Charlotte's "Flash Period" on "And Just Like That," Explained

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

In episode nine of "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 experiences unexpected bleeding — 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 hasn't gotten her period in four months, so she thinks she's "done done" and "finally in menopause." Obstetrician and gynecologist Tosin Odunsi, MD, MPH, FACOG, explains that a person needs to be period free for 12 months straight to officially say they are in menopause. What Charlotte is experiencing is a symptom of perimenopause, explains Seema Narayan Shah, MD, MPH, FACOG, the time period before you hit menopause, and these "flash periods," as well as bleeding between periods and even skipped periods, may be normal. Dr. Shah adds that a person may also notice a change in their flow, with it becoming heavier or lighter, and a change in the duration of their period, with it 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, Dr. Shah says 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, or changes in sex drive. As uncomfortable and annoying as these symptoms are, they're all 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 fluctuations in your hormones, such as 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 periods and symptoms in a calendar or period-tracking 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," Dr. Odunsi explains. She adds 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, both doctors agree that bleeding after menopause is abnormal. 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 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.