By Agalby Morel
During your lifetime, your menstrual cycle and periods change and evolve due to normal age-related hormonal changes and other factors such as stress, lifestyle, pregnancy, medications and certain medical conditions.
Here's a guide on what to expect decade by decade:
The average age at which a menstruator starts their period is 12, but some get theirs earlier, and some may not get theirs until their mid-teens. It’s normal for a menstruators to have irregular periods during puberty, and it can take up to 3 years for your period to become regular as your hormones balance out.
This is the time when your period will likely become more consistent as you begin to ovulate regularly. This is also the time that many menstruators are taking contraceptives (i.e. birth control), which can change your period by making them shorter, lighter, and with less bleeding or cramping.
Menstruation should be very consistent in this decade. Symptoms such as a heavier flow or unusual intense cramps may be a sign of a bigger issue. Benign growths called fibroids, are often diagnosed in menstruators in their 30s and 40s. And is often diagnosed in your 30s (even through you may have been dealing with the symptoms for years prior).
Your cycle can change if you have a baby. Your period usually won’t return until at least 6 weeks after delivery, and if you’re breastfeeding, it may not return until you stop, even if you breastfeed for a year or more.
The 40s often mark the beginning of perimenopausal hormonal fluctuations, which are precursors to menopause. During this time, generally eight to 10 years leading up to menopause (which typically happens in your 50s), your body prepares for the menstruation finish line.
The most common symptom of perimenopause is experiencing changes in your period such as longer, shorter, heavier periods, or even skipping periods. Other symptoms could include hot flashes, vaginal dryers, and emotional changes.
Most menstruators will experience menopause in their 50s. Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It's diagnosed after you've gone 12 months without a period. The average age of menopause is 51 and ranges between ages 45-55. A great indicator of when you may begin menopause is looking back at when your mother did.
Your period is a good indicator of what’s going on with your body and your overall health. Although your menstrual cycle can change over time, pay attention to what’s normal for you, and if you notice any irregularities or unusual symptoms, let your doctor know.