’s perfectly normal. You bleed for six days; they bleed for five. That's nothing to worry about.
But what if you spend most of those menstruating days doubled over in pain, feeling like someone is taking their time wringing out your uterus?
While painful period cramps are frequently normalized by healthcare practitioners and mass media (i.e., “Oh, that’s just part and parcel of the period experience”), there’s nothing normal about a woman having to put her life on hold during their period every month.
What’s a normal menstrual period?
There are a few indicators that’ll quickly tell you if your period is “normal”:
- Pain level: Your uterus is basically one big muscle. It contracts and releases prostaglandins to make its lining (i.e., endometrial tissue) shed, resulting in your period. So, with all these muscle contractions going on, it’s only normal for you to feel slight twinging or cramping sensations. But if you feel like someone is stabbing you from the inside with a fork? That’s not normal.
- Period length: Normal menstruation can last from one to seven days. That said, most women with regular menstrual cycles have periods (i.e., the "bleeding phase") that last, on average, three to five days. Ultimately, your period shouldn’t last for days and days; anything longer than seven days warrants concern.
- Cycle length: The length of your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next—and it typically lasts between 21 and 35 days. Your periods being less than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart could indicate anovulation, suggesting that your hormones are out of whack.
How to normalize your menstrual cycle
Commonly describe your periods as "misery" or "torture"? Feel like your periods drag on and on, with no end in sight? Below, find two things that may normalize your periods.
#1: Re-evaluate hormonal birth control usage
Do you use hormonal birth control usage to “regulate” your periods? Manage acne? Or prevent pregnancy?
While hormonal birth control does indeed help with all these things, their usage is also associated with a slew of adverse health effects, including a possible increased risk of some types of cancer, blood clots, depression, and hair loss. That said, birth control pills lower your risk of ovarian and uterine cancer
Thankfully, there are better alternatives out there.
For instance, supplementation with zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D could help regulate your periods and control acne. And if you don't want to get pregnant? Beyond hormonal contraceptives, there are also condoms, diaphragms, IUD, and the fertility awareness method.
#2: Lead a healthy lifestyle
What does it mean to lead a “healthy lifestyle”? Well, there are three main pillars:
- Movement: Leading a physically active lifestyle can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, potentially regulating your menstrual periods. Better still, the exercise-induced endorphin release and increased oxygenation to the uterus will also help with relieving any discomfort you may experience in the menstruation phase. By the way, yoga is excellent for relieving menstrual discomfort.
- Nutrition: Eating a healthy, balanced diet encompassing all major food groups ensures that you’re getting all the nutrients (e.g., zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D) your body needs for optimal functioning—which is likely to support normal periods. If need be, consult a professional dietitian for help.
- Stress levels: Research consistently shows an association between high-stress levels, painful menstruation, anovulation, and longer cycles (hallmarks of an abnormal period). One of the keys to regulating your cycles would thus lie in stress management. Leverage relaxation techniques like meditation, breath focus, and guided imagery to reduce stress levels. Other options also include adaptogens (e.g., ashwagandha) and, of course, trusty cannabidiol (CBD).
Work with your cycle, not against it
For too long, we’ve been told to see hormonal changes in our cycle as a "Very Bad Thing", and that powerful synthetic hormones are the answer to balancing them out. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
Instead of suppressing them, you should learn how to embrace the cyclical hormonal changes—so you take advantage of what they offer you.
For instance, you may wish to get all your work done during your follicular and ovulation phases, then gradually wind down during the luteal and menstruation phase.
Work with your cycle, not against it, and you (and your body) will thank you for it.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.
Medically Reviewed by:
Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center After clinical practice, she founded a medical device company where she invented six patented medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening conditions.