On average, menstrual cycle bleeding lasts for 4-5 days and, usually, the amount of blood lost while on your period is small. According to the NHS, the average person loses between 30 to 40ml of blood in total. This equates to about 2-3 teaspoons (or a double espresso cup for coffee drinkers) throughout your whole period.
How long your period lasts and how light or heavy it is will depend on your body’s fluctuating hormones, and your body making different amounts of hormones from one menstrual cycle to the next. Remember, every body is different.
However, there are some people who experience heavier periods and longer periods for various reasons, reasons which our experts at WUKA will explore in this blog post – so keep reading!
How Much Blood Do You Lose On Your Period Per Day?
Measuring how much blood you lose on your period per day can be difficult. Remember, you’re not just losing blood during your period. In some cases, other bodily fluids, like mucus, endometrial tissue and vaginal secretions, can make up nearly 64% of your flow.
Typically, you can estimate the amount of period blood lost based on how saturated your period products become. This can be easy to do with menstrual cups, which collect blood rather than absorb it, and less easy with absorbent pads, tampons and period pants.
For example, a fully soaked normal size pad or tampon holds 5ml (a teaspoon) of liquid. If reusable pads are more your thing, WUKA Reusable Period Pads are perfect for medium flows, ideal for periods that are less than 20ml a day, or would only use a regular pad or tampon. Before first use, we recommend giving your pad a good soak for extra absorbency!
Tracking how often you have to change your product and how full it is when you’re changing it for your next 3 or 4 periods will give you enough of an idea to calculate an estimate. Passing small period blood clots is considered normal. We recommend keeping track of any clots larger than 1 inch, sometimes an indication of excessive menstrual bleeding. Tracking can also useful if you choose to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider as they may ask you about trends and changes in your periods before further investigation.
How Much Blood Do You Lose On Your First Period?
There’s no way to know exactly when you will get your first period, but there are some signs to look out for when going through puberty. You will typically notice a reddish-brown stain on your underwear or on your bed sheets. Underwear stains can be a pain, so we’ve shared great tips for how to get period blood out of your underwear.
It’s completely normal for first period blood to be brown and to last for only 2-3 days. Most first periods won’t start with a gush and will have a very light flow. Some girls have heavy periods from the start.
We asked Cath Hakanson, founder of Sex Ed Rescue, whether heavy periods are common in teens:
‘Heavy periods can sometimes mean that there is a problem. This can be indicative by having to change your period product every few hours. It’s recommended that your teens see a healthcare provider for a check-up, in case of endometriosis and PCOS. So many girls are told that their painful periods or heavy periods are normal but then, as adults, they’ve ended up having investigations and it wasn’t. I think we do have to listen to our daughters or our kids with uteruses when they do say they are getting heavy periods, and also find out what they mean by “heavy” as well.’
What is Considered a Heavy Period?
Research shows that about 9 to 14 out of 100 women have heavy periods. Healthcare professionals consider someone to have heavy periods if they regularly lose more than 80 millilitres of blood during a period. In practical terms, a clear sign of a heavy period is if you need to regularly change your menstrual products after 1 or 2 hours. Heavy periods can be caused by hormone (oestrogen and progesterone) imbalances or problems with the uterus.
On the other end of the menstrual spectrum are very light periods. ‘What does a very light period mean?’, we hear you ask. The simple answer: losing less than 30-35ml of blood. WUKA Period Health Expert Dr. Nitu Bajekal comments: ‘Light periods as a rule are not a concern if periods come at regular intervals (24-35 days)’.
Stress, be it physical or emotional, can cause changes in one’s menstrual cycle, ranging from light and irregular periods to heavy menstrual bleeding.
What is Menorrhagia?
The medical term for unusually long and heavy periods is menorrhagia. This is a fancy way of saying heavy periods. Menorrhagia generally isn't life-threatening, but it can be if you lose too much blood. Read on for more signs to look out for during your period.
What is a Long Period?
The duration of periods varies from person to person. Typically, menstruation lasts from 4-5 days and sometimes up to 7 days. A period that lasts longer than 7 days is usually considered a long period.
How Long is Too Long?
Your doctor may refer to a long period lasting longer than a week as menorrhagia. Though it’s rare, long periods can be a sign of an underlying illness like uterine fibroids.
Signs You're Losing Too Much Blood During Period
As we’ve mentioned, menstrual bleeding for the average person lasts between 4 to 5 days and the amount of blood lost is minor. Some people have menorrhagia where they will bleed for more than 7 days and lose twice as much blood as the average person. If the loss of blood causes you to feel weak or tired, you may be experiencing menorrhagia and need to speak with your healthcare provider. Another sign of a heavy period is several large clumps of blood in menstrual blood, or blood clots. Blood loss from excessive (heavy) menstrual bleeding is also the main cause of iron deficiency anaemia in women.
You could be experiencing heavy periods if you can answer yes to any of the following questions from the NHS:
- Do you have to wear tampons or cups and pads together to prevent leaking through clothing?
- Do you have to change period products more than once every 2 hours?
- Do you often bleed through to your clothes or bedding during your period?
- Do you often have to get up in the night to change your tampon or pad, or empty your menstrual cup?
- Do you have to take time off work or cancel social plans due to heavy bleeding?
Medical treatment from your healthcare provider can help if heavy periods start affecting your daily routine and disrupting everyday activities.
Bleeding after pregnancy is often referred to as postpartum bleeding. Lochia, the term for the blood, mucus and tissue passed after giving birth, starts after delivery and can generally last up to 10 days, sometimes up to 6 weeks. The amount of blood lost after having a baby varies from mother to mother, and is likely to be different from any menstrual period they have experienced before.
Some mothers may find that their first period after giving birth is a bit heavier than before birth. This is because not all of the blood sheds with postpartum bleeding, so the uterus lining may still be thickened. If you’re worried about discomfort or heavy periods after pregnancy, call your healthcare provider.
Overall, it is important that you seek advice from your healthcare provider if you experience a significant change in your period flow.