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|52 Comments

About the Author:

Gabrielle Lichterman is the founder of Hormonology, author of 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals about Your Love Life, Moods and Potential and creator of the popular Hormone Horoscope menstrual cycle tracker apps. In 2005, Gabrielle pioneered the growing movement among women to live in sync with their menstrual cycles and learn about the many ways their hormones impact their moods, health and behavior with the publication of her book, 28 Days. She's also a longtime women's health journalist whose articles have been published in major publications around the globe. Gabrielle's new updated and expanded version of 28 Days is due to be published December 2018. You can help get this book published by contributing to her crowdfunding campaign at


  1. Gabrielle Lichterman September 6, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Bleeding patterns can vary from woman to woman. However, if you’re concerned about the amount you’re bleeding or intensity of cramps and you have anemia, this is something you need to talk with your gynecologist or other healthcare provider about. I hope you can make an appointment to get a consultation about this to find out more.

  2. Ebtsam August 19, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Hello Gabrielle,

    the first 1 day of my period I bleed so heavily that I can’t go to work and I need to go to the bathroom every 30 mins with severe cramps, then it lasts for 5 more days with normal to light bleeding to spotting .. I have iron deficiency anemia I’m 29 yrs and I’m a virgin
    is that normal ?

    Thank you

  3. Gabrielle Lichterman August 3, 2018 at 8:32 am

    If you have 6-7 days of brown discharge, then up to five days of red blood flow, this should be brought to the attention of your gynecologist. That’s a long time to have either breakthrough bleeding prior to menstruation or a long cycle. I can’t tell you when your Day 1 would be because I think you need to talk to your doctor about issues surrounding your cycle first.

  4. Gabrielle Lichterman August 3, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues with your period, Mhelai. Any time the bleeding pattern for your period changes, it’s a smart idea to see your healthcare provider, such as your doctor or nurse practitioner. Blood clots can be a symptom of issues that need to be addressed, such as fibroids. You can only find out, however, by getting a check-up.

  5. Mhelai July 30, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Hi mam Gab, i’m worried because i had sex with my bf during my 1st day of menstration but for me it’s ok because there still no blood come out but the fact it was like burning inside and it hurts me. After that i went to cr to see if there’s already a blood and i saw a blood clot like penny size after that there’s no blood anymore.

  6. Mariana Santos July 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Hi Gabrielle. I’m trying to count my cycle but it seems impossible for me to know my day 1.
    For example it’s always like this: I have 6-7 days of a small brownish discharge then on The eighth day I have a red flow that continues for about 3-5 days.
    My day 1 in on the first day that I saw some brownish or on the first day that I saw red flow?

  7. Gabrielle Lichterman June 30, 2018 at 10:31 am

    If you’re recently transitioning from hormone birth control to a “natural” hormone cycle, it can take a few months for your body to adapt and return to a regular cycle. You may have intermittent menstrual bleeding, irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding or light bleeding until your cycle normalizes. I don’t want to guess when your Day 1 is because your body may still be adjusting to your new natural hormone cycle. My suggestion to you: Since you’re off hormone birth control, mark the first day you bleed on your calendar, then use an ovulation detector tool (I list three on my Recommendations page at in the Week 2 section) to determine when you ovulate and keep track of this information, too. If you notice a pattern–for example, you’re ovulating 14 days after the first day of bleeding–you can start to get a better idea of when your cycle is stabilizing. And, this will help you pinpoint your Day 1 more easily.

  8. Anonymous June 30, 2018 at 2:02 am

    Please help! Having trouble working at day 1 of my cycle. My first cycle off the pill was 27 days then my second cycle was weird. I had brown/dark red bleed on day 30 then brown spotting continued for 1 day, stopped for 24 hours then I had dark red bleed which then stopped for 24 hours. Then my normal red flow started and lasted 3-4 days. So I thought my cycle was 34 days but after reading this article I’m confused. When do I could day 1 of my cycle?

  9. Gabrielle Lichterman June 20, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Unfortunately, I can’t speculate whether or not you are pregnant. The only way you can know for sure is to take a pregnancy test. However, if you notice that your bleeding pattern has changed significantly from your usual pattern, and you’re not pregnant, this is something you should talk about with your healthcare provider. A change in menstrual bleeding, pain, length, etc., can be an indication of an issue that needs to be addressed.

  10. Karen June 12, 2018 at 2:53 am

    I had the most unusual thing happen last month I had my period on the exact day I was supposed to. It wasn’t bad but then the next day there was no blood and the third day there was only a little which never happens. I always have it for 4 days and I have a lot of pain and I bleed days 1,2 and sometimes the blood slows down on three then back on day four. Could this mean I am preagnant or something like that

  11. Gabrielle Lichterman June 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to know if that was early menstruation due to the birth control pills, Kim. This is an issue you’ll need to talk with the prescribing doctor about.

  12. Gabrielle Lichterman June 8, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Lui, you would count the first day of spotting as your Day 1, the start of a new cycle.

  13. Lui June 5, 2018 at 3:18 am

    Hi. I always have brown spotting 2-3 days and 3 days heavy bleeding and again 3 days brown spotting. Do I consider my menstruation from start and end spotting?

  14. Kim June 4, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Hi Gabrielle. I took a oral contraceptives for five days and then I stopped taking it for almost 6 days now. Yesterday, I have a light spotting. And today my spotting is brown and sometimes dark red but my period is due next week. Is this an early menstruation due to the pills? I also have light to moderate cramps. I had unprotected sex too last May 26 the day that I started taking the pills.

  15. 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?

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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!!

  23. 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.

  24. 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 😣

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

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


  28. 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 ?

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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

  34. 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

  35. 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

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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

  39. 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.

  40. 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?

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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!!

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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?

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

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

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

    Glad I could help!

  51. 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!

  52. 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.

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