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Menstrual Period Symptoms

Menstrual Period Symptoms

The monthly menstrual bleeding that marks the beginning of every menstrual cycle in women, occurs when the uterine lining is shed through the vagina. The following write-up provides information on the symptoms associated with menstrual periods.
Kanika Goswami
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2018
The menstrual cycle refers to a series of bodily changes that occur in girls after the onset of puberty. These changes occur due to interactions of hormones. Menarche, which is the first occurrence of menstruation (menstrual period or monthly bleeding) could occur anywhere between the age of 10 to 14 years.

Though the average duration of the menstrual cycle is considered to be 28 days, it could vary from woman to woman. It could range from 21 to 35 days. It is counted from the first day of bleeding till the first day of the next period.
The hormonal interactions that take place during the menstrual cycle are extremely essential as they prepare a woman for pregnancy. However, some young girls and women experience a host of distressing symptoms before, during, or even after the menstrual period.
Symptoms that May Accompany Menstrual Periods
Abdominal pain and cramps are the most common symptoms that women experience during periods. The intensity of these symptoms may range from mild to severe, and differs from woman to woman. For some women, pain may be debilitating. Medical help must be sought if pain persists even after the period.
Premenstrual Syndrome
The term 'premenstrual syndrome' refers to a group of symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. Though these symptoms usually appear a couple of weeks before the period starts, the intensity of symptoms increases significantly a couple of days before the period. These may affect a woman physically, as well as emotionally.
The symptoms of PMS include:
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Low energy levels
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain that radiates to the legs
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Sore or tender breasts
  • Pain in the joints or muscles
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Food cravings
  • Acne flare-ups
The aforementioned symptoms occur due to the fluctuations in the levels of estrogen and progesterone. Some of the symptoms may subside a couple of days after the bleeding starts, while some of these may be experienced during the period.
Abdominal Pain and Cramps
Menstrual cramps are experienced due to the uterine contractions that are induced by prostaglandin, which is a hormone-like chemical that is produced by the uterine lining. The contractions that are triggered by prostaglandins help to shed the uterine lining through the vagina.

Elevated levels of prostaglandins are likely to cause strong uterine contractions. Strong contractions may adversely affect the supply of blood and oxygen to the muscles of the uterus, which in turn may cause pain, cramps, lightheadedness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc.
Heavy menstrual bleeding, which is medically referred to as menorrhagia, could also cause a lot of discomfort. Blood loss that occurs during this time could cause weakness, fatigue, and low energy levels.

Some women may find it hard to carry out the routine activities due to heavy menstrual flow. Medical help must be sought if the flow is very heavy and lasts for a longer duration.
Painful periods are medically referred to as dysmenorrhea. When the pain is only due to the uterine contractions that are induced by prostaglandins, it is referred to as primary dysmenorrhea. Secondary dysmenorrhea is said to occur when the pain is due to an underlying condition.

Endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, adenomyosis, and the formation of fibroids in the uterus are some of problems that could cause secondary dysmenorrhea. Painful menstruation may also be accompanied by symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
What Happens During a Menstrual Cycle?
Menstrual cycle results from the interactions of certain hormones. It is divided into the following phases:
Follicular Phase
The menstrual cycle starts with menstrual bleeding that results from the shedding of the uterine lining. The bleeding usually lasts for a period of 3-7 days. This phase is referred to as the follicular phase. During this phase, the pituitary gland produces follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which in turn stimulates the development of ovarian follicles (each of these follicles contain an egg).

The FSH levels decline during the later part of this phase. As a result, only one of the follicles continues to develop into a dominant follicle, which is the follicle from which the egg would be released. The growing follicle secretes estrogen.
Ovulatory Phase
The next phase is the ovulatory phase. Estrogen levels continue to rise, thereby stimulating the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland. There is a slight increase in the FSH levels also. The LH triggers ovulation, which refers to the rupturing of the follicle, and the release of the ovum or the mature egg from the ovary into the Fallopian tube.

Ovulation takes place during the mid-cycle. When a woman is ovulating, she is likely to experience symptoms such as pain, sore breasts, changes in the consistency of cervical mucus, bloating, heightened sense of smell or taste, etc.
Luteal Phase
Luteal phase occurs after ovulation. During this phase, the ruptured follicle changes into corpus luteum. The egg that is released from the ovary, travels through the Fallopian tubes and reaches the uterus in 3-4 days. While the egg is viable for 12 to 24 hours after it is released, the sperm is viable for 4-5 days.

A woman becomes pregnant if the egg gets fertilized with the sperm during this time, and the egg implants itself on the endometrium. Estrogen and large amounts of progesterone are secreted by the corpus luteum. The secretion of progesterone facilitates the thickening of the endometrium, which is needed for the uterus to be able to support the growing fetus during pregnancy.

If the egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease. The egg disintegrates, and is shed with the ruptured uterine lining through the vagina. This marks the beginning of another cycle.
Women often experience pain and discomfort as blood, tissue, and the disintegrated egg are expelled through the vagina. The cyclical changes that occur during different phases of the menstrual cycle are due to the drastic changes in the levels of hormones

Though the symptoms can be alleviated with the help of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or application of heating pads, seek medical help if the symptoms are severe. It is believed that stress can worsen PMS. Thus, it would be best to make lifestyle changes.

Do follow a healthy diet and stay physically active.
Disclaimer:This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.