Aunt Vadge: why did I bleed a few days before my period was due?

Hi there Aunt Vadge, 

Let me first to say, that I have been following your site for a very long time. And the amount of help it has provided in means of learning about my female anatomy has been phenomenal. But I’ve been having some trouble lately. And I wanted to get a second opinion on this matter before I get myself all worked up about it. My question is: is it normal to bleed a day or two before your initial period day? 

I am 20 years old and let me first admit I am really sheltered when it comes to things concerning certain things with the female anatomy. Which I am slowly re-learning. So recently I was sexual active with my current boyfriend this Friday. And I was up for it.

But shortly after I started to have my doubts considering we never use a condom. I was trying to hold off using one, considering I will be getting on birth control soon, provided that everyone around me said that it would be smart for me to do. In which I agree.

We initiated sex twice on Friday. I only panicked afterwards because I was cramping early that day and all day yesterday as if I were going to start my time of the month. The next day (Saturday) I was still cramping. I noticed I was extremely bloated and that my right breast nipple was tender.

I had did some research and of course Google search sent me into full panicked mode. (Which is why I have banned my Google symptom search privileges.) I’ve been cramping as usual. One of my breast are always tender during my time of month. My bloating has been consistent. No nausea. No headache. Everything has been fine and normal. My blood is even a medium tone red with little clots. Which usually happens when I’m at the end of my period.

I started to question if my body was experiencing a “false period.” Which I’ve had one or two in the past around the age of 13 due to stress, chemotherapy and the medications I’m on. I haven’t had chemotherapy in a long time. And the only medication I’ve been taking is painkillers/menstrual pills for pain.

The only thing I truly need is confirmation. Is it normal to bleed before your initial me natural start day of your period? I started bleeding today. And my period calendar says I start on Tuesday. Did my cycle change? Should I be worried or concerned? Or should I relax?

Yours,
Bloody

Dear Bloody,

Thanks for your email – it made me smile. You have a lovely way with words.

The verdict? Relax! Your cycle changes all the time, so don’t worry if it is days early or late sometimes. It’s great that you keep track.

It works like this:

Day 1 of period --> Ovulation Day = variable length
Ovulation Day --> Day 1 of next Period = fixed length (between 12 and 16 days)

Day 1 of your cycle is always the first day of your period. This is how the world has decided to count it so we are all on the same page.

Every cycle, however, will be a slightly different length for most women, so for example mine range from 25 days to 33 days. It is more normal for it to be between 25 and 30 days (for me). This is why the ‘average’ cycle is 28 days – if you add up all the experiences of women, it is almost always between 25 days and 35 days per cycle, averaged out to 28 days. This means that most women actually do not have 28 day cycles! It’s a maths equation.

Ovulation day is always between 12 and 16 days BEFORE Day 1 of your period, and each woman will have a set of days that is always the same for her. It could be 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 days, for you. This means that the number of days between Day 1 of your period and when you ovulate can – and do – change, presenting some variations in your cycle length. This is completely normal. Your cycle is just being itself, and you have no need to worry. You do not have a ‘fixed’ day of your period every month, so if everything appears like a normal period, then it is. ‘Normal’ can also vary considerably, particularly with your complicated health history.

When to worry is if your cycle is consistently (for three or more consecutive cycles) less than 25 days (or absent) or more than 35 days, since this indicates an abnormal hormone cycle which needs attention. Anything within that is considered completely normal and healthy, including skipping the odd period, particularly if you are stressed.

Our cycles are not quite as complex as our lack of education on the topic would lead us to believe. There are a restricted number of hormones that all do a specific thing in causing – or blocking – our fertility and menstrual cycle. It’s a really interesting topic, so do a bit of research and understand what goes on. Don’t let the complicated names stop you! It is a major part of our reproductive system, and women know far too little about their own bodies. The highlight of your cycle is actually ovulation, when you can get pregnant, not the messy bleeding that we focus on.

If you are confused by what I’ve written, please write back – it’s important that you understand these concepts. They are real life! And understanding them can stop a lot of worry.

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.
Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

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