Menstrual cycle occurs every month. This cycle, also known as a period, ranges from the first day of menstrual bleeding to the first day when the bleeding starts again. This period, at an average, accounts for 28 days. However, having a menstrual cycle of 21 days or even 35 days, is considered normal, and does not raise any concern. According to studies, teens, generally experience a cycle which lasts up to 45 days.
What is Menstruation?
A woman's ovaries contains eggs and during each month or period, a single egg ripens and matures. When this happens, the egg makes its way into the uterus through the Fallopian tube. At this time, the endometrium (the mucous membrane that lines the uterus), gets thickened by hormonal actions, so as to receive a fertilized egg. So, if the egg gets fertilized, it will fasten itself on to the endometrium. Otherwise, the uterus begins to shed its lining. In other words, the endometrium detaches itself from the inside of the uterus and this causes breakage of fine blood vessels within the endometrium. This is what is known as menstrual flow, which is marked by a bloody vaginal discharge.
It is known that the amount of blood that is lost due to menstrual flow is less than 80 ml. Girls, usually reach this phase of their lives between the ages of 11 and 14. Between ages 39 and 51, there is a reduction in the frequency of monthly periods in women. 500 periods is what is estimated to be an average count of menstruation or periods, in a woman's lifetime. This menstrual discharge consists of blood, tissues and the unfertilized egg. And as this process takes place, there are a number of physical symptoms, which cause a great deal of discomfort, in almost 80% of women. All such symptoms have been described below.
Signs and Symptoms of Menstruation
The bleeding is the very first among all symptoms of menstruation, which of course, occurs during the period. However, abdominal pain is a symptom which occurs a couple of days before the actual menstrual flow starts. This is also known as a premenstrual cycle symptom or simply premenstrual symptoms (PMS); a common occurrence in most women. Accompanying this symptom, there are other which begin a day or two before the menstruation is due. These may include water retention, acne, lack of energy than normal, decreased activity levels, lack of sleep, breast tenderness, weight gain and cramps in belly, back or legs. These symptoms, however, disappear during the first days of a period. A lot of women also undergo emotional and behavioral changes, which include depression, aggressiveness, confusion, irritability and mood swings. In the middle of a menstrual cycle, when the ovaries release an egg, there might be pain in the lower belly and red spotting, which lasts not more than a day. Another symptom which is visible in most women, just before and during their menstrual cycles, is an increased craving for certain foods like chocolate, salt, sugary foods, etc.
Nausea, headache, gas in the abdomen, indigestion, diarrhea, etc. are the other symptoms which most women have during menstruation from. Menstrual cycle flu symptoms are the ones which are similar to the ones of flu. These may include muscle aches, headaches and joint pain.
Irregularity in all such symptoms are known to occur in 30% of women, who are still in their fertile ages. Incidents of a late period, early or bleeding between periods, are the characteristic features of what is known as an irregular or abnormal period. Even suffering from a missed period, continuous periods or periods that occur twice in one cycle, is sometimes related to an irregular menstrual cycle.
Causes of an abnormal period is due to certain menstrual cycle disorders, which may cause disruption in the hormonal signals, responsible for producing a period. These disorders may be triggered by factors such as pregnancy, stress, diet, improper exercise, irregular menarche, menopause and even birth control pills. Medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (inflammation of the colon) may also cause menstrual cycle problems.
Menstrual cycle symptoms, although not treatable, can surely be improved. Inculcating regular exercises, avoiding stress, abstaining from stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola or cocoa, keeping the abdomen warm and taking over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and reduce bleeding, are some effective self-care measures women can follow to lessen discomfort.