Menstruation, also called a menstrual cycle or a period is something women experience every month. During menstruation, the female’s uterus lining built monthly gets discarded. This lining breaks down and the menstrual blood and tissue flow out of the uterus to the cervix, from where it passes out of the body through the vagina.
During ovulation, in which the ovaries release an egg for fertilization, the uterus lining gets thickened as this cycle is a part of the female reproductive system and makes the body ready for a possible pregnancy.
The uterus lining is made of blood, tissue, and nutrients. And when the egg does not fertilize with the sperm, the level of estrogen and progesterone hormones starts falling and as a result, the uterus sheds this lining, and the cycle starts again.
Menstrual Cycle In Females
When do periods begin?
Periods start off at the time of puberty when a girl’s body starts to change and she starts to get mature sexually. A girl’s first period is an indication of the beginning of her menstrual cycle. This generally happens between 8-15 years of age, with 13 being the average age. If you don’t get your periods by the age of 16, it is advised to visit a doctor. Keep in mind that every person has a different experience with periods, from the age at which they get their first periods to the day they get their last, menstrual cycle duration, and more.
Menstrual cycle refers to the sequence of events that occur in a woman’s body, each month, preparing it for a possible pregnancy. The menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period. On average, the menstrual cycle is of 28 days, however, it can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days, and periods last for 3 to 7 days. Some women have longer periods as compared to others.
When do periods end?
On average, a woman gets periods for 40 years of her life. At a certain age, usually between 45 to 55, a woman stops ovulating, i.e. she stops producing eggs, and her periods end. If a woman does not get her periods for a year, it is referred to as menopause. After this, a woman cannot get pregnant.
What are the symptoms of periods-
Apart from bleeding, people who are about to get their periods (menstruate) might experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. These are the signs that your period is coming-
- Mood swings
- Lower back pain
- Acne and breakouts
- Tender breasts
- Food cravings
Keep in mind that any of these symptoms being extreme during periods is not normal and could be a signal for an underlying health condition. In such cases, you should immediately consult the doctor.
Since these symptoms are monthly and occur around the same time, they can be predicted and managed easily. You can take certain steps in case these symptoms become too overwhelming-
- Exercise regularly to reduce pain and discomfort.
- Eat healthy and limit the intake of sugar, fat, salt, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Do some relaxation techniques like- massage, breathing exercises, yoga, and medication to ease pain and stress.
- Take over-the-counter medicines like- aspirin, ibuprofen, and Tylenol to lessen the period pain and discomfort.
- Heat treatment like keeping a hot water bottle against your abdomen can reduce the pain, also warm baths can provide relaxation.
- Taking hormonal contraceptives can reduce pain by thinning the uterus lining, which results in fewer menstrual contractions.
Pregnancy takes place if sperm from a male reaches and fertilizes the egg present in the fallopian tube. Once the fertilized egg gets implanted on the uterus wall, it can start to grow and develop. If this happens, the woman will not menstruate till the time she is pregnant.
However, even during pregnancy many women still experience some light bleeding or spotting, around the time they usually used to get their periods.
Bleeding during pregnancy can indicate several things, like- implantation, a shift in hormones, or even pregnancy loss. A pregnant woman should immediately go to a doctor if she experiences something like periods.
When a woman is menstruating, she is generally not considered to be in the fertile phase of her cycle and the chances of pregnancy are very low, but if you are avoiding pregnancy, then it is still a good idea to use birth control (in any form).
At times, vaginal bleeding does not always mean periods, it can also be due to a medical condition. So it does not mean that when a woman is bleeding, she is not fertile.
What are irregular periods?
It is called irregular periods when a woman’s menstrual cycle is longer, shorter than average, or frequently changes. Irregular periods are more common at the time of puberty or before menopause.
Examples of irregular periods are-
- When the period cycle is of less than 21 days or more than 35 days.
- When a woman does not get her periods for three or more months in a row.
- When menstrual flow is much lighter or heavier than usual.
- When periods last for more than 7 days.
- When during periods, a woman feels pain, cramps, or nauseous.
- When a woman gets bleeding or spotting between periods, post-sex, or after menopause.
What is the reason for irregular periods?
Irregular periods can be caused due to many reasons like-
- Imbalance in hormones
- Change in methods of birth control
- Using certain medication
- Breastfeeding or pregnancy
- Having an intrauterine device
- Uterine fibroids
- Endometrial polyps
- Uterus infection
- Cervical cancer
- Excessive exercising
There is a stage in your menstrual cycle, known as the follicular phase, during which the body prepares for an egg release. This is what makes pregnancy possible. The follicular phase ends once the egg is released. This generally happens between two menstrual periods.
Also, keep in mind that even though every woman’s menstrual cycle follows a general pattern, the length, and duration of their cycle can vary.