A woman’s body goes through a series of changes on a monthly basis between the ages of puberty and menopause to prepare it for the possibility of carrying a child. These changes are called the menstrual cycle.
Each time a woman goes through her menstrual cycle, her ovaries produce an egg, which then matures and is discharged. The lining of the uterus thickens significantly during pregnancy. A menstrual period is the time when the uterine lining is shed in the event that pregnancy does not occur. After that, the pattern repeats itself.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is divided into four phases:
The length of each phase can differ from woman to woman, and it can change over time.
The menstrual phase is the initial step of the monthly cycle that women experience. It is also the time of the month when you get your period.
This phase begins when an egg from the previous cycle does not end up being fertilized and producing a baby. The absence of a pregnancy causes a decrease in the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body.
Because the thicker lining of your uterus, which would support a pregnancy, is no longer required, it sheds via your vagina. This is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. When you have your period, your uterus expels a mixture that includes blood, mucus, and tissue. This process is known as your period.
You may experience period symptoms such as the following:
- cramps (try these home remedies)
- tender breasts
- mood swings
- low back pain
The menstrual phase of a woman’s cycle typically lasts anywhere from three to seven days on average. Some women experience periods that are significantly longer than others.
There is some overlap with the menstrual phase during the follicular phase, which begins on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. The follicular phase begins on the first day of your menstruation.
The process begins when the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone causes your ovaries to generate 5 to 20 tiny sacs known as follicles. Each follicle carries a developing egg..
Only the eggs that are in the best possible health will eventually mature. (It happens very infrequently, but it’s possible for a woman to have two mature eggs.) The remaining hair follicles will be reabsorbed back into your body at some point.
An increase in estrogen is produced as a result of the maturing follicle, which causes the lining of your uterus to become thicker. This produces an environment that is abundant in nutrients, which is favorable for the development of an embryo.
The duration of the follicular phase, on average, is about 16 days. The average range is somewhere between 11 and 27 days, but it can be anywhere in that range.
During the follicular phase, rising estrogen levels cause your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH). This is what initiates the ovulation process.
When your ovary produces a developed egg, this is referred to as ovulation. The egg goes through the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it is fertilized by sperm.
You can only become pregnant during your menstrual cycle during the ovulation period. Symptoms such as these indicate that you are ovulating:
- a little increase in basal body temperature
- thicker discharge with the consistency of egg whites
If you have a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs around day 14 — exactly in the middle of your menstrual cycle. It lasts approximately 24 hours. If the egg is not fertilized within a day, it will die or disintegrate.
The corpus luteum develops after the follicle has released its egg. This structure secretes hormones, primarily progesterone and a trace of estrogen. The increase in hormones keeps your uterine lining thick and ready for implantation of a fertilized egg.
In the event that you become pregnant, your body will create human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone detected by pregnancy testing. It aids in the maintenance of the corpus luteum and the thickness of the uterine lining.
If you do not become pregnant, the corpus luteum shrinks and is resorbed. This causes a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, resulting in the commencement of your menstruation. During your menstruation, the uterine lining will shed.
If you do not become pregnant during this stage, you may encounter premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS). These are some examples:
- Breast enlargement, discomfort, or soreness
- alterations in mood
- gaining weight
- Sexual desire shifts
- cravings for food
- sleeping difficulties
The luteal phase lasts between 11 and 17 days. The average duration of is 14 days.
Identifying common problems
Each woman’s menstrual cycle is unique. Some women experience their menstruation at the same time every month. Others are more erratic. Some women bleed more profusely or for a longer period of time than others.
During some stages of your life, your menstrual cycle may also alter. For example, as you approach menopause, it may become more irregular.
Tracking your periods is one approach to see if you’re having problems with your menstrual cycle. Make a note of when they begin and end. Keep track of any changes in the amount or number of days you bleed, as well as any spotting between periods.
Any of the following factors can affect your menstrual cycle:
- Birth control pills.
The birth control pill may cause your periods to be lighter and shorter. Some drugs will prevent you from getting a period at all.
During pregnancy, your periods should stop. Missed periods are one of the most prominent early indications of pregnancy.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) (PCOS).
This hormonal imbalance hinders a normal egg development in the ovaries. PCOS is associated with irregular menstrual cycles and missed periods.
- Fibroids in the uterus
These noncancerous uterine growths can cause your periods to be longer and heavier than usual.
- Eating disorders.
Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and others can interrupt your menstrual cycle and cause your periods to stop.
Here are some symptoms of a menstrual cycle problem:
- You’ve skipped periods or your periods have completely ceased.
- Your menstrual cycles are erratic.
- You’ve been bleeding for more than seven days.
- Your menstrual cycles are less than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart.
- You bleed in between your cycles (heavier than spotting).
Consult your healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing any of these or other issues with your menstrual cycle or periods.
The main point
Each woman’s menstrual cycle is unique. What is normal for you may be abnormal for someone else.
It’s critical to become acquainted with your cycle, including when you receive your periods and how long they last. Keep an eye out for any changes and notify your healthcare provider.