Hi, I'm Dr. Samantha Wild. I'm a GP of over 20 years and I'm the Women's Health clinical Lead for Bupa Clinics. I'm passionate about shifting the stigma surrounding many female health related topics and empowering women to see correct information and get the support that they require.
What age do most people start their periods?
The average age for periods to start is age 12. But most people start their periods between the age of ten and 15. Everybody's different. Some will start earlier. Some start later.
Why do some people start their period later than others?
Most people start their periods between the age of ten and 15, but for some, puberty may start a little earlier or a little later. Periods usually start around two years after puberty has started.
This can be determined by genetic and environmental factors. For example, black girls are more likely to start their periods earlier than white girls.
Your periods may start later, If you you're under weight loss of exercise, suffer with particular illnesses or you take certain medications.
It is also possible for a girl to get pregnant before her period has first started. However, if you haven't started a period by the age of 16, or if there are no known signs of puberty by the age of 14, we do recommend that you see a GP.
How many periods does an average woman have in her lifetime?
The average number of periods that a woman has throughout her lifetime is said to be 450. But it is obviously also determined by a number of factors.
It will be affected by when she first started her periods. How long a cycle her cycle is. Most women will have between nine and 12 periods a year. When she meets the menopause, how many pregnancies she's had and whether she's breastfed her children.
It will also depend on whether she suffered with certain illnesses and what medication she has taken.
What can disrupt periods over a woman's lifetime?
There are lots of things that can disrupt a woman's menstrual cycle, and these can be divided into lifestyle factors and medical factors.
Lifestyle factors include stress, gaining or losing significant amounts of weight, or extreme exercise. Women that have a lower body fat may find that their periods stop.
Certain health conditions are associated with missing periods. Pregnancy, different hormonal contraception can disrupt the cycle, and it can take a while for the cycle to return after the hormonal contraception is stopped. And breastfeeding will also stop the cycle.
Viruses and other illnesses, such as thyroid disease, can also affect the regularity of the cycle, as can different medications.
Viruses in other illnesses, such as thyroid disease, can also affect the way that the body functions. And different medications such as antipsychotics, steroids and anticoagulants can also affect the period too.
Some women may also experience changes to their periods in the perimenopause. The lead up to the menopause, where their periods may stop, get more frequent, get heavier or get lighter.
Different gynaecological conditions may also affect the menstrual cycle. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Endometriosis, Gynaecological cancers and pelvic inflammatory disease may all affect the periods, but the treatment of them may also affect the cycle too.
When do periods go back to normal after pregnancy?
So women may start having periods as early as 4 to 6 weeks after delivery. We advise a contraception is used from three weeks after delivery as ovulation may occur then.
Some women may find that it takes longer for their periods to return though, particularly if they are fully breastfeeding or if they have commenced contraception at the time of delivery.
Why do periods change with the perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the lead up to the menopause when hormones start to fluctuate before they decline for good. this can cause a wide range of physical and mental symptoms.
The changes in hormones can lead to longer cycles because a woman is not ovulating each month, but can also lead to shorter cycles with more frequent periods and could cause heavier or lighter bleeding.
Although changes in the frequency and duration of periods and the amount of blood loss can be normal throughout the perimenopause. There can be times when other medical conditions should be suspected.
If a woman has a significant amount of bleeding, or bleeding in between her periods or after intercourse, or is experiencing a lot of pain, we do recommend that she consult with a doctor.
When does the average woman enter the menopause?
The average age of the menopause in the UK is age 51. The majority of women will go through the menopause between the ages of 45 and 65.
One in 20 will go through the menopause between the age of 40 and 45, one in 100, under the ages of 40 and and one in 1000, under the ages of 30.
If you go through the menopause under the age of 40, this is said to be premature menopause. You've said to have reached the menopause when you haven't had a period for a year.
Often when people talk about going through the menopause, they're actually talking about the time of the perimenopause. This is a time when your hormones start to fluctuate, but before they decline for good and before your periods stop completely. At this time, though, you may suffer with other physical and mental symptoms. Your periods may become lighter or heavier and may become further apart or more frequent. This period in your life may last for on average four years, but for some it can be a decade or more.