There are several differences in the body that separate men from women, and one of these is a woman’s menstruation cycle. Also known as a period, the menstrual cycle begins during the early adolescent years for most girls, and is part of the body’s natural reproductive process.
Periods can be a difficult adjustment for many young girls, but they’re vital to certain regulating and normalizing processes in the female body. Issues with menstruation can potentially signal larger problems with reproduction, or can sometimes be a result of poor lifestyle habits. Many issues with menstruation can be prevented with the proper care.
Why Do Women Menstruate?
Menstruation is the female body preparing for the possibility of pregnancy. Once a month, an egg is released from one of the ovaries during a process called ovulation. This egg is one half of the equation that adds up to a new human life – conception can occur when living sperm from a male fertilizes the egg.
Most of the time, though, sperm isn’t present to fertilize the egg when it’s released. In these cases, the uterus lining sheds through the vagina and causes bleeding. If the egg is fertilized, however, the menstrual cycle stops during the duration of the pregnancy.
Tracking Your Cycle
For most women, the menstrual cycle is unpredictable at first, but normalizes after a few months. Once normalized, each menstrual cycle will be roughly the same length, and usually start around the same time – though this differs between women. There are a couple factors that can affect the timing or intensity of your period:
- • Birth control: Especially long term pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- • Menopause: This is the phase in a woman’s life when menstruation stops, and in the years or months leading up to it, periods may start changing
For most women, tracking periods is a great way to make sure everything is functioning normally and there are no problems. A few areas women can track include:
- • Start and end date, and overall length
- • Pain
- • Changes in mood or behavior
- • Heaviness of blood flow
- • Bleeding in between periods
Complications to the Menstrual Cycle
There are several different causes of problems with a woman’s menstruation cycle:
- • Pregnancy: One of the most common reasons a woman might miss her period is pregnancy, when the menstrual process has paused.
- • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding will usually delay periods from returning for a while
- • Ovarian failure: The ovaries are the areas which produce the eggs to be fertilized, but they lose function in some women before the age of 40 and might cause irregular periods.
- • Eating disorders: These and their results – big changes in weight – can affect menstruation cycles.
- • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is an issue with the endocrine system that can cause multiple problems with periods.
- • Uterine fibroids: These are growths in the uterus (not cancerous) that can make periods longer and heavier.
- • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): PID is an infection of the reproductive organs.
Preventing Menstrual Irregularities
Many of these conditions can be prevented with the right habits. For some women, birth control helps regulate their periods in addition to acting as a contraceptive. Women with eating disorders or other underlying problems can benefit greatly from other forms of treatment. Some irregularities, however, cannot be prevented.
Every menstrual cycle is different, and each woman has their own standards for what’s normal. If you notice changes from your usual routine, or if you’re worried you’re having menstrual issues for any reason, speak to your doctor about your options.
Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.
“Menstruation and the menstrual cycle.” WomensHealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/menstruation-and-menstrual-cycle
“Menstrual cycle: What’s normal, what’s not.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186?pg=1