Lots of things have changed since I first got my period — music I was listening to (The OC Soundtrack, Volume 3); guys I was crushing on (Seth Cohen); and issues that concerned me (were Seth and Summer ever going to get back together??! Was Trey going to come out of a coma after being shot by Marissa??) And yes, I hear you— clearly 2005 Mia could have done with some 2017 Teen Vogue in her life. But not only do our interests change as we grow older, so do our periods.
So, being the #PeriodPros that we are, we’re going to break down what happens to your period and reproductive system in your teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond!
While in your teens, your period might take a couple of months (or even years) to get into a regular rhythm, but by your twenties it should shake itself out (for you, errybody is different but the average is a 25-30 day cycle)… or, not (periods can be funny that way).
Just like the way you’re sprinting between jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends, coffee shops, apartments, and haircuts, your period might not as be reliable as you’d like. Why? Well, due to aforementioned lovers, you might be taking hormonal birth-control, which can definitely have an affect on when you get your period, and how heavy/light it is, and the overall symptoms (check out our previous blogs on the pill and the IUD here). And due to aforementioned caffeine, sprinting, and trying to do 1,000 things at once, stress might make your hormones (and periods) go a little wacky, too.
If you find that your period starts becoming really irregular (or stops altogether), it’s definitely worth checking in with your healthcare provider to see whether there is something else going on (like PCOS).
If your cramps are preventing you from doing everyday things, it’s time to check in with your ob-gyn, and if your current one isn’t listening to you, ask your friends/cousins/sisters-in-law, etc for their recs. Oh, and don’t forget to check out our article on premenstrual dysmorphic disorder here.
While, functionally, things might still look and feel the same, in your thirties, your ovaries start to slow down a little bit. As you begin to hit your mid-thirties, you have fewer functional eggs, and therefore less estrogen — hormonal changes that can mess with your PMS symptoms!
Also, as your 30s are often the time you’re looking to skip a period for...mmm… 9 months (aka have a baby), your period can often be affected by the hormonal changes associated with going off birth control, getting pregnant, and creating a life.
While you are breastfeeding, your periods generally stop for a while, (but not always, and this depends on a bunch of different factors, *and* you can still get pregnant, so use birth control!!) — if you decide not to breastfeed, or once you stop, your periods should come back in about 4-8 weeks. For some women they will be same as they were before, but for some others, they will be different (are you sensing a trend here? There’s basically no one-size-fits-all with menstruation!)
Your post-baby period could be longer, shorter, heavier, lighter — you could even find your cramping and PMS symptoms are different. This is because the endometrial lining, which is shed during a period, has to do a lot of home renovations after childbirth, so the experience just might feel different, especially if you had been on hormonal birth control before getting pregnant (because that also can thin the endo lining).
Remember, if you are experiencing super heavy bleeding, clotting, or cramping, check in with your doctor to make sure nothing else is going on!
Your late 30s can also bring shorter cycles, but longer gaps than that can indicate that you might be having perimenopause symptoms….
Forties, fifties, and beyond!
We’ve spoken about perimenopause on the blog before, but to recap, it includes a whole bunch of menopausal symptoms (irregular periods/missed periods/hot flashes/ moodiness/vaginal dryness) — before you actually experience menopause, (aka the grand finale, the end of your period!!!). It can affect women as early as their 30s, but most women begin going through it in their 40s. Check out the blog for more info on perimenopause, and some lifestyle changes you can make to ease symptoms.
As your eggs crank down, your period will go out kinda the way it came in — in spurts and sputters. Some months it might miss the memo and no ovulation occurs, some months you might get your period like clockwork — your brain can get caught up in this ovulatory confusion and get flooded with FSH and LH (go here for a hormone 101 recap) causing your periods, when they do turn up, to be realllll heavy.
Not only are your periods irregular and heavy, you’re also hit with other menopausal symptoms — plus, you won’t *officially* know you’ve hit menopause until after a year until it happens! Those pesky irregular periods could still be hanging around for up to 6-12 months.
(Did you know, periods are not the only leaky liquid we deal with at THINX HQ? Our sister brand Icon makes pee-proof undies too!)
Basically, your menstrual journey is like a bloody snowflake. Everyone’s is different!
So tell us, what changes have you noticed in your period and PMS symptoms as you’ve gotten older?