[FAQs] – Menstrual Cycle Frequently Asked Questions

How long should my menstrual cycle be?

‘Textbook’ menstrual cycle is 28 days, it is normal for this to be anywhere between 21 and 35 days, however, you are aiming for this to be consistent each cycle not varying by more than 5 days. 

How long should my period last?

3-7 days is average.

How much blood do I lose during my period?

3-5 tablespoons. Those experiencing heavy bleeding may be up to 10 tablespoons each period.

What age should I start my period?

The first time you have your period is called menarche, this occurs anywhere between ages 9-15yrs. If you haven’t started your period by the age of 16, it is best to speak to a doctor just to check there are no underlying reasons.  

Can I track my menstrual cycle if I take hormonal contraceptives?

If you use a combined hormonal contraceptive and have pill-free days every 21days you can track your symptoms to know if these are being caused by the withdrawal of synthetic hormones. Other hormonal contraceptives result in infrequent or no bleeds (these are called withdraw bleeds) and fluctuations in hormones are not experienced making it hard to track symptoms see our hormonal contraceptives resource for more info.

Can what I eat affect my menstrual-related symptoms

YES, see our nutrition resource for more info.

Can I swim whilst on my period?

YES, if you don’t like using a tampon or menstrual cup have a look at period swimwear available now.

Should I see a doctor if I have missed my period for more than 3 months?

Yes, having a period is like an extra vital sign. It helps let you know your body is functioning well with no underlying condition. It can also help women exercising and competing in sport to know they are eating enough for a good energy balance – if there is no enough energy periods are likely to stop. This may sound convenient but it will also mean you do not achieve your best sporting performance. Speak to you GP – this website has some useful info to help with that conversation

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Dr Natalie Brown

Dr Natalie Brown

Hey! I am Natalie, a research associate exploring all things menstrual cycle and sport related, whether that is Olympic performance or factors affecting participation in physical activity. When I am not talking about the menstrual cycle, I love climbing and being active outside. I have a background in physiology and research related to hormonal responses in athletes (male and female), combined with my own personal experience in sport, I am passionate to share information on the menstrual cycle with you.

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