Every woman’s body is different, so it’s not always easy to know what’s considered “normal.”
Menstrual cycles are like that. Some women have short periods with little pain. Others suffer with painful periods that seem to go on and on. If you have long periods, you may be wondering what’s normal. How long is too long?
Cycles Can Vary
Every woman is different and menstruation is too. Some women have cycles that happen on a regular basis while others have unpredictable cycles. Your periods may vary from month to month, starting and stopping at different intervals.
That’s all normal.
Menstruation typically occurs every 21 to 35 days, with most women’s cycles occurring every 28 days. The average period is two to seven days in length. But there can be a broad range that classifies as “normal” for you.
It’s a good idea to track your menstrual cycles. That can help you understand your “normal,” and pick out changes like a missed period or long periods. Usually the occasional irregularity isn’t a cause of concern, but sometimes they can signal health problems. 1
When You Should Worry About Long Periods
Gynecologist Erin Higgins states that periods lasting for eight days or more should be investigated. 2
Here are some other warning signs to watch for: 3
- Heavy periods requiring multiple pad or tampon changes a day
- Infrequent periods, occurring less than every five weeks
- A change in cycle characteristics, such as a noticeable difference in frequency, heaviness or spotting between periods.
Long periods can be a sign of an underlying health condition. It could also lead to iron deficiency anemia if you regularly experience long and/or heavy menstrual periods. 4
Why You May Have Long Periods
Irregular periods can be more common during puberty and just before menopause. Changing your method of contraception can also change your normal menstrual cycle. 5 Certain types of contraception can alter your cycle too, like some birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs). 1
Long periods can be the result of a variety of factors such as health conditions, your age and your lifestyle. There are some underlying health conditions that can create longer than usual periods, including uterine fibroids, polyps, adenomyosis, or more rarely, a precancerous or cancerous lesion of the uterus. A long period can also result from hormonal imbalances or a bleeding disorder. 3
Hormonal imbalance can arise from different health conditions, such as thyroid disorders or polycystic ovary syndrome, a common condition related to the hormone levels of women of childbearing age. 4
What Can You Do About Long Periods
If you’ve been tracking your menstrual cycle and you consistently have periods that last longer than eight days, you should see a doctor.
You could find relief from long periods. For instance, if you have a specific condition like fibroids, treating that condition may be the first step to helping with long periods. Other treatments like hormonal contraceptives (the pill, the patch or a hormonal IUD) sometimes help regulate abnormal cycles. 3
When you get close to menopause, your cycle might become irregular, and your periods may get longer, but you should still discuss irregular bleeding with your doctor. 1 Post menopausal bleeding is also a concern that should be raised with a health care provider.
Find a Doctor
If you have any questions or concerns about your menstrual cycle, including long periods, you should make an appointment to talk to your doctor. If you don’t have a doctor you see on a regular basis, use our Physician Finder to find a women’s health and pelvic floor specialist in your area. Then you can seek diagnosis, treatment, advice and support.