What is Menstruation?
Menstruation is the shedding of the blood and mucous tissues from the endometrial lining of the uterus. This cycle happens once per month (normally) and clears the uterus of the tissue that is necessary for a fertilized egg to implant in the wall of the uterus.
What is the Menstrual Cycle?
The menstrual cycle refers to the entire cycle by which the endometrial lining thickens, prepares for ovulation, and then sheds if it is not used. When a woman’s body prepares for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.
The endometrial lining is where the egg implants if there is sperm present to fertilize it. When this does not happen, the endometrial lining is shed in the process called menstruation. The menstrual cycle encompasses all of these processes.
What is a Normal Menstruation Cycle when you are a Teen?
Normal menstruation begins typically sometime during the teen years. Typically the cycle consists of 28 days from the beginning to the end of menstruation.
How does Menstruation Work?
Menstruation has four cycles:
- First phase is called proliferative phase. This is the phase directly after the end of the previous menstruation. During this phase, the endometrial lining thickens with blood and tissue until about day 14 of the cycle
- Second phase is called the secretory phase. This phase happens directly after the release of an egg (ovulation)
- If the egg is fertilized, pregnancy begins and menstrual cycle stops. If it is not fertilized, we enter the third phase called the ischemic phase. This is when the egg does not meet a sperm and shrivels up and is discarded.
- The final phase is the menstrual phase. This is when the blood, mucus, and other tissue is shed through the vagina
What Controls Your Menstrual Cycle?
Menstruation is controlled by four elements of a woman’s body. All of these structures must work together in harmony, otherwise it will result in an irregular or missing menstrual cycle
- The hypothalamus: the hypothalamus initiates the menstrual cycle by releasing the cyclical hormone Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone. This hormone controls the timing of the cycle
- The pituitary gland: the pituitary gland produces two hormones called the leutinizing horone and the follicle stimulating hormone that communicates with the ovaries to ovulate
- The ovaries: the ovaries release the egg around the 14h day of the cycle. The hormones that the pituitary gland releases will help contribute the function of the ovaries
- The uterus: the uterus is where the lining of the endometrium accumulates and is shed from every month. If a fertilized egg does not implant, it will lose the blood and tissue from the previous cycle. The total amount of blood and tissue lost during the menstruation is typically between 30-80mL
Reasons Behind Painful Menstrual Periods
There can be many reasons for painful menstruation. This can include muscle spasms, too much prostaglandin released, pelvic inflammatory disease, infection, and other uterine disorders.
Pain and symptom management is going to greatly depend on what is causing the pain. A doctor can test for most uterine issues, and can give advice on how to handle your uterine pain.
How Does Menstruation Change as a Woman Gets Older?
As a woman ages, she will stop ovulating, and eventually will stop menstruating altogether. This process is called menopause, and it usually happens around 45 years of age. Other factors can speed this process such as drinking, smoking, and genetic factors.
When this happens, she will not be able to become pregnant anymore and will cease to produce eggs. Her menstrual cycle will eventually stop entirely, but before it does it may become irregular and erratic.
She may experience symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, osteoporosis, incontinence, mood swings, changing sex drive, aching joints, palpitations, etc. Most of these symptoms eventually stop over time, as soon as menstruation completely stops.
How do You Manage Menstrual Symptoms and Bleeding?
Sometimes menstruation can be very painful and difficult to deal with. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate symptoms and even make them less apparent over time.
- Exercise: keeping active can help relax your body and help alleviate cramping. It also contributes to overall health and well being
- Rest: resting can help you recharge your body and can help alleviate cramping as well by taking it easy
- Eat for nutrition: by eating nutritious foods, you will be ensuring that your body will not be lacking in nutrients, which can cause more pain and strain on your body.
Treatment of Pain Depends on Cause of Pain
Treatment of severe pain during your menstrual cycle greatly depends on what is causing the pain. There are many tests your doctor can do to see what is causing the pain, and their treatment of your pain will depend on what the cause is.
If you understand the cycle and how it works, sometimes it is easier to track your cycle and identify symptoms easier and more effectively.