Understanding Menstruation and Ovulation

a girl on her period

Menstruation is one of those female related body activities that could either be good news or bad news depending on the marital status of the woman. If a single woman doesn’t see her period she is scared and very bothered (especially if she’s sexually active) but if on the other hand a married woman doesn’t see her period she is elated and very optimistic because that is a sign that she might be pregnant. Menstruation has different symptoms in different bodies. Some ladies breasts get bigger, other experience pain around the nipples, others have pimples all over their faces. For others its mostly mental symptoms than physical, some get moody, others get irrational while others get too sensitive.
Do we really understand what happens during menstruation? I don’t know much about menstruation so I had to do my research for this article. I learnt a whole lot and that’s what I want to share with you all.

To understand the menstrual cycle, it helps to know about the reproductive organs inside a woman’s body. These are:
1. Two ovaries (where eggs are stored, develop and are released).
2. The womb (uterus), where a fertilised egg implants, and a pregnancy grows.
3. The fallopian tubes, two thin tubes which connect the ovaries to the womb.
4. The cervix, the lower part of the womb that connects to the vagina.
5. The vagina, a tube of muscle connecting the cervix to the outside of the body.

Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding, also called a period. When a woman menstruates, her body is shedding the lining of the uterus (womb). Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix, and passes out of the body through the vagina. Most menstrual periods last from three to five days. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. Cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days in adults and from 21 to 45 days in young teens.
The menstrual cycle is controlled by the rising levels of estrogen and progesterone. In each cycle, rising levels of estrogen cause the ovary to develop an egg and release it (ovulation). Ovulation occurs on approximately day 14 of a typical 28-day cycle when a mature egg is released from the ovary. Once she starts her periods, one egg (occasionally two) matures and is released into the fallopian tube and is available to be fertilized. After ovulation, the egg lives for 24 hours.
The progesterone on the other hand makes the lining of the uterus (womb) grow and thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy. This lining is called the endometrium and has loads of blood vessels, to make a nice healthy place for a fertilised egg to turn into a baby. A woman is most likely to get pregnant during the three days before ovulation or on the day of ovulation. Keep in mind, women with cycles that are shorter or longer than average may ovulate earlier or later than day 14.
Pregnancy happens if a man’s sperm meet and fertilize the egg. Sperm can survive in the fallopian tubes for up to seven days after sex. If pregnancy does not occur, levels of estrogen and progesterone fall and the thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) is shed along with the unfertilized egg during the menstrual period.

Problems women could have with their periods include:
1. Amenorrhea: This is a lack of a menstrual period. This term is used to describe the absence of a period in: young women who haven’t started menstruating by age 15 or women who used to have regular periods, but haven’t had one for 90 days or young women who haven’t had a period for 90 days, even if they haven’t been menstruating for long.
Causes can include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and extreme weight loss caused by serious illness, eating disorders, excessive exercising, or stress. It is important to talk to a doctor.

2. Dysmenorrhea: Painful periods, including severe cramps. When menstrual cramps occur in teens, the cause is too much of a chemical called prostaglandin. Most teens with dysmenorrhea do not have a serious disease even though the cramps can be severe. In older women, a disease or condition, such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, sometimes causes the pain. For some women, reduction of sugar intake before and during menstruation helps reduce cramps. Some others take pain medicines to ease the pain. See your doctor or pharmacist if the pain becomes unbearable.

3. Abnormal uterine bleeding: Vaginal bleeding that is different from normal menstrual periods. It includes very heavy bleeding or unusually long periods, periods too close together, and bleeding between periods. You should see a doctor if these changes occur. Treatment for abnormal bleeding depends on the cause.

What is Menopause:
Women usually have periods until menopause. Menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, usually around age 50. Menopause means that a woman is no longer ovulating (producing eggs) and can no longer get pregnant.

The Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation by Arthur T. Ollendorff, MD
Periods and Fertility in the menstrual cycle by the NHS
Understanding Menstruation by Paul Thaxton, MD

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