The reproductive system of female mammals comprises two main parts, the ovaries and the uterus. The ovaries are responsible for the production of the egg cells, while the uterus hosts the fetus and generates the required quantities of vaginal and uterine fluids. Both these reproductive parts are internal, but intrinsically connected to extraneous organs such as the vagina and cervix. The vulva is the place where the vagina merges with the external reproductive organs. The vulva includes the clitoris, labia, and the urethra. The cervix is the merging point of the vagina and the uterus, while the uterus and the ovaries meet at the fallopian tubes. The ovum released by the ovaries gets into the uterus via the fallopian tube.
The fertilization of the sperm and ovum takes place in the oviducts or within the uterus itself. The resultant zygote gets implanted along the uterus wall and the process of embryogenesis and morphogenesis begins, which in lay terms is referred to as pregnancy. The female womb holds the fetus till it reaches a growth stage that enables it to survive outside the womb. At this point the cervix dilates and uterus contractions propel the fetus out of the womb, through the vagina. In the case of an unfertilized egg, the mass is flushed out of the system during the menstrual cycle.
Menstruation is a periodic process that involves the shedding of the uterine lining from the female reproductive system. The process also ensures the flushing out of unfertilized eggs along with the endometrium, every month. This cycle is a physiological change observed in pubescent females. Flow of blood from the vagina is a human and mammalian feature. This feature is contradictory to the covert menstruation observed in species of placental mammals, in which the endometrium is reabsorbed by the body at the end of the reproductive cycle.
The menstrual cycle is very vital to the process of reproduction. The length of each monthly period varies from one woman to another. The average menstrual cycle lasts approximately 28 days. This natural form of hormonal contraception prevents reproduction during the phase, by interfering with the normal hormonal balance. The menstrual cycle causes changes in the female reproductive system, such as tenderness of the breasts and mood swings. Menarche or a woman's first menstruation usually occurs around the age of 12. Menopause or the end-phase of the menstrual cycle occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
Blood clots during the menstrual cycle occur due to the shedding of larger parts of the endometrium lining tissue, mixed with blood. Usually, the endometrium enzyme, called plasmin, inhibits the blood from clotting. If there is any abnormality in the secretion of this enzyme, blood clots are the result. Blood clots during the menstrual cycle are usually accompanied by uterine cramps or dysmenorrhea, abdominal pain, migraines, depression, nausea, and changes in the sex drive. The clotting problem is also triggered by reduced premenstrual water retention and beta-endorphin hormone fluctuation. They are associated with the onset of Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS.
The clotting is not only physically disturbing, but also takes a toll on emotional and psychological well-being. It is very important to increase the intake of iron, dietary or supplementary, to overcome the stress associated with clots during menstruation. There is a vast industry that caters specially to the requirements of women who deal with them often. There are extra-large sanitary napkins and compact tampons easily available at all pharmaceutical stores.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.