Written by Michele Drake (FAE)
You may have already learned that measuring your sleeping temperature every day can tell you a lot about your hormone levels. But did you know you can also learn a lot about your hormone levels by paying attention to your period?
What is my period trying to tell me?
The short version: the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is built by high levels of estrogen during the follicular phase (the part of your cycle before ovulation). So the amount and quality of your bleeding is directly related to your estrogen level:
- Light bleeds mean light estrogen,
- heavy bleeds mean heavy estrogen.
Here’s what I look at when I do a chart assessment:
1. How long is the period?
A normal, healthy menstruation should be between 2 and 7 days, with at least one of those days being a medium to heavy bleed.
2. What is enough? Too much?
It can be hard to determine how much bleeding someone is having because “heavy” can mean different things to different people.
In the FAM community, a heavy day is understood as needing 5 or more tampons or pads (or more than 30 ml); a medium day means using 3-5 tampons or pads (or 10-25 ml), and a light day means using 1-3 tampons or pads (or under 10ml).
Your bleeding is considered spotting if you see red/ brown when you wipe, or need to use a panty liner.
3. Are you having spotting? When? For how long?
Spotting happens when a small amount of blood is slowly leaving the uterus. Whether it is healthy or not depends on when it is occurring, for how long, and what color.
It’s perfectly normal to have red, rust, or brown spotting for a day or two at the end of your period. It’s also normal for someone to have a day of spotting before their period.
A small percentage of people (estimated 30% have spotting at ovulation. Spotting which is brown or black usually indicates old blood. And spotting between ovulation and your period could mean low progesterone.
4. What color is the bleeding?
- Typical, healthy blood is a cranberry or crimson color.
- Blood that is pink or orange can indicate low estrogen.
- Brown or black blood happens when bleeding is slow. Sometimes the uterus isn’t able to completely empty due to pelvic floor muscles, uterine position, or an obstruction like fibroids.
5. What about clots?
Clots happen because of stagnation. The blood coagulates because it isn’t immediately leaving the body. Often, clots go alongside other conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, estrogen dominance, and fibroids.
It’s generally agreed that if passing the clots is not painful, and if you are not anemic, clots are not dangerous.
When should I seek further advice?
If you have any of the following, you should consult with a healthcare professional or fertility awareness instructor:
- Periods shorter than 2 days or longer than 9 days
- Spotting past day 7
- Black or purple bleeding
- Larger, numerous clots
- A flow that stops for a day or more and then starts again
See a doctor immediately if:
- You have grey, bright yellow, or bright orange discharge
- You have foul, fishy, or yeasty smelling discharge
- You have severe pelvic pain (to the point of fainting)
- You are extremely lightheaded or dizzy
- You have clots that are large and continuously flowing for over an hour
- You are saturating one or more pads per hour for more than 2 consecutive hours
These clues can be really helpful in understanding your hormone levels and overall health. They become even more valuable when you use a Fertility Awareness Based Method -and include tracking BBT and cervical mucus.
Michele Drake is a Fertility Awareness Educator and advocate with a passion for supporting people with their birth control choices. After witnessing many friends struggle to find their ideal method for avoiding pregnancy, balance their hormones, or achieve pregnancy, she was inspired to empower people with knowledge about their own bodies so that they may make informed choices about their health.
Michele offers one-on-one classes for natural birth control, conception, menstrual wellness, and achieving hormonal balance. She is also donation-based distance birth control doula support. You can find her through her website or over on Instagram.