Every woman goes through the process of menstruation for 30 to 35 years, 5-7 days every month. Menstruation starts from approximately the age of 11 until the age of 50, although it varies and not the same among women. Beginning of periods also called as “menarche” occurs when a girl reaches her puberty from age 11 to 13 years. Although it is quite an uncomfortable process happening every month, it is a very important part in a woman’s life and having a normal menstruation means everything is going on fine in women’s body.
Why Should You Know About Your Menstrual Cycle?
You should know what your body is going through, why it happens and why it is a very important part of your bodily function. This way, you will know that although it is uncomfortable and how much ever you hate it and would want your cycles to just disappear and never happen again and set yourself free from this monthly nuisance, it is here to stay and for the good of you. So, now make friend with your monthly guest and know more about this.
What Is Menstrual Cycle?
Menstrual cycle is the process of shedding of the lining of your uterus every month. Lining of uterus consists of blood and blood products. You may feel that a lot of blood may pass out of you when you bleed for 5-7 days every month but the fact is only 2-3 tablespoonful of blood is shed every month in a normal cycle.
So, you might be wondering why this shedding of the lining of your uterus occurs every month. This occurs because your body starts preparing for a possible pregnancy as soon as you hit puberty and this preparation happens every month. When there is no pregnancy or fertilization as you call it, the body which had prepared a spongy bed of lining for the fertilized egg to be embedded cozily, starts shedding itself. This shedding comes out of your vagina as periods for duration of 5-7 days in a month. This process repeats itself month after month until the egg in your uterus is fertilized by a sperm, when the shedding process stops and the fertilized egg sits on this cozy lining and starts growing to form an embryo, fetus and a baby, i.e., pregnancy, for a period of 9 months. Periods stop for 9 months during pregnancy and again begin after the baby is delivered.
Menstrual cycle lasts until the age of 45 to 55 years after which women experience menopause, that is, menstruation stops and you cannot be pregnant anymore.
What Is A Normal Menstrual Cycle?
- The menstrual cycle is calculated from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period.
- The duration and length of the cycle differs in each girl or woman. A normal cycle is what is normal in you, like, if you have periods every 30 days and it lasts 5 days, it is normal for you. Another woman may have periods every 25 days and it may last 7 days that may be normal for her. If there is a variation in your normal cycle and this variation is seen more frequently, it may be related to something like a birth control pill or some underlying condition. Hence, tracking your cycle is very important so that you know when there is a deviation from your “normal” cycle and this helps in knowing why there is this variation in your cycle.
- The cycles are of longer duration in the beginning and as you age, your cycle duration gets short.
- If you find that your cycles have become more irregular and heavier, it is best to consult your doctor and get yourself examined.
What Are The Phases In Menstrual Cycle?
There are 3 phases in a menstrual cycle:
- Follicular phase
- Ovulatory phase
- Luteal phase
1. Follicular Phase
This phase starts from day 1 to day 14 (counted from first day of your period). Menstrual bleeding occurs in the early phase and ovaries are preparing for ovulation at the end of this phase, that is, day 14. FSH or follicular stimulating hormone is released which causes follicles to rise from ovarian surface. These follicles contain egg, one of these follicles becomes dominant and other follicles shrink.
2. Ovulatory Phase
This is day 14 of a normal 28-day cycle. The mature egg is released and enters fallopian tube and if fertilization does not occur the egg disintegrates.
3. Luteal Phase
This is day 14 to 28. If fertilization has occurred, the endometrial lining is prevented from being shed. If the fertilization has not taken place, the lining starts to shed again.
Which Are The Fertile Days?
If you are trying to get pregnant, then knowing your menstrual cycle and the phases of the cycle helps you a lot. You will know when you are ovulating (ovulatory phase) which is the most fertile phase, that is, intercourse during this phase results in pregnancy. In a 28-day cycle, day 9-14 will be the ovulation window and the most fertile part of your cycle.
What Is Safe Period?
If you are planning birth control in a natural way, then knowing about your cycle helps you plan when you can have intercourse without getting pregnant. Safe period in a 28-day menstrual cycle will be from day 1-7 and then day 21 to the rest of your period.
What Can Be The Problems Associated With Menstrual Cycle?
1. Amenorrhea – Amenorrhea means “no periods.” In which girl does not get periods even after the age of 15 years and women will not menstruate for more than 3 months continuously. Amenorrhea may be due to:
- Eating disorders
- Weight loss
- Endocrine disorders
2. Dysmenorrhea – Dysmenorrhea means “painful periods.” Women have severe cramps that occur due to a chemical called prostaglandin released in increased amounts.
Girls beginning their periods (menarche) may suffer from this. Women at a later age may suffer from this due to some fibroids or cysts in the uterus. If the cramps are severe and associated with heavier flow, it is important to visit your doctor and get examined.
3. Abnormal Bleeding – It is different from your normal uterine bleeding during menstruation. This occurs in between your periods and may be due to several causes like uterine polyps, fibroids, cysts or some other cause. If you have abnormal uterine bleeding, consulting your doctor helps you find out the cause of this and get treated.
Educating girls and women and boys and men about menstrual cycle is very important. In some countries, there is superstition and ignorance associated with this due to which girls and women have to suffer. Knowing that it is an important part in our life that helps us stay healthy, and also that it is not something to be afraid, disgusted or ashamed of, is very important as talking about periods in society is still considered taboo which makes women to stay silent and not visit their healthcare providers when they suffer from any pain or irregular bleeding or any problems associated with their menstruation.