Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle

What is menstruation?

Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding, also called a period. When you menstruate, your body is shedding the lining of the uterus (womb). Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina. Most menstrual periods last from three to five days.

What is menstrual cycle?

Menstrual cycles are changes that a woman’s body undergoes to prepare for possible pregnancy. The uterus grows a new lining every month in preparation for a fertilized egg. When there is no fertilized egg to initiate a pregnancy, the uterus then sheds its lining. This monthly bleeding is what is known as menstruation and usually lasts from three to seven days.

What happens during the menstrual cycle?

Menstruation is a complex process involving different hormones, a woman’s sexual organs and the nervous system. During each period, a single egg in a woman’s ovaries will ripen and mature as caused by the hormones circulating in the bloodstream. A mature egg bursts from the ovary and is released into the fallopian tube. This is known as ovulation.

Usually, ovulation takes place 14 days after the first day of the onset of the period. A slight pain in the lower abdomen normally indicates that a woman is ovulating. Also there are noticeable changes in vaginal discharge during ovulation. Still the timing of ovulation may differ from woman to woman. The few days before and after ovulation is usually the time when a woman is most fertile. At these days, a mature egg is released to allow fertilization.

If an egg is fertilized and a woman becomes pregnant, the egg will attach itself onto the endometrium or the uterus lining. Meanwhile, an unfertilized egg will cause the endometrium to slip away, thus initiating menstruation. Menstrual discharge is made up of the endometrium itself, with a mix of fresh flood resulting from the breaking of very fine vessels, as the endometrium detaches from the inside of the uterus. Normal monthly periods usually discharge less than 80ml of blood.

What is a typical menstrual period like?

The average cycle commences every 28 days, although it is normal for some women to have a shorter or longer cycle. Usually girls start having their menstrual periods between the ages of 11 and 14, when they become sexually mature during puberty. When a women nears menopause, their periods become longer and then will eventually stop.

Menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman. Some may experience long, short, predictable or unpredictable cycles. What may be normal for one may not necessarily follow for another woman. This is why it is important for every woman to understand her own menstrual cycle and know the factors influencing menstruation.

What influence hormonal balance and menstruation?

Hormones control a woman’s menstruation. The brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary glands send hormone signals through the ovaries. This occurs every cycle, as these signals prepare the ovaries and uterus for pregnancy. The estrogen and progesterone are the key hormones in the uterus changes of each cycle. If the hormone levels are out of balance, this affects a woman’s cycle or fertility. This is evidenced in changes in cycle lengths and how some women, especially those in their 40’s, experience heavy bleeding.

Another factor that influences hormonal balance and menstruation is body weight. Hormones of underweight women have the tendency to stop working properly thus causing a break in their monthly cycles. Obesity can also make hormones out of balance, that’s why a lot of obese women find it hard to conceive. Stress also influences hormones thereby affecting menstruation.

Have a fit and healthy mind and body by getting regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet to help regulate the menstrual cycle.