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Hormones cheat sheet: your menstrual cycle

Your menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle refers to the time between the first day of a woman's period to the day before her next period, averaging at 4 weeks.
The menstrual cycle refers to the time between the first day of a woman's period to the day before her next period, averaging at four weeks.

Many girls starting their periods may feel worried and uncertain. At H&B, we feel it’s important for everyone to be equipped with the necessary information to best support those who might need it, whether that be your loved ones, friends, or yourself.

We want to support girls, women and non-binary people everywhere to own every day of the month!

How long is a cycle?

As we're all different, the length of a menstrual cycle will vary between everyone, though the average is having a period around every 28 days.1

How long does the bleeding last?

Bleeding will usually last for about five days on average, but it can also last between two to seven days.2

How much blood do you lose?

During each period you'll lose around 20 to 90ml (about one to five tablespoons) of blood, although some women bleed more heavily than this.3 The bleeding is usually at its heaviest in the first two days.

If you're worried about the amount of blood you're losing, you should arrange an appointment with your GP as soon as you can.

What colour is period blood?

Period blood will be red when it’s at its heaviest. It may be a pink or brown colour on lighter days.5

How many years of life do women spend having periods?

Your periods will start when your body is ready. Though, usually girls will get their first period around 12 years old, but it varies from person to person.6

The menopause generally happens between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age that periods stop in the UK being 51.7 On average, combined, a woman menstruates for about seven years during their lifetime.8

How many women feel periods are embarrassing or taboo?

A study including 1,500 women found that 58% of women have felt a sense of embarrassment simply because they were on their period. And 42% of women have experienced period-shaming.9

In another survey, 1,000 girls aged 14-21 in the UK were asked about their experiences of menstruation, nearly half (48%) were embarrassed by their periods. One in seven (14%) girls admitted that they didn’t know what was happening when they started their period, and more than a quarter (26%) reported that they didn’t know what to do when they started their period.10

Of those surveyed:11
  • only one in five (22%) girls feel comfortable discussing their period with their teacher
  • less than a quarter (24%) of girls feel comfortable discussing their period with their male friends
  • under a third (29%) of girls feel comfortable discussing their period with their fathers
  • four fifths (82%) of girls admitted they've hidden their sanitary products
  • almost three quarters (71%) of girls admitted that they've felt embarrassed buying sanitary products

But we know periods are nothing to feel embarrassed or shameful about, they're a natural part of life! That's why we've created this handy cheat sheet so you can feel equipped with information about what's happening to your body or happening to your loved ones body. Because the more we talk about periods, the better!

How many women get period pain?

Based on 408 young women, a study reported that 84.1% of women experienced menstrual pain. 43.1% reported the pain occurred during every period, while 41% reported that the pain occurred only during some periods.12

Severe pain during menstruation could be linked to other medical conditions, head over to our Period pain guide: Reasons & relief, for more information on this!

How many women get PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is generally described as a collection of emotional, physical, and behavioural symptoms that occur around the menstrual cycle..13,14

A study showed that 90% of women of reproductive age experience several premenstrual symptoms varying from mild to severe; with 2–8% suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD),15 a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).16


1. NHS. Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2023 Jan 5; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/fertility-in-the-menstrual-cycle/
2. NHS. Overview – periods [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2023 Jan 5; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/#:~:text=For%20most%20women%20this%20happens,in%20the%20first%202%20days
3. NHS. Overview – periods [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2023 Jan 5; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/
4. NHS. Starting your periods [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2023 Jan 5; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/starting-periods/
5. NHS. Overview – menopause [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 May 17; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
6. UNICEF. FAST FACTS: Nine things you didn't know about menstruation [Internet]. UNICEF [reviewed 2018 May 25; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/fast-facts-nine-things-you-didnt-know-about-menstruation#:~:text=Nine%20key%20facts%20on%20menstruation,support%20of%20family%20and%20friends.
7. Menstrual hygiene day. Nearly half of US women have experienced ‘period shaming’ [Internet]. Menstrual hygiene day [cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://menstrualhygieneday.org/nearly-half-us-women-experienced-period-shaming/#:~:text=Forty%2Dtwo%20percent%20of%20women,made%20by%20a%20male%20friend.&text=Video%20Player%20is%20loading.&text=This%20is%20a%20modal%20window.
8. Plan International UK. Almost half of girls aged 14-21 are embarrassed by their periods [Internet]. Plan International UK. [reviewed 2017 Oct 9; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://plan-uk.org/media-centre/almost-half-of-girls-aged-14-21-are-embarrassed-by-their-periods
9. Grandi G, Ferrari, Xholli, Cannoletta, Palma, Volpe, et al. Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea? Journal of Pain Research [Internet]. 2012 Jun;5:169. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3392715/
10. Ismaili E, Walsh S, O’Brien PMS, Bäckström T, Brown C, Dennerstein L, et al. Fourth consensus of the International Society for Premenstrual Disorders (ISPMD): auditable standards for diagnosis and management of premenstrual disorder. Archives of Women’s Mental Health. 2016 Jul 5;19(6):953–8. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27378473/
11. Chumpalova P, Iakimova R, Stoimenova-Popova M, Aptalidis D, Pandova M, Stoyanova M, et al. Prevalence and clinical picture of premenstrual syndrome in females from Bulgaria. Annals of General Psychiatry. 2020 Jan 15;19(1). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6964059/#:~:text=Altogether%20results%20show%2C%20that%20up,(PMDD)%20%5B10%5D
12. Matsumoto T, Asakura H, Hayashi T. Biopsychosocial aspects of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Gynecological Endocrinology. 2012 Jul 19;29(1):67–73. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22809066/
13. Mind. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) [Internet]. Mind. [reviewed 2021 Aug; cited 2024 Mar 21]. Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd/about-pmdd/

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