Menstruation - All The Facts
The menstrual cycle is the way that a woman's body gets ready to have a baby. Approximately once each month, the uterus grows a new lining to get ready to welcome a fertilized egg. When no fertilized egg appears to start a pregnancy, the uterus then sheds this lining to start the process again. The shedding of the lining is the menstrual bleeding that women have from the time they are in their early teens until they go through menopause at approximately the age of 50.
When Do Girls Begin?
The typical age to begin menstruating is between ages 11 and 14. At the beginning, the cycle may seem very erratic and irregular. This should begin to even out over time. Between the ages of 39 and 51 women start to have fewer periods and longer cycles. This will become even more evident as the woman nears menopause, and then, eventually, with menopause, the cycles will stop all together.
The menstrual cycle is considered to go from the first day of bleeding to the first day of bleeding the next month. On average, most women have a cycle that is 28 days long. It is, however, not uncommon to have a short cycle of only 21 days or a long cycle that lasts as long as 35 days. A normal cycle for a teenager can be as long as 45 days. If you notice sudden changes in your cycle, you should seek medical attention. If your period starts to last for more than seven days or you experience unusually heavy bleeding, this is reason for medical attention. Similarly, if you experience bleeding between periods or have pelvic pain that is not from your period, you should seek medical help.
Where Does the Menstrual Cycle Come From?
Hormones in your body are controlling your cycle. Each month, your ovaries receive hormone signals from your hypothalamus and pituitary gland getting you ready for pregnancy. Estrogen builds up the lining of your uterus while progesterone increases after the ovaries release an egg so that the lining will remain thick and will be ready for a fertilized egg. When there is a drop in the level of progesterone and estrogen, the lining breaks down and your period begins.
Side Effects of Menstruation
Some women experience no issues with their period. Others may have premenstrual symptoms where they feel tense, cranky or angry for the week before their period. They may gain water weight or feel particularly bloated. Their breasts may be tender and acne may be worse. Some women also report having less energy than usual. Right before the period begins, and for the first few days of it, some women have cramps in their stomachs, backs or legs. Some women report that their symptoms are better when they get regular exercise and eat well. Limiting alcohol and caffeine and reducing stress can help as well. Over-the-counter medicines may help with the cramps, as may heating pads, hot water bottles and warm baths.
The menstrual cycle should be seen as a normal part of a woman's life. It is an indication that the body is preparing each month to create a new life and to welcome conception into your body. Treat your body well during this time and take care of yourself each month during this time as your body works to take care of you.