Periodic Cycle of a Woman

What is Menstruation (Period)

Menstruation is a process during which a woman bleeds through vagina once a month for 3 to 5 days long. Number of days of menstruation may be short or long according to the menstruation cycle among women. Women body sheds off the uterus lining through the vaginal bleeding. Uterus lining and blood passes out of the body through the cervix and vagina during each menstrual period in a month.

Length of menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman such as some women have shorter cycles of 22 days or longer cycles of 35 days. It is called that a woman has regular and normal menstrual cycle if she has less than eight days of variations between her longest and shortest menstrual cycle. It is considered that a woman has irregular cycle if she feels variation of 8 to 20 days in her menstrual cycles.

What is Menstrual Cycle (Periodic Cycle)

The period (number of days) between 1st day of last menstruation and 1st day of next menstruation is called as the menstrual cycle. Regular menstrual of a woman indicates the normal functioning of all the important organs in the body. During every menstrual cycle our body release some chemicals called hormones which help in maintaining important functions. It is the cycle of days of month during which our body prepares for pregnancy but when a matured ova does not get fused with a sperm, uterus lining sheds off with ova and blood as a regular menstruation. Periodic cycle is counted from day 1st of last period to the first day of next period. Generally, women have average menstrual cycle of 28 days long however it varies from woman to woman and may be 21 days short to 35 days long.

The menstrual cycle is controlled by the rise and fall in the sex hormones in the body. During each menstrual cycle some natural changes takes place in the uterus and ovary (main reproductive organs). Natural changes are like ova gets matured, uterus gets prepared for receiving and nourishing a baby, breast prepares for feeding, pelvic bones, cervix, vaginal muscles gets softened for giving birth to a baby, emotional changes and etc. A fertile woman bleeds regularly in her each menstrual cycle till she gets menarche (end of menstruation naturally). Each Periodic cycle is divided into two cycles (ovarian cycle and uterine cycle) and each cycle is subdivided into three phases.

What happens during the Menstrual Cycle

When menstruation ends and in the start of the menstruation cycle, the level of a female sex hormone called estrogen start rising. Estrogen hormone helps woman getting healthy, strengthen bones as well as enhances the growth of muscle lining of the uterus for the pregnancy and nourishing a baby. Estrogen starts functioning well in the first half of the cycle such as uterus preparation, egg matures in the ovary, and etc. After 14 of the cycle (in a woman having average cycle of 28 days), a matured ova or egg gets released from the ovary through the ovulation process.

Egg travels from the ovary to the fallopian tube where it meets to the sperm. If an egg gets fertilized with the sperm, woman becomes pregnant otherwise menstruation occurs having contents like ruptured egg, uterine wall linings and blood. When egg is not fertilized within 24 hours after release, the hormone level drops suddenly and causes shed out of the thickened lining of the uterus through menstruation.

Cycles and Phases of the Menstruation

A menstrual cycle of any woman has two distinct cycles called ovarian or uterine cycle and each of the cycle has three different phases which are described below:

Ovarian Cycle

Ovarian cycle involves some changes in the ovarian follicles and consists of the three different phases like follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase:

Follicular Phase

Ovarian follicles start maturing and gets ready for releasing an egg form the ovary. Due to the rise in the level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), few ovarian follicles gets stimulated however only one follicle reaches to maturity (also called tertiary or Graafian follicle) which has a matured ovum. In this phase, estradiol hormone suppresses the production of luteinizing hormone from anterior pituitary.

Ovulation

During ovulation process, a matured egg gets released from the ovarian follicle which travels to the oviduct or fallopian tube. In some cases if ova is released from both ovary (one ovum from each means two ova) and gets fertilized equally, results in the formation of fraternal twins. When the egg gets fully matured, the level of estradiol hormone reaches to the threshold which causes reverse effects and then estrogen hormone starts stimulating the release of LH in high amount (luteinizing hormone). However, this process ends in next 48 hours.

Luteinizing hormone weakens follicle wall in the ovary and stimulates release of its secondary oocyte and then ootid to make a mature ovum having diameter of around 0.2 mm. If an ovum gets fertilized, it makes a baby other an unfertilized egg disintegrates in the fallopian tube.

Luteal Phase

Parts of matured follicle transformed into the corpus luteum by the effects of FSH and LH hormones. Corpus luteum produces another hormone called progesterone which again stimulates the production of estrogen hormone as well as suppresses the production of FSH and LH. Corpus luteum gets atrophied due to the fall of the level of FSH and LH thus progesterone level also falls which triggers the occurrence of menstruation and start of next cycle. If ovum gets fertilized, corpus luteum does not loss and helps in maintaining the new pregnancy by regularizing the progesterone hormone secretion.

Uterine Cycle

Changes in the endometrial linings of the uterus take place throughout the uterine cycle. It contains three different phases like menstruation, proliferative phase and secretory phase which are mentioned below:

Menstruation

Menstruation is the regular and monthly vaginal bleeding which assures that a woman is not pregnant. A menstrual period of 3 to 5 days is considered as the normal period and a woman losses blood around 10 to 80 ml during her each period.

During menstruation woman may feel painful abdominal cramping, back pain, pain in upper thighs, breast tenderness, uterine pain or pain in pelvic region. Pain during menstruation is called as dysmenorrhoea.

Proliferative Phase

During the proliferative phase, estrogen hormone stimulates growth of the uterus lining and triggers the formation of new endometrial layer in the uterus, also called proliferative endometrium. Crypts in the cervix are also gets stimulated by the estrogen hormone to produce fertile cervical mucus.

Secretory Phase

During this phase, progesterone hormone gets secreted by the corpus luteum to prepare uterus endometrium for the implantation of blastocyst. It also supports during early pregnancy and maintains the blood flow to the uterus. It helps in reducing the contractions of the smooth muscle of uterus.

What Controls the Menstrual Cycle

Menstruation cycle is controlled by the estrogen and progesterone hormone and hormone secretions are controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain. Estrogen helps in building muscle linings in the uterus to get ready for the fertilized egg implantation whereas progesterone triggers ovulation during middle of the cycle. When progesterone level goes down, uterus linings breaks down and occurrence of period takes place.

Irregular hormone secretion or production in the body affects the fertility level of the woman as well as regular menstruation. Various external factors also affect the menstrual cycle such as birth control pills, sudden loss of weight, low body fat, overweight, stress, very hard exercises and etc.

Common Symptoms of Menstruation

Some women may feel lots of signs and symptoms however some may not have any. Some women feel signs and symptoms of menstruation before (about a week called as premenstrual symptoms) and after the periods. Some of the common signs and symptoms are like little rise in body temperature, abdominal pain, acne, pain in pelvic region, back pain, craps in belly, thigh pain, leg pain, tense, angry, bloating, less energetic, weakness, breast tenderness and etc. Some of the women have little red spotting during the ovulation and consider this as an irregular period.

How to Manage Bleeding and Symptoms of Menstruation

Managing the bleeding during the periods is very important thing which is must to be taken care of by every woman. Most of the woman uses domestic clothes which may be dirty or infected with germs. Use of such clothes during periods may cause serious infections, infertility problems and permanent disorders to the reproductive system. Whatever woman use during periods, it must be clean and dry.

The most common, affordable and easy way to use sanitary pads during periods, it costs very less which is affordable to all. As well as it prevents from the infections and fear of reproductive system disorders. Following good habits proves the common saying of “prevention is better than cure”. Some other things which can be used during periods are tampons, menstrual cups and etc. Pads should be changed after 6 to 8 hours or according to the personal needs of women.

Women must take care of their health during periods through proper rest, sleep and healthy diet. Regular exercises and healthy diet helps in combating and relieving sign and symptoms during the periods. Pain and abdominal cramps during periods can be lessened using heating pad, warm bath and hot water bottle. Some medications can be taken during heavy pain under the prescription of authorized medical practitioner.

When a Girl Start Menstruating

Occurrence of menstruation (menarche or first period) among girls depends on the climate of the living area, size, weight and health conditions. However, it generally starts from the ages of 11 to 14 years. Girls having body weight and BMI more than the normal starts getting periods earlier than the girls having less. When it starts, it generally appears only one or two times a year in some girls however in some girls it occurs regularly. Along with the occurrence of the menstruation, a girl feels some puberty changes in her body such as breast development, pubic hair and underarm hair growth, voice change and etc.

Due to the availability of harmful materials like pesticides, preservative chemicals and heavy use of plastics (having high level of oestrogen) in the modern time also enhances the occurrence of periods among girls before time then earlier. May be a girl not ovulate or anovulatory (means fertile) from the time she starts menstruating during first few cycles of the menstruation.

How long does a Woman have Periods

A woman menstruates regularly throughout her fertile period until she gets her menopause (end of menstruation) from the age 45 to 55. Generally, menopause among women occurs during the age of 50 however it varies from woman to woman according to their climate, diet, mental and physical health, weight, size and health care. When a woman gets her menopause, she stops ovulating (egg production) means she can never be pregnant.

A woman starts entering her menopause gradually which take around two to eight years of time and called as the menopausal transition. A woman going through various times of surgery or heavy treatment for some serious illnesses, she may get early menopause.

Is it Good to have Sex during Periods (Sex during Menstruation)

Some of the women enjoy having sex during periods however some of the women avoid having sexual activities due to some health reasons. There is high risk of transmission of the blood borne infections and diseases like hepatitis, HIV, sexually transmitted disease and etc. Sex during menstruation may also cause some weakness and pelvic bone problems and permanent pain in the waist as pelvic bones become soft and tender during the periods due to the hormonal effects in the body.

How a Pill affects Menstruation

It is well known that artificially made pills have synthetic oestrogen which helps in preventing the egg development and maturity thus prevents ovulation whereas synthetically prepared pills having progesterone reduces sperm movement in the uterus and cervix as it increases the uterus thickness and level of cervical fluid thus prevents the sperm to meet to an egg.

A woman going on the regular pill on daily basis does not ovulate and never experience any change in the cervical mucus or uterus lining preparation. They may get irregular periods instead of natural and regular menstruation.

When Menstruation occurs after Childbirth

A woman does not menstruate all through her pregnancy however after delivery she generally starts menstruating as usual like before. However in some women it takes some time of several months due to the regular breastfeeding to her baby as the same hormone which stimulates milk production (called prolactin) also slows down or prevents ovulation and occurrence of menstruation. Thus occurrence of menstruation among women after childbirth depends on the duration and frequency of breastfeeding to their babies.

What causes Menstrual Cycle Irregularities

A woman may suffer irregular menstrual cycle for several months after delivering a baby due to some reasons like:

  • A woman breast-feeding her baby regularly after delivery may suffer irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Eating disorders, sudden weight loss, excess and hard exercises may disturb regular menstruation.
  • Infection of the reproductive organs in women called pelvic inflammatory disease also causes irregular menstruation.
  • Some women before the age of 40 years develop premature ovarian failure (also called primary ovarian insufficiency) means loss of normal ovarian functioning which causes irregular periods for years.
  • Non-cancerous growth of uterine fibroid in the uterus causes heavy bleeding during menstruation or in between.
  • A woman suffering from the polycystic ovary syndrome (also called PCOS) gets irregular cycle due to the hormonal disorders causing growth of small cysts on the ovaries.
  • There are some more reasons like high level of emotional stress, illness, travel, use of birth control methods, hormonal problems, drugs use, imperforated hymen, adolescence, uncontrolled diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hyperprolactinemia (means high concentration of prolactin in the blood), antiepileptic or antipsychotic medications, perimenopause, uterine polyps, leukaemia, irritable bowel syndrome, tuberculosis, platelet disorders, advanced liver disease, smoking, depression, endometriosis, chronic uterine infection, Cushing’s syndrome, thyroid gland disfunctioning, ovarian tumours and so many cause menstrual disorders among women.

How to Overcome Menstrual Irregularities

It is not need to worry about the irregularities of periods in advance, a woman caring about her mental and physical health, daily exercise, diet plan, proper sleep, she can be away from all the irregularities in menstruation as prevention is better than cure. However, if someone suffers (naturally or accidentally) from any of the disorders mentioned above, must consult her doctor (gynaecologist) in the beginning to get proper and early cure instead of being late and improve the level of disorders.