For all the women out there: Do you know what an ideal period is? This includes, how long a bleed should last, how many days a cycle should last, and how heavy a flow is meant to be? Firstly, if you have concerns with your menstrual cycle it is important to consult your general practitioner.

Whenever I ask my female patients to describe their menstrual cycle and bleed, the most common response I receive is “I think it’s normal?”. Digging deeper, I find that usually their period is far different to what an idealperiod is, and that their perception of normal is what they have been accustomed to their whole life. According to the data I have collected from my patients over the years, this is what I found out what a “normal” menstrual cycle and bleed was:

Length of menstrual cycle: approximately 21–35+ days

Number of menstrual bleeding days: 2–7 days (Please note here: the first day of the period is indicated by fresh red blood before midday)

Menstrual colour: bright red, pinkish, dark red, black, dark brown, brownish

Menstrual flow: a combination of 4 pad/tampons per day OR 1 pad/tampon per hour OR 1 pad with tampon every 2 hours

Menstrual pain: lower back pain; lower abdominal pain/cramps (which may cause vomiting); lower abdominal pain that goes down to the upper thighs

Premenstrual tension: moodiness, low energy, constipation, irritability, cries easily, increased appetite, bloating, tender breasts (these lovely descriptors are sometimes generously provided by my patients’ husbands)

As you can see from the above responses, a ‘normal’ period can have a huge variety of responses. Now, the next question you may be asking is: Why does the menstrual cycle differ between woman to woman? The most typical answer that you may receive is that every person is different and unique. However, from my years of experience and training as an acupuncturist, there is always a reason. Four common reasons are:

  • Diet — eating at irregular intervals, overindulging in sweet foods, not having a balanced diet
  • Exercise — either too much or too little can stress the body
  • High stress levels — this is not necessarily referring to just work stress, but can also be emotional issues building up, having problems letting go, the pressure of having to always give your best at every activity; constant worrying
  • Sleep — this can include having trouble falling asleep, and/or waking up frequently throughout the night

An example of how these four factors can be illustrated: A person who has too much processed food or sugar can lead to a higher predisposition of having more painful period pain; holding onto extreme amounts of stress can cause the cycle to become spontaneously shorter or longer and exercising too much can cause lighter periods.

In addition, there may be other underlying pathological reasons as to why periods vary, for example: endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, polycystic ovaries, uterine polyps/fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease.These conditions may affect the timing, length and heaviness of your period.

So, back to the question of “what is an ideal period?” According to Chinese Medicine texts, this what the ideal period consists of:

Length of menstrual cycle: 28±2 days

Number of menstrual bleeding days: 5 (first 2–3 days is heaviest, followed by a lighter flow)

Menstrual colour: dark to bright fresh red in the first 2–3 days (it should look the colour of when you get a paper cut), and then darker red in the last 2–3 days

Menstrual flow: 4 pads or tampons per day

Menstrual pain: slight lower abdominal cramps

Premenstrual tension: minimal

In Chinese Medicine, the menstrual cycle is reflective of how healthy the body is. This means that the more the cycle deviates from the ideal period, the less healthy the person is. The menstrual cycle is a great reminder for us females to be constantly aware of what state our body is in, and the cycle is one of the most reliable diagnostic tools that I frequently use in my consultation rooms. I personally use it as an indicator of how well my body is, and I encourage all of my female patients to do the same (regardless of whether they are trying to fall pregnant or not). There are several methods of which you can track your cycle, including marking important days of your period (e.g. day 1) in your phone calendar, or simply using a period tracking app on your phone.

The most rewarding part of this whole treatment process is helping patients achieve the ideal period, whether the goal is to be less bloated so they can fit in their little black dresses, or be in less pain so they can enjoy quality time with their loved ones.

I would now like to end this article with another question for you: Is your period the ideal period?

Jeannie Kim is a registered acupuncturist based in Sydney, and has strong interest in fertility acupuncture. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact Jeannie via email: jeanniekim40@gmail.com or book an appointment with her at Back OnYour Feet . Click here to make an appointment