Menstrual cycle know-how: When is Day 1–at the first sign of your period (even if it’s just a few drops) or when it starts to flow?

/Menstrual cycle know-how: When is Day 1–at the first sign of your period (even if it’s just a few drops) or when it starts to flow?

Menstrual cycle know-how: When is Day 1–at the first sign of your period (even if it’s just a few drops) or when it starts to flow?

My Hormonology


The question, “When was the first day of your most recent period?” can crop up quite a few times in a woman’s life: At your gynecologist’s office, if you’re undergoing a medical test or procedure, when you’re family planning or when you’re getting ready to read your daily Hormone Horoscope on this website or in one of my Hormone Horoscope apps.

Pinpointing the first day of your period is key in these instances since it indicates that it’s your Day 1–which is the considered the official start of a new monthly menstrual cycle.

And while you’d think that it’s easy to figure out that day–after all, it’s the first day of your period–sometimes it can get a little tricky. That’s because menstrual bleeding isn’t always as obvious as you’d expect it to be. Sometimes it starts out with a steady flow that continues for several days. Other times, you get slight spotting–which is when you have just a few drops of blood–then nothing for an entire day or more.

When is Day 1 of your menstrual cycle?

So, does Day 1 of your monthly cycle begin–on the day you spot or the day you have a steady flow?

The answer depends on this:

If you have spotting one day, then a steady flow the next, the previous day was your Day 1. That’s because it means that estrogen dropped low enough to trigger the shedding of your uterine lining. It just took awhile for a heavier flow to begin.

However, if you have spotting one day, then nothing else for two or more days, it was likely breakthrough bleeding, which can occur in some women leading up to their period.

By the way, spotting can also happen around ovulation in the middle of your cycle as a result of the egg breaking away from the ovarian follicle, causing slight bleeding.

The takeaway

Once you start seeing red down below toward the end of your cycle, mark it on your calendar. If bleeding continues and gets heavier the next day, then that spotting day was Day 1 of your new menstrual cycle.

If you don’t see anything other bleeding for two or more days after spotting, then continue counting those days as a continuation of your current menstrual cycle.

By | 2017-05-26T07:23:03+00:00 February 9th, 2017|hormonology tip, menstruation, Week 1|38 Comments

About the Author:

Gabrielle Lichterman, founder of Hormonology® and a longtime women’s health journalist, pioneered the growing movement among women to live in sync with their menstrual cycles and know more about all the ways their hormones impact their moods, health and behavior. This movement was launched in 2005 with Gabrielle's groundbreaking book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals about Your Love Life, Moods and Potential, and her creation of Hormonology®. She offers a variety of tools--including her popular free Hormone Horoscope® app, eBooks, infographics, videos and tips--to share vital information about hormones.


  1. Robin May 23, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    I had my period this month, but the day before I had heavy flow I had brown spotting. Usually I have brown blood at the end, this was at the beginning. The next day I got my period, and it was bright red blood. I’m going to see my doctor since this has never happened beforehand re, but is it somewhat normal to spot brown the day before your period?

  2. Shalini May 22, 2018 at 1:07 am

    I experienced heavy bleeding on my day1 and 2 but last month my period had come early at 20 days and day 1 and 2 I had heavy bleeding but thn lightly and finished in 5 days. Normally my period goes 7days. My last period came on 21st April and yesterday I spotted but after that nothing and today also nothing… Only light spot and than no period. So m worried that is my period is going on or not?

  3. Gabrielle Lichterman May 12, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Any time there is a significant change in your menstrual bleeding pattern, it’s wise to talk with your gynecologist about it. Since you said this started six months ago and you’re concerned, it’s time to loop her or him in on this.

  4. Brooke May 12, 2018 at 3:55 am

    Hello! For the last 6 months I have been spotting before my first heavy flow day. But it’s brown spotting that you usually get at the end of your period. This last period I was expected to start on may 8th, but I started spotting the brownish (old blood I think) around may 4th, then I got my normal red heavy flow on may 8th and I got off yesterday. Should I be concerned that I’m spotting for many days before?

  5. Gabrielle Lichterman May 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    This is definitely a question for your doctor. Only she would know for sure. It’s worth making a call to her office and asking if she can spare five minutes on the phone with you today.

  6. Diana May 9, 2018 at 1:26 am

    Hi Gabrielle! Let me start by saying your article was really enlightening for me. Now on to my situation, I had been on OCP for 14 years, but suspended them 2 months ago when I took some fertility tests. A month after quitting the pills, I had a normal-looking menstrual bleeding (and by normal I mean rutillant-red flow from day 1, as it had and has always been). I wanted to wait for the next period to restart by OCPs, but just three days ago, I underwent a colposcopy, with biopsy collection. My gyn told me a little spotting was expected for a day or two because of the resulting bleeding from the biopsy and the lugol she had used. The thing is that the procedure was done close to the start of my period. I, indeed, have had spotting for 3 days in a row, and today, on my 28th day of my cycle, I had normal-looking menstrual bleeding, with cramps and everything. My questions are, was this day 1, and is it safe to restart my OCPs today?

  7. Gabrielle Lichterman May 5, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Hi, based on your description, you should count the spotting as your Day 1. And, yes, it is normal that you start off light and then for it to take a couple of days for a heavy flow. Some women start off with a heavy flow, for others it takes a little longer. Keep in mind also that the bleeding pattern you have now can change over time. That’s also normal. However, if you’re ever concerned about your bleeding pattern — for example, because it’s excessively heavy or goes on for a prolonged time or it ceases altogether not due to pregnancy — it’s always wise to consult with you healthcare provider.

  8. Anonymous May 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Gabrielle,

    My period starts with spotting on day one, then I have a very light flow for 2 days. And by very light I mean sometimes I am not even able to distinguish if it’s still spotting or bleeding. Then sometime on a 3rd day, I get a terrible cramp and heavy flow starts. This is with my every period. Spotting-light bleeding for first 2 days and terrible cramp, heavy flow on 3rd day. The flow is heavy for 3rd and 4th day and starts getting lighter and eventually stops on about 8th day.

    Is this normal? Is there any reason why the 3rd day is worse, does it happen to others too?

    Also, from what I understand from your article, in my case I should consider my spotting day as day 1 since a light flow continues until it gets heavy. Am I correct in this assumption?

    I really really hope you can help me because I am tired of searching for answers. Thanks a ton!!

  9. Gabrielle Lichterman April 18, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Nelly, I wish I could help you, but the only way to know if you are pregnant or not is to take a pregnancy test.

  10. Nelly April 18, 2018 at 4:46 am

    Hellw i need help last month on 4 march i had my period aftr my period we make love with my bf without protection i got period again it was heavy on 30 march i finished on 3 this month an i got light yesterday (17) an today stl it light an i hv some cramps plz any one can hlp me im so strssd is that pregnancy symptoms or im sick 😣

  11. Gabrielle Lichterman April 12, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    The first day of spotting is her Day 1. As long as the spotting is consistent — and not interrupted by a day or more of nothing. If it’s spotting that is ongoing then leads to heavier flow, the first sign of spotting is Day 1.

  12. Gabrielle Lichterman April 12, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    If you’re spotting consistently — meaning there isn’t a day or longer where you’re no longer spotting — and your flow gets heavier after the spotting, then the first sign of spotting is considered your Day 1.

  13. RAQUEL April 4, 2018 at 9:51 am


  14. Gourav March 23, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    My girlfriend and me had sex 5 days ago and yesterday she had period 1st day starting with spotting which got slightly heavy on day two what does that mean ?

  15. Gabrielle Lichterman March 17, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Precious, it sounds like you are having some kind of menstrual cycle disturbance. I hope you have informed your doctor. You will need to go through at least two cycles where you’re having what would be a typical menstruation for you to really determine where you are in your cycle since you may be having breakthrough bleeding for some reason. I hope you can talk with your doctor about this soon.

  16. Gabrielle Lichterman March 17, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Patience, if you have any unusual changes in menstruation, you need to talk with your healthcare provider about it as soon as you can. I hope you do so.

  17. Gabrielle Lichterman March 17, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Sasmita, if you feel that something out of the ordinary is happening, then you need to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. I hope you can do so.

  18. Gabrielle Lichterman March 17, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Nisha, if you get your period at night, simply to make it easier, that is considered your Day 1. So, March 12 is your Day 1. March 13 is your Day 2. But, keep an eye out for ovulation by using an ovulation detecting tool (such as a basal thermometer, urine strips or ovulation mini-microscope, which you can check out at my Recommendations page at Any of these tools can help you keep track of where you are in your monthly cycle.

  19. Nisha March 16, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    If i get my period lets say on Monday March 12th at night time around 9 or 9.30 pm. The next day it continues? Will I count March 12th as my first day or March 13th as my first day please please help me I am very very confused.
    Thanks so much

  20. sasmita rout March 8, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Is it any worry ness ,i see first day spoting and a heavy flow after that nothing to see and i feel weak,is my weakness for that or i am pregnent

  21. Precious February 23, 2018 at 12:36 am

    I have a problem here i spotted for 3 days and had period for 1 day it only lasted for few hours then during the night nothing came out so again i spotted. My gyna pregribed me inofolic and folic acid last month so ths month i was to start accord letrozole in day 5 i dnt know wht to do i dnt knw how to count my period came earlier and usually they last for 6-7 days

  22. Patience February 22, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    I had a normal flow last month but this month, I had my period for the first day and since then I’ve not seen it again, am worried.

  23. Gabrielle Lichterman February 14, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Please see your doctor about this situation as soon as possible. If you feel this is an emergency, please visit the nearest hospital if you can.

  24. Racial Dcruzz February 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

    I had a baby a year ago an I’ve bled nearly everyday since it’s absolutely horrific to the point am pouring with blood I was on the injection for about two months someone told me that’s why I keep bleeding but tonight its frightening me with how much I’m loosing,there’s clots as well feeling a bit worried

  25. Gabrielle Lichterman February 4, 2018 at 10:47 am

    If you start to bleed at 8 pm at night, this does indeed count as Day 1. It’s a short Day 1, but it is your Day 1 nonetheless. Then, keep track of when you ovulate (using any of the easy ovulation detector tools I recommend in Week 2 at Because that will tell you when you transition from your Week 2 to your Week 3.

  26. Shanna January 26, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    If I have started bleeding at 8pm at night, does this still count as Day 1? Or should I count the next full day?

  27. Gabrielle Lichterman January 23, 2018 at 11:34 am

    If you are spotting for three days in a row before heavy bleeding, your Day 1 is likely the first day you begin to spot.

  28. Byrdi January 23, 2018 at 11:06 am

    what if I spot for 3 days before heavy bleeding? meaning, I have spotting for 3 days in a row before heavy bleeding.

  29. Anonymous January 23, 2018 at 11:05 am

    what if I spot for 3 days before heavy bleeding? meaning, I have spotting for 3 days in a row before heavy bleeding.

  30. Gabrielle Lichterman December 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Stephanie, if this prolonged spotting prior to menstruation is not typical for you, I’d recommend talking with your doctor about it. That’s a long time to spot before menstruation, so it’s always wise to pass this by your gyn in case it’s a problem that needs to be addressed — especially since you’re trying to conceive.

  31. Stephanie December 16, 2017 at 4:15 am

    I started spotting on the 12th of December brownish color and spotted everyday until the 15th it got heavier and reddish… When does my day 1 start for period as I am trying to conceive and this has thrown me off!! Thanks in advance!!

  32. Pavani September 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Thank you for the article, I referred this article to my friends who have similar questions about periods flow. I am still in a dilemma as to when day1 starts. I had red blood spotting (little more than drops) on Sep19th Tuesday night,when I woke up next day Sep20th there is not much on the pad but I saw blood spotting again when I wiped with small clot or tissue like things. After that I just saw only dark brown spotting with very little blood spotting once.On Sep 21st full flow started few hours after I woke up. As I am supposed to start birth control on CD6 I am not sure which day to count as CD1. Is it Sep19th or Sep 21st. Please suggest.

  33. Gabrielle Lichterman September 21, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    If you have a full day of no bleeding after spotting, then you would count the day you start bleeding heavily as your Day 1, Ellinore. So, that would be September 3 in your example.

  34. Ellinore September 21, 2017 at 1:12 am

    Thanks for this article but I am still not sure what it day to start counting if I have spotting lets say on the 1st of Sep then nothing on the 2nd then a lot of blood on the 3rd? do I count the 1st,2nd or 3rd of September as my first day?

  35. Gabrielle Lichterman August 29, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I’m glad this could clarify things for you, Tamarra!

  36. Gabrielle Lichterman August 29, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Glad I could help!

  37. Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Great Day 1 demystification, Gabrielle! I really needed this. Thanks for being my go-to gal re: the ever-changing mysteries of my own dang body. Nobody else seems to be talking about this stuff!

  38. Tamarra February 15, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Ah-hah! Thank you for addressing that because I’ve read conflicting answers to this question in the past. What you are saying makes absolute sense because I tend to have that day of spotting, followed by heavier flow. Now I know for sure to count that first day.

Leave A Comment