November 2020

‘Are My Menstrual Cycles Normal?’

Menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman. What’s a normal cycle? And what’s something you should get checked out? Here’s how to tell the difference.

What’s normal, what’s not

You count the length of your menstrual cycle from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. A typical cycle lasts 28 days. But for most adult women, anywhere between 24 and 38 days is considered “normal.".

When your cycle falls outside these bounds, it’s considered irregular. Watch for these symptoms:

  • Cycles that last for less than 24 days or more than 38 days

  • Cycles that suddenly start to vary widely from month to month

  • Periods that last for less than 2 days or more than 8 days

  • Skipped periods when you aren’t pregnant

  • Excessively heavy flow during your periods

  • Bleeding between periods, called “spotting”

If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider. The rise and fall of your hormones control your menstrual cycles. Having irregular cycles might signal a condition affecting your hormone levels. Or it might be a sign of a problem with your reproductive organs.

Causes of irregular cycles

Young teens and women nearing menopause often have longer periods or unpredictable cycles. Beyond that, several health issues can throw your cycles out of whack. They include:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormonal imbalance in women)

  • Hyperprolactinemia (an abnormally high level of the hormone prolactin)

  • Eating disorders

  • Thyroid problems

  • Uncontrolled diabetes

Having irregular periods is more than just a nuisance. If the underlying issue isn’t treated, it may lead to other health problems over time. You may also find it harder to get pregnant, if you’re trying to conceive.

So, let your provider know if your menstrual cycles seem to be off. Depending on the source of the problem, treatment options may include hormonal birth control, other medicines, and surgery.

Track your cycle

Download a free app that helps you track your menstrual cycle. In your device’s app store, search for “period tracker.” Some apps include features to log PMS symptoms, energy levels, and more.




Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Gonnella, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2020
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.