The female cycle has been such a taboo subject for past generations that it is no wonder women today are still unsure of what a “normal” cycle means. In today’s blog I wanted to set the stage for the understanding of what is “normal” and help women gain an appreciation of how their cycles serve as an important marker of health.
So, what is considered a “normal” cycle length? Most mainstream sources of education talk about the proverbial 28-days, with ovulation marked as day 14. However, a healthy menstrual cycle can range anywhere from 21- 40 days. Additionally, within these parameters it is important to note that further fluctuations are normal. That means that from month to month, in a healthy woman’s cycle, it is normal for there to be variations, ranging from anywhere between +/- 2 to 4 days. Interestingly, the average cycle length may also change with age, ranging from an average of 29.8 days in ones 20’s and decreasing to approximately 27 days in ones 40’s.
There are also variations to cycle lengths based on a woman’s life changes. For example, within the first year of menarche, when it takes a solid year or so for a young girl’s cycle to normalize. Also, during events such as after childbirth and while breastfeeding, and during the perimenopausal and menopausal phases of life. We also can experience variations within our cycles due to every day stress (workplace stress, social stress, physical stress) exercise and diet.
The prevalent use of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) may also leave women confused about what is “normal”. The way OCP’s work are by either preventing women from ovulating each month or by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. Either way OCP’s are often the culprit in creating this false sense of “normalcy”. False because without your body’s natural hormones dictating your cycle and ovulation, the body is essentially not cycling at all, and false bleeding comes at very specific times of the month.
As you come away with this new information, I invite those of you not on any hormonal birth control to take ownership of your cycle. Learn the nuances of your very own monthly flow and honor what is normal to you.
Stay tuned as we continue the discussion on our monthly moon cycle and explore other topics to help empower us in understanding and using our cycle to our advantage!
There is one caveat to the information just provided, it only applies to women that are cycling naturally, meaning not on hormonal birth control, and who do not have any health issues that may affect their cycles such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to name just a few.