What is menstruation?
Menstruation or menstrual period refers to the periodic outflow of blood from the vagina. Every month, the female body prepares itself for possible fertilization or pregnancy. For this, the uterus develops a thicker lining, and the ovaries release an egg that can be fertilized by sperm. During this period, if the egg isn’t fertilized, the body sheds the uterus lining. This results in a menstrual period or menstruation. The average female is expected to have her first period between the ages of 11 and 14, which occurs monthly until menopause.
Furthermore, the average menstrual cycle is 24 to 38 days. The period lasts four to eight days. A regular period is a good sign as it shows that you’re healthy and all bodily functions are being performed properly. Apart from the general bleeding, the majority of people who menstruate also report other symptoms.
One of the most common symptoms is food cravings. Another common symptom is breast tenderness. It can peak days before menstruation starts. A hike in the level of the hormones; estrogen and progesterone leads to enlarged breast ducts and swollen milk glands. This causes soreness and swelling.
Another common situation faced by menstruating is irregular periods. Medical conditions and intense exercise can lead to irregular periods. Common hosts of irregular periods are those who are:
Painful, heavy, or irregular periods affect about 15 percent of menstruating females in their childbearing years.
The most common period-related health issues include:
A common occurrence during menstruation is period pain, otherwise known as dysmenorrhea, also known as “cramps.” The majority of women experience this pain during their menstrual cycle. The cause of this pain is prostaglandin. These are a group of chemical compounds or lipids that triggers contractions in the uterus. They control processes such as inflammation, blood flow, the formation of blood clots, and labor induction. These hormones help the body shed the excess uterine lining. This process causes pain and cramping in the first days of the period.
This is a disorder whereby the tissue that usually lines the uterus grows outside the uterus. With endometriosis, the tissue can develop on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or intestines. During menstrual periods, hormones make this misplaced tissue inflamed and thereby causing pain to the host. This leads to pain, cramping, and heavy periods.
Uterine fibroid, Also known as Uterine myoma, are noncancerous tumors that develop in the uterus, commonly during childbearing years. These tumors form between the layers of tissue in the uterus.
Menorrhagia refers to very heavy menstrual bleeding. Normal periods produce about two to three tablespoons of menstrual blood. People affected with menorrhagia can produce twice as much of that amount.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
This is a series of symptoms that occur in a week or two before starting a period. Symptoms can include:
Poor menstrual hygiene
This is also a major concern during menstrual periods. Looks of blood and tissues during periods can lead to bacterial infections. This can lead to severe health issues.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
This condition is similar to premenstrual syndrome but more severe. It can cause
- severe mood swings
- long-lasting anger and irritability
In some cases, women may not experience periods, and this is called amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea is when you don’t experience your first period before or by age 16. This delay may be caused by an issue with the pituitary gland, a delay in puberty, or a congenital defect in the female reproductive system. On the other hand, secondary amenorrhea occurs when you stop getting your period for about six months or more. The causes of amenorrhea include:
- ovarian cysts
- sudden weight gain or loss
- overactive thyroid gland
- stopping birth control
However, when adults stop menstruating, the causes are usually different. These causes may include:
- premature ovarian failure
- pelvic inflammatory disease
A missed period could actually be a sign that you’re pregnant. If you suspect this, make sure to take a pregnancy test.
Medications and Menstruation
Most birth control pills contain a mixture of the hormones estrogen and progestin. These pills prevent pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. Starting or stopping the use of birth control pills can affect menstruation. Women can experience delayed or missed periods for up to six months after discontinuing birth control pills. This is an important consideration when you’re planning on conception and becoming pregnant.