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Your period

A period is when you bleed from your vagina every month. Periods are part of your body’s menstrual cycle.

Learn more about your period, including what to expect during your period, conditions related to your period and when to see your doctor.

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When do periods start?

In Australia, the average age to have your first period is 12 to 13, but it can start as early as nine and as late as 16. See your doctor if your periods have not started by the age of 16 to 17.

Your final period is called 'menopause'. In Australia, the average age to reach menopause is 51 to 52, but it can happen as late as 60.

Your period may change at different life stages. For example, it may not be regular in the lead-up to menopause (perimenopause).

What to expect during your period

Your period might last from three to seven days. Most people lose less than 80 mL of blood in total during their period.

Bleeding can vary from a small amount to a heavy loss. Your period flow may be heavier for the first three days and lighter towards the end.

The colour of your period can change from dark brown to bright red.

Small blood clots are normal, but if you notice lots of clots or clots larger than a 50-cent coin, talk to your doctor.

You might experience ovulation pain in the middle of your cycle. You may also experience light bleeding (spotting) between periods. Spotting is when you notice a small amount of blood on your underwear or toilet paper, but it’s not enough to need a period product.

If pain or bleeding around the time of ovulation often lasts longer than three days, see your doctor.

Your period may have a distinct smell, but this is normal, so you don’t need to use douches or perfumed products, which can cause vulval irritation.

Period symptoms

Some people experience physical and emotional symptoms when they get their period. For example, cramping, bloating, tender breasts and mood changes.

It’s important to rest and take time for yourself, especially if your energy or mood is low. If period-related symptoms are causing you to miss school, work and other daily activities, see your doctor.

Symptoms can affect you at any age, but they are more common in teenage years and in the lead-up to menopause.

Symptoms experienced before your period are called ‘premenstrual syndrome’ or PMS.

What can affect your period?

Your period can be affected by many things, including your physical and emotional health and lifestyle.

Medicines and medical treatments

Medicines and medical treatments can affect your period. For example:

  • copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) can cause heavier bleeding, longer periods and more painful periods
  • blood-thinning medicines can cause abnormally heavy periods
  • some medicines, such as antipsychotics, can cause irregular periods
  • some cancer treatments can cause irregular or absent periods.

Some people with ADHD say their ADHD medicine doesn’t work as well when they have their period, but more research is needed in this area.


If you have a cold, flu or other illness, your period may come late, or you may skip a period.


Changing hormones, hormone conditions and hormone treatments can affect your period. For example:

  • changes in hormone levels at different life stages, such as after childbirth and the lead-up to menopause (perimenopause), can cause changes in your periods
  • thyroid problems can make your periods very light, heavy or irregular, or cause your periods to stop for several months
  • hormonal contraception (e.g. the Pill) can help regulate periods and reduce bleeding
  • gender-affirming hormone therapy may suppress or stop periods.

Other factors

Other factors can affect your period. For example:

  • high levels of stress or anxiety can contribute to PMS symptoms and irregular periods
  • regular physical activity can help reduce PMS symptoms and period pain
  • too much exercise can lead to absent periods (amenorrhoea)
  • eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa, can cause periods to stop
  • having a higher waist circumference is associated with irregular cycles, absent periods, heavy bleeding and higher rates of PMS and PMDD.

Sex during your period

You can have sex during your period, but it’s important to practise safer sex to stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

You should also use contraception if you don’t want to get pregnant.

When to see your doctor

There are many reasons you might need to see your doctor about your period. For example, if:

  • your period patterns change
  • you have increasingly heavier periods
  • you have long periods (more than eight days)
  • your periods come less than three weeks apart
  • your periods come more than two to three months apart.

Also see your doctor if:

  • you bleed between periods (especially after menopause)
  • you bleed after having sex
  • you have painful periods that affect your quality of life.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

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Last updated: 
05 June 2024
Last reviewed: 
25 March 2024

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