What is Menstruation?
Menstruation is the monthly bleeding which a woman enquires every month after she attains her puberty. It is a biological phenomenon which happens when your body sheds the inner lining of the uterus. In the process, the body also flushes out the impure blood from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and finally it is expelled out through the vagina. When menstruation happens regularly it is called menstrual cycle. For most women, the menstrual cycle lasts for about 3 to 5 days. Getting your periods regularly is an indication that the important parts in your body are functioning properly. The menstrual cycle provides hormone which keeps your body healthy and also it prepares yourself every month for pregnancy. The cycle is counted from the first day of the period to the first day of the next period. For adults, it ranges from 21 days to 35 days & among young teens it may vary from 21 to 45 days. On an average, the periods occur in about 28 days. Basically, the menstrual cycle is controlled by the rise & fall of the hormone levels.
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Puberty & periods:
Girls go through puberty usually between the age of 8 to 13. This is the time when their body & mind undergo a lot of changes. In about 2 years she begins to develop breasts and before 6 months she gets her first period, she may notice a clear vaginal discharge. It is not that a girt develops ovaries, fallopian tubes & uterus during her teens. Every girl baby is born with all of these. The ovaries contain 1000 of eggs also called as ova. The fallopian tubes are thin and stretch from the ovaries to the uterus. The muscles in the uterus are strong enough to carry the fetus and push the baby out of the uterus during the labor.
Every month an egg leaves the ovaries, travel down the fallopian tube and reaches the uterus. The day before ovulation, the estrogen hormone prepares the uterus to accept the egg by building up it’s lining with extra tissues & blood. This makes the uterus thick and cushioned. If the egg is fertilized by a sperm then it gets attached to the uterus. When the egg isn’t fertilized then it paves the way for the menstrual cycle. The uterus sheds the extra tissue along with the blood. This cycle continues to happen every month until the woman reaches her menopause after which the ovaries are unable to release eggs.
Menstrual cramps are often dull, achy and even be intense sometimes. Menstrual cramps are due to the muscle contract in the uterus which forces the thin lining to flush out through the vaginal opening. A chemical called a prostaglandin is responsible for this action. Many girls and even woman prefer over-the-counter medicines to overcome the cramps. Instead, you can simply take a warm bath, or put a warm pad over the lower abdomen so as to lessen the pain. Regular exercising throughout the menstrual cycle can also help overcome the menstrual cramps.
A lot of girls and even women undergo mood swings during their periods. Some feel sad without any reason, while some get irritated over silly things, some get angry very quickly while others burst out crying. Some girls even crave certain foods. All these are collectively known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is mainly due to changes in hormones. During the menstrual cycle, the female body undergoes a lot of hormonal changes. There may be rise and fall in the hormone level. These changes can affect the way she feels both mentally & physically. She may feel bloated due to water retention or may have sore or swollen breasts or may even develop unusual headaches.
Usually, PMS goes away after the periods but comes back during the next one. The only way to handle it right is to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep & exercise regularly. The pimples and acne-flare ups during the cycles are also a result of hormone changes.
When should you consult a doctor about your periods?
It is better to seek the advice of the doctor if you notice any of the following:
- You haven’t attained puberty by the age of 15
- If your cycle stops for more than 90 days
- If suddenly your periods become irregular
- If your cycle occurs very often than every 21 days or less often than 35 days
- If you encounter heavy bleeding
- If you fall sick immediately after your cycle
How often should you change you change your pad?
It is advised to change your pad every 4 to 8 hours. Use the ones that have light absorbancy. One needs to change the pad before it becomes fully soaked with blood. Ignoring this might result in deadly disease such as toxin shock syndrome(TSS). It is caused by the bacteria that produce toxins. If your immune system can’t fight the toxins then it reacts to it and develops the symptoms of TSS.
Also Read: 8 Most Common Symptoms of UTI
What is a normal menstruation?
When it comes to periods, the word normal covers a lot of stuff beneath it. The following are the factors you need to check upon.
Timing: The timing of your menstrual cycle is very important. It usually lasts for 21 to 45 days in young teens & 21 to 35 days in adults. On an average, you must get your cycles every 28 days. Older women have much shorter and consistent cycles. If you are under medication such as birth control pills or IUDs then it might change your cycle pattern.
Flow: When your egg isn’t fertilized then the lining of the uterus we shed out through the vaginal opening along with the blood and tissues. This is called menstrual flow. Whether, the flow is thick, moderate or heavy it is all considered normal.
Apart from PMS, there are few other menstrual problems that one might face. Those are heavy periods, absent periods & painful periods. Let’s have look at each of them.
Heavy periods: It is also called as menorrhagia. This is when you bleed more than normal. Also, your periods may last for longer days such as 5 to 7 days. It is due to the imbalances in the hormone levels especially estrogen & progesterone. Other causes of heavy bleeding include:
Absent periods: due to various reasons, a woman may not get her periods. This condition is called amenorrhea. Due to any problem in the pituitary gland, or any defect in the female reproductive system or a delay in puberty may be some reasons for a girl/woman to not get her periods. This is called primary amenorrhea.
Other causes of amenorrhea are :
When adults do not menstruate then there may be many reasons associated with it. It includes:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Reproductive infection
- Premature ovarian failure
- Stopping birth control pills
Painful periods: your periods may not only be heavy or light, it may also be painful due to various reasons. Extremely painful periods is called dysmenorrhea. This may be linked to underlying medical problems such as fibroids, Pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis.
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