Menstruation is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. The menstrual cycle is characterized by the rise and fall of hormones. Menstruation is triggered by falling progesterone levels and is a sign that pregnancy has not occurred.
During your menstrual cycle each month, your hormone levels increase. The lining of your uterus becomes thicker, and ovulation happens. Ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg. If the egg does not get fertilized, the lining of your uterus sheds and menstruation happens. Menstruation usually happens every 21 to 28 days.
Some girls may have their first period as early as 9 years of age or as late as 16 years or older. Menopause is the time when menstruations stops. This usually happens around 50 years of age.
Each period may last for 2 to 7 days and can be light, moderate, or heavy. The total amount of blood loss may be 1 to 4 tablespoons (20 to 60 milliliters) for the whole menstrual period. This amount may be different among women, and it may be different for you from one period to another.
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What symptoms may I have before my period starts?
These symptoms are part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and usually go away when your period starts.
- Mood changes such as feeling irritated, sad, or emotional
- Breast swelling or soreness
- Feeling bloated
- Problems with sleep
How can I track my menstrual cycle?
To find out what’s normal for you, start keeping a record of your menstrual cycle on a calendar. Begin by tracking your start date every month for several months in a row to identify the regularity of your periods.
If you’re concerned about your periods, then also make note of the following every month:
- End date. How long does your period typically last? Is it longer or shorter than usual?
- Flow. Record the heaviness of your flow. Does it seem lighter or heavier than usual? How often do you need to change your sanitary protection? Have you passed any blood clots?
- Abnormal bleeding. Are you bleeding in between periods?
Pain. Describe any pain associated with your period. Does the pain feel worse than usual?
- Other changes. Have you experienced any changes in mood or behavior? Did anything new happen around the time of change in your periods?
What causes menstrual cycle irregularities?
Menstrual cycle irregularities can have many different causes, including:
- Pregnancy or breast-feeding. A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Breast-feeding typically delays the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
- Eating disorders, extreme weight loss or excessive exercising. Eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa — extreme weight loss and increased physical activity can disrupt menstruation.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with this common endocrine system disorder may have irregular periods as well as enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid — called follicles — located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound exam.
- Premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function before age 40. Women who have premature ovarian failure — also known as primary ovarian insufficiency — might have irregular or occasional periods for years.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This infection of the reproductive organs can cause irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. They can cause heavy menstrual periods and prolonged menstrual periods.
Proper Menstruation Hygiene Practice
Menstruation is a time when women are prone to get infected, especially with sexually transmitted infections. During the period of menstrual cycle, the cervix, which is usually blocked by mucous, opens up to allow the blood to flow out of the body.
This heightens the risk of infection as it opens up a passage for the bacteria to travel into uterus and pelvic cavity. Thus, it is important to maintain a hygienic menstrual routine.
- Do not skip a bath during the period of menstrual cycle
- Wash hands after going to washroom, or changing the tampons or sanitary napkins
- Keep the vagina clean and avoid using soaps or shampoos
- Avoid ill-fitted or tight clothes during menstrual bleeding
- Change the tampons or the napkins during your period of menstrual cycle.
- prolonged exposure to damp surfaces may lead to skin infection
- Never use a tampon or period unless you have your period
- Change regularly