What's the Deal With Charlotte's “Flash Period” on “And Just Like That”?

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

In episode nine of the “Sex and the City” spinoff, “And Just Like That,” Charlotte York Goldenblatt is excited to kiss her periods goodbye as she heads into menopause. But then she surprisingly experiences bleeding after menopause – a “flash period” (while wearing an all-white jumper, of course!). What is this kind of unexpected bleeding?

What Is a Flash Period?”

Charlotte says she hadn’t gotten her period in four months, so she thought she was “done done,” and “finally in menopause.” Obstetrician and gynecologist, Tosin Odunsi, MD, MPH, explains that a person needs to be period-free for 12 months straight to officially say they are in menopause. What Charlotte was experiencing was a symptom of perimenopause, the time period before you hit menopause, and these types of irregular or “flash periods,” bleeding between periods, or even skipped periods are totally normal. A person may also notice a change in their flow, either becoming heavier or lighter, and a change in the duration of their period, either becoming shorter or longer.

Your ovaries don’t just stop working overnight; they gradually slow down over time, which is why a person can experience perimenopausal symptoms for several months to several years. Aside from all that fun stuff, a person may also experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, brain fog, sleep issues, leaking urine or having to go to the bathroom more often, vaginal dryness, and changes in your sex drive. As uncomfortable and annoying as these symptoms are, they’re all totally normal. Every person is different, so how your body handles perimenopause and menopause is unique to you.

What Causes a “Flash Period?”

Unexpectedly getting your period after several months of not having it is caused by changes in your hormones, like estrogen. You may get a “flash period” after not having one for several months, and this inconsistency can last several years. Your period may start, stop, and start up again randomly, so tracking your period and symptoms in a calendar or period tracker app could help. If these irregular periods or other symptoms are severe or getting in the way of life, talk to your doctor. But know that once you go one full year without a period, you’re officially in menopause!

What If You’re Bleeding After Menopause?

“Gynecologists use the term ‘postmenopausal bleeding’ which is vaginal bleeding that occurs a year or more after your last menstrual period,” explains Dr. Odunsi. She added that postmenopausal bleeding can range from light spotting that is pink, gray, or brown, to a heavy flow, like a regular period. Regardless of your symptoms, she warns that bleeding after menopause is not normal. You’ll want to make an appointment with your gynecologist right away to be evaluated. Causes of vaginal bleeding after menopause include vaginal dryness, polyps, (noncancerous growths), a thickened lining of the uterus, or other changes in your reproductive system. Uterine cancer is the most serious, but also the least likely cause of bleeding after menopause. If your evaluation shows precancerous or cancerous cells, Dr. Odunsi says your gynecologist should refer you to a specialist called a gynecologic oncologist.

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