Women Menstrual Cycle
Menstruation is a major stage of puberty in girls. It is one of the many physical signs that a girl is turning into a woman. The menstrual cycle or menstruating is a woman’s monthly cycle of bleeding. This menstrual period is a series of changes a woman’s body goes through to prepare for a pregnancy.
Most menstrual period cycles last for 3 to 5 days. But anywhere from 2 to 7 days is normal. The intensity of bleeding may vary for every woman. The average age for a girl to get her period is around 12, but the range of age is about 8 to 15 years.
For the first few years after menstruation begins, long periods cycles are common. The menstrual cycle length tends to shorten and become more regular with age. Most of the time, periods will be in the range of 21 to 35 days apart. Women usually have frequent menstruation until about ages 45 to 55. The phase when a woman stops having her periods is known as menopause.
What is a Period?
The menstrual cycle occurs due to the rise and fall of hormones – ovulation. This ovulation cycle results in the thickening of the lining of the uterus as a preparation for the arrival of a fertilized egg – an embryo that will develop into a fetus. This process sheds the thickened lining of the uterus.
Estrogen plays an important role in keeping you healthy, it helps build strong bones and helps to keep them strong as you grow older. Estrogen is also responsible for thickening the lining of the uterus.
In the first half of the period menstrual cycle, the levels of the female hormone estrogen start to rise. At the same time, an egg or ovum in one of the ovaries starts to mature. At about day 14 of an average 28-day women’s menstrual cycle, the egg leaves the ovary. This is called ovulation.
After the egg has left the ovary, it travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Hormone levels rise and help prepare the uterus lining for pregnancy.
A woman becomes pregnant if the egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm cell and attaches to the uterine wall. If the egg is not fertilized, it will break apart. The hormone levels drop and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.
Menstrual Cycle Phases
Day 1 is the first day of your menstruation. This occurs after hormone levels drop at the end of the previous menstrual cycle, signaling blood and tissues lining the uterus to break down and shed from the body. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina.
The bleeding lasts for about 5 days and can be either light period or heavy periods depending on your body. Usually, by day 7, the bleeding has completely stopped.
The hormones cause fluid-filled pockets called follicles that contain an egg to develop on the ovaries. Between day 7 and 14, one follicle will continue to develop and reach maturity. The lining of the uterus starts to thicken, waiting for a fertilized egg to be implanted there. Around day 14, ovulation occurs.
Over the next few days, the egg travels down to the uterus through the fallopian tube. If the egg is fertilized here with a male sperm the egg will attach to the lining of the uterus. If the egg is not fertilized, the hormone levels will drop and the next menstrual cycle will begin.
You can use a period tracker calendar to keep track of your ovulation date and when your period is to be expected. It might take two or three months for the periods tracker to get your cycle right.
Common Menstrual Cycle Symptoms
Apart from the obvious menstrual blood flow, you might experience period cramps and menstrual bloating in your abdomen. Menstrual cramps might also cause aching in the upper thighs along with lower back pain. The cramps are caused by increased production of hormones. These hormones cause the muscles of the uterus to contract.
Menstrual pain is normally the worst during the first 2 to 3 days of your menstruation, then ease as the hormone levels of your body returns to normal. Some girls might also experience nausea, diarrhea, acne, irritability, headaches, and fatigue among other symptoms.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS happens to many young women right before their menstruation starts. In fact, it is even viewed as one of the main period symptoms as it is the first signs of menstrual cycle approaching. You might feel tenderness in your breast, anxiety, dietary craving, irritability, difficulty in sleeping or excessive sleeping.
Some women might also feel the urge to cry very easily and are more emotional during this time. When menstruation begins, PMS symptoms decrease.
Signs of Menstruation Problems
It is imperative that you visit a doctor as soon as you face an abnormal menstrual cycle. Here are some abnormal menstrual cycle symptoms:
- No Menstrual Cycle – It is normal for a woman to experience her first menstrual period between the ages 9 – 15, and their last menstrual period around the age 48 – 55. If you do not experience your menstrual cycle after the age of 16.
- Missed Menstrual Cycle – A missed menstrual cycle is generally the first symptoms of being pregnant. It could also be the sign of a hormonal imbalance.
- Short Menstrual Cycle – If you feel that your cycle is drastically shorter than usual. You might suddenly experience bleeding for only 3 days while your body generally bleeds for 7 days.
- Early Menstrual Cycle – If your period is earlier than normal; that is your ovulation cycle has reduced, inducing an early menstruation.
- Delayed Menstrual Cycle – If you have already begun your cycle but are suddenly experiencing irregular menstruation cycle. This could be the cause of hormonal changes, birth control pills, or cystic ovaries.
- Extended Menstrual Cycle – When your period is longer or prolonged for more than the stipulated 7 days. This could be a sign of cystic ovaries.
- Menstrual Spotting – Spotting before, between, and after a period are signs of an unhealthy menstruation.
If you experience any of the above problems, consult your doctor immediately.
Menstruation is a time of heightened risk of infection for women. Changes in vaginal pH also make yeast infections more likely. It is, therefore, necessary for each woman to understand the best practices of period hygiene to ensure that you and the women around you are fully aware of the right way to stay healthy and avoid infection.
Some of the period hygiene practices you should know about are as follows:
1. Shower Regularly
Bathe at least once a day to keep the body clean and to avoid bad odor that can occur from a heavy menstruation. Take warm showers as they are effective in relieving menstrual cycle cramps.
2. Wash the Right Way
Since your vagina is more sensitive than the other parts of your body, it requires more care. Wash your vagina externally and avoid using normal soaps and shampoos on your intimate area, since they can disbalance the pH level. Opt for a wash specially formulated for intimate use.
3. Avoid Wearing Tight Clothes
Tight clothes and fabrics that don’t breathe can cause increased moisture and heat and irritate the skin around your vagina. Opt for cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing to stay fresh and dry.
4. Change Pads or Tampons Often
Using a pad or tampon for a long time increases your risk of infection. Prolonged exposure to damp sanitary pads can also irritate your skin and make it more prone to infection.
5. Wipe From Front to Back
Always wipe your vagina from front to back to avoid exposing your vagina to harmful anal bacteria that can cause infection.
6. Practice Safe Sex
During menstruation, women become more vulnerable to contracting blood-borne diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis B through unprotected sex. Thus, it is important to practice safe sex at ALL times.