Menstruation (or menstrual cycle/period) in females is a recurring organic cycle of changes in the ovaries, lining of the uterus (endometrium) and sex organs. The intention of menstruation is to prepare the body for a future possible pregnancy.
In a menstrual cycle, an egg that is matured is released by the ovaries, and the lining of the uterus thickens to aid a possible pregnancy. When pregnancy does not happen, the egg and lining of the uterus are shed from the vagina in the process of a menstrual bleed. This bleeding is termed as a menstrual period or menstruation.
The first menstrual bleed or period (called menarche) usually occurs between the ages of 12–14 years but can occur anytime between 9 – 15. Usually, before a period begins, other sexual characteristics would have developed, for instance pubic hair and budding breasts.
The last menstrual bleed or period usually occurs between 45 – 55. This is known as menopause.
A woman's menstrual period is split into four stages:
The menstrual cycle experience is different for each individual, with variations in cycle length, bleeding and symptoms.
The menstrual phase which is the first stage of the menstrual cycle starts when an egg from the prior cycle isn't fertilized. As the pregnancy hasn't occurred, the hormones of estrogen and progesterone level drop.
The follicular phase starts on the initial day of the menstrual cycle (expect an overlap with the menstrual phase) and completes when one ovulates. Increasing hormone levels of estrogen during this phase trigger your pituitary gland to release a luteinizing hormone that begins ovulation.
Ovulation occurs when the ovary releases a mature egg. The egg advances down the fallopian tube toward the uterus to be fertilized by sperm. The ovulation phase is the only time one can get pregnant during the menstrual cycle.
After the follicle releases its egg, it changes into the corpus luteum, a.k.a luteal phase. This structure releases hormones, most importantly hormones of progesterone and some estrogen. The increase in levels of hormones maintains the uterine lining thick and prepared for a fertilized egg to implant.
If you get pregnant, your body will produce hCG a.k.a human chorionic gonadotropin. This is the hormone pregnancy tests detect. This maintains the corpus luteum and keeps the uterine lining thick. If you don't, the corpus luteum shrinks away and is resorbed. This leads to drop in hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone, which starts the periods. This will also cause the uterine lining to shed in the course of the period. It is important to know that if you don't get pregnant during this phase, you may feel the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
A few days before and during the cycle, one might feel cramping and bloating in the abdomen. The cramps are caused by the increased production of hormones. These hormones (a.k.a prostaglandins) cause the uterus muscles to contract.
Many youths who have cramps also notice aching in the upper thighs and lower back pain. A few also experience nausea, irritability, diarrhea,fatigue, and headaches among other symptoms.
It is important to consult a primary healthcare provider (or a gynecologist) if:
Cramps are usually painful during the first two to three days, then ease as prostaglandin levels in the body return to normal. However, see a doctor if cramps stay about the same throughout your period or if over-the-counter painkillers don't really work.
Project Global Cure recommends you always check with your primary health care provider for any queries about menstrual periods, making sure you clearly and completely describe any concerns.
The menstrual cycle length is calculated from the first day of bleeding (day one) to the first day of the next bleed. The average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, but this can vary between 21 to 35 days. The length of the menstrual cycle varies between individuals and from one cycle to the next.
Ovulation generally occurs close to mid-cycle (about 14 days from the start of the last period).
Some might feel abdominal discomfort at ovulation, but it's usually very brief. In addition, this discomfort can usually be relieved by the same medication used for cramps.
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, occurs for many young women right before their periods begin. With PMS, one might experience:
When menstruation begins, PMS symptoms decrease.
Some young adults or teens experience the feeling of crying way too easily and that they get more emotional during this time. Comprehending the feelings that come along with PMS may help cope with the emotions. If the symptoms are serious and interfere with life, discuss them with the health care practitioner.