Menstrual Cycle Info
Yes! Mɛns- tray- shuhn! We're talking about your period!
Menstruation is the natural and biological process of discharging blood and other materials including the uterine lining from the uterus at intervals of about one lunar month typically from puberty until menopause, except during pregnancy
How does the menstrual cycle work?
We use the term ‘menstrual cycle’ to cover all the changes a woman's body goes through to prepare for a possible pregnancy over the course of a month. Before women menstruate, their reproductive and hormonal system work in cycles of on average 28 days, but which can range anywhere from 20 to 35 days in adults and from 21 to 45 days in young teens. It is not uncommon for a period to come irregularly especially in the early years following puberty.
Let’s look at the different phases of the cycle:
The menses begins (day 1 of your cycle). The bleeding lasts usually between three and five days, but it could be up to seven days. The period flow can be light, heavy, or in between. The shades of red can go from light to dark and it could appear with dark clumps or clots of blood, which is normal. The period may also decrease on later days.
When the bleeding is over, it might seem like the menstrual cycle is over, but then a new egg begins to mature in one of the ovaries. This happens approximately from day 6 to day 12 of the menstrual cycle. Also, the lining of the uterus begins to thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg that may or may not be coming.
Around day 13, ovulation starts. The egg is mature and is ready and in place to be fertilized by a spermatozoid. The egg starts a long trip from the ovary, through the fallopian tube and towards the uterus.
Around day 16, if it has not been fertilized, the egg arrives in the uterus, where the lining continues to thicken. This lining of the uterus would be the soft walls that will protect the fetus if there was a baby on its way.
Near the end of the cycle, from day 26 to day 28, the uterine lining detaches from the uterus which leads to menstruation. The menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and goes out of the body through the vagina. Then the cycle begins again!
*Check out this cool calendar!
Track your Cycle
Man’s first attempt at creating a calendar was probably done by a woman! It is an antler bone with 28 markings in it, the typical length of a menstrual cycle. Women throughout the ages have come up with different ways of tracking their cycles. Today, technology is working on making this even easier and more accurate with the help of some very convenient smartphone apps!
Here’s a list of some of the top period tracking apps out there today.
At what age do women go through menarche?
The scientific term for the first menstrual period is 'menarche'. Most girls reach menarche when they are 12 to 14, but it can also happen before or after that. It is important to talk to your parents or your doctor if you did not get your period at the age of 15.
Body Chemicals: Hormones and the menstrual cycle.
Did you know:
Estrogen also plays an important role in keeping women healthy, especially by helping to build strong bones and keeping them strong is the long term.
Hormones are substances produced by the body to play specific and powerful roles in our body. There are four main hormones that lead the menstrual cycle: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteininzing Hormone (LH), Progesterone and Estrogen.
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) makes the egg to mature in the ovary.
- Luteininzing Hormone (LH) is responsible for egg maturation and the release of the egg from the ovary.
- Estrogen, the “female hormone” repairs the lining of the uterus after the menstruation.
- Progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to get thicker to be ready for the fertilized egg
After the ovulation, if the egg has not been fertilized, the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop and the thickened lining of the uterus detaches, ending the cycle and the menstruation appears.
For more information, take a look at this chart
It is a lot more than menstruating: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Cramps, backaches or headaches while menstruating are not the only symptoms that women suffer. The changes in hormone levels seem to be responsible for what it is called Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Around two weeks before the period appears, women start experiencing other physical symptoms such as digestive problems, tiredness or general bloating; as well as a wide range of psychological symptoms.
Psychological symptoms of the PMS can be difficult to detect even for the person who is suffering them because there is no other indicators of your menstrual cycle at this point. These psychological symptoms can go from crying spells, depression, feeling tense or anxious, feeling crabby, angry outbursts, having mood swings, or trouble focusing.
For more info about PMS, see HERE.
There is actually no scientific evidence that PMS, also known as premenstrual syndrome exists! Scientists have been continuing to debate and research this phenomenon, which many woman continue to say is true, while scientists have not been able to find any concrete proof. The drastic change in hormone levels that occurs during menses has not been linked with any mood swings. Actually, the hormone levels have been found not only to be altered in the first few days before the menstruation, but also throughout the menses. So this means that it would not be just the ‘pre-menstrual’ but a mood change throughout the menses. This has led doctors to believe that this could be purely a placebo effect. Some studies have shown that the more a woman believes in the PMS mood effects, the more negative her symptoms are. Scientists think this may be because of the overall cultural attitude about PMS as it is displayed in magazines, movies and anecdotes.
However, to many women and girls who experience this every month, they do not need scientific proof to explain the emotional changes that have also been linked to depression and suicide in extreme cases. Doctors agree, that PMS may have extreme effects on a very small minority of women. These women can feel so ill that they cannot go to work.
There is also no scientific link between the menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle which scientists say is probably just coincidence since the lunar cycle is also around 28 days.
- Is PMS a myth?
- You or someone you love menstruates—here’s what you need to know about it
- PMS - Fact or Fiction
Menopause is a natural stage of a woman’s life that is divided into a three major stages. These are Perimenopause, Menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause is when the ovaries slowly begin to produce less estrogen. This can happen a few years before meopause. The first symptoms are a change in the menstrual cycle. This could mean it being heavier, lighter or shorter.
Periods through the periods: A small introduction to the history of menstruation
Imagine having your periods in medieval times or just even at the beginning of our century, how would that be?
Women throughout history have had to find efficient and healthy solutions to managing their periods.
Undoubtedly, it is hard to find information on women and menstruation preceding the written history. Some assume that women were less frequently menstruating because of multiple causes such as “high stress, short life span and more frequent pregnancies”. Girls reached menarche much later and only menstruated 50 times compared to approximately 450 times in one lifetime nowadays.
The history of periods is highly marked by taboos and stigmas. However, some menstrual taboos were initially supposed to protect women from the influence of others. When menstruating, women were said to acquire a creative spirituality that created a positive spiritual force. Therefore, menstruation was valued for its mystery and power.
In Ancient Egypt, women used tampons made out of soft papyrus and the Greeks used lint covered wood. The Romans used wool for their pads and tampons
Some cultures and religions have historically considered women impure during their menstruation and everything that they touched was considered impure as well. Women had to separate themselves from men and were not allowed to physically touch men or hand objects to them.
The Renaissance (1650-1800)
In France, menstruation was seen as being a symbol of seduction. The French were also the ones to discover that women menstruated because they failed to conceive a child, before it was thought that a woman needed to lose blood in order to control her hysterical state of mind.
In Germany and Britain it was more common for women to bleed freely. This was because women feared that washing their underclothes would cause more bleeding. This leads historians to believe that the sight of menstrual blood was not uncommon, although it’s also predicted that women menstruate more today than their ancestors did.
In Europe in general, it was thought that menstruating women could spoil food.
The Industrial Era (1800s-1900s)
It was not until the 1880s when health care providers began to recommend that women should use menstrual hygiene management methods, which at the time were pads held up with suspenders or a belt.
It was not uncommon for women to work in factories during this time, and many continued to bleed freely onto the ground where straw was left to absorb it.
The Contemporary Era
Tampons, disposable pads and menstrual cups as we know it were invented in the mid 1900s. These vary in popularity depending on the decade.