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Understanding Menstrual Cycle: A Short Guide to Women's Health

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Women of childbearing age go through a monthly menstrual cycle. It's a natural change that happens in our bodies, making it possible for women to get pregnant if they wish. Every month, a woman's body gets an egg ready and releases it, waiting to see if it meets a sperm.


Menstrual Cycle Illustration - Germie.org

Why is it essential to know about this cycle? For a few reasons:

  • Your cycle contributes to your mood and readiness for the day

  • It indicates how your overall health is doing

  • If you want to plan a family, whether you're trying to get pregnant or not, understanding your cycle helps

  • If something doesn't feel right, knowing more about your cycle can help you spot any problems earlier

Understanding women’s menstrual cycle helps you to make the best decisions. Better decisions for your body and health.


This blog will give you more insights and debunk some myths about your period.


Understanding the Menstrual Cycle


A woman’s body goes through a monthly process known as the menstrual cycle. It splits into four main phases that make up a 28-day cycle.

  1. Menstrual Phase (lasts 3 - 7 days): This is your actual period. The body sheds the womb's lining (also called the uterus). This is why you will experience bleeding. During this time, hormone levels, like estrogen and progesterone, are pretty low.

  2. Follicular Phase (lasts 7 - 21 days): After your period, the body starts getting an egg ready for release. This happens because a hormone called FSH (follicular stimulating hormone) tells the ovaries (that store the eggs) to grow follicles. Once the follicles begin to develop, your body will encourage one of these follicles to grow more than the others. This follicle will eventually contain a mature egg.

  3. Ovulation Phase (usually around day 14): This is when the main follicle releases its egg. Another hormone, luteinizing hormone or LH, signals the egg to be released.

  4. Luteal Phase (about 14 days): After the egg is released during ovulation, it travels from the ovary through the fallopian tube into the uterus. Here, pregnancy can occur if the egg meets a sperm. At this time, the empty follicle turns into a corpus luteum. This produces a hormone called progesterone, which prepares the womb in case it fertilizes the egg. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum breaks down, hormone levels drop, and the uterus (womb) begins to shed its lining.

Knowing these phases can help women predict their periods and manage any period-related problems. It also helps understand how your cycle impacts other parts of your health, like your mood or heart.



The Role of Key Hormones in the Menstrual Cycle


Some essential hormones drive the menstrual cycle. It manages the workings of their reproductive system.


Role of Key hormones in Menstrual Cycle

Understanding these hormones better can help you understand why your periods happen and when to get pregnant if that is what you are trying to do. It also helps them understand the other essential details about your body.


Here's how it works:

  1. At the beginning of a woman's cycle, a part of their brain called the pituitary gland releases FSH (follicular stimulating hormone). This hormone wakes up the ovaries and gets them working. It also matures small sacs known as follicles.

  2. As the follicles grow, they produce a hormone called estrogen. Estrogen has a crucial job. It thickens the lining of a woman’s womb, preparing a soft cushion for a potential baby to settle into.

  3. When there's enough estrogen, it signals the release of another hormone, LH (luteinizing hormone). This hormone has an essential mission, and it causes one of the ovaries to release a mature egg. This event is ovulation. It's the moment when a woman can get pregnant if the egg meets a sperm.

  4. Once the egg travels out of the ovary, the leftover part of the follicle starts making a hormone called progesterone. This is also called the corpus luteum. Its role is to keep the womb's lining thick and welcoming. This is the case when the egg fertilizes and needs a place to grow.

These hormones are like messengers, telling different parts of your body what to do. Knowing their roles helps you understand their body's monthly rhythm better. It's like getting to know the backstage crew that runs the show!



Common Symptoms and Experiences


Every month, we go through a series of changes that are just part of being a woman. This cycle affects their body, feelings, and even their behavior. Here's what happens:


Ovulation


Around the middle of your cycle, you might notice some mild pain (mid-cycle period cramps) and feel a bit warmer. You might even feel a little more interested in being close to someone. This is when the body releases an egg and prepares for pregnancy.


Premenstrual syndrome or PMS


Before the period starts, you may feel all sorts of things and may get snappy or anxious.


Your breasts can get sore, and you may crave certain foods. Sometimes, it can even cause you to get a bad night's sleep.


It's essential to remember that all these feelings and symptoms are a regular part of a woman’s monthly cycle. When someone dismisses these experiences as women "being emotional," it feels dismissive. Understanding this part of a woman's life is important.


Menstruation


Menstruation is the time when women have their period; It's not just about bleeding.


Women often deal with negative side effects such as tummy cramps, bloating, headaches, and feeling super tired. You might even feel down or really moody. During this time, it may feel tough and like your life is a bit out of sync, but don’t worry, it shouldn’t last.



Menstrual Disorders


Every woman's body has its rhythm, but sometimes, things can go a bit off-track with the periods. When this happens, it can mess with your day-to-day lives and how you feel, both physically and emotionally.


Menstrual Disorders - Germie.org

There are a few common period problems that some women might face.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)


This happens when there's a hormone mix-up in a woman’s body, causing small cysts to form on the ovaries. It might make periods irregular or even skip them.


Endometriosis


This is when the tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus grows outside. It can hurt a lot during periods, cause heavy menstrual bleeding, and even make getting pregnant tough.


Amenorrhea


Ever missed a period? If it stops for a long time (like 90 days) and it's not because of pregnancy, it might be amenorrhea. Things like stress or big changes in weight can cause this.


Dysmenorrhea


This is a fancy name for super painful menstrual cramps. Women all get cramps, but these are intense and can make doing everyday stuff really hard.


PMS (Premenstrual syndrome)


This happens before the period starts and can make women feel moody and tired. Some people may experience this worse than others, even though it is a natural part of the cycle. It also can cause sore breasts and food cravings.


So what should you look for?


If your period starts feeling different under several conditions, it's important to chat with a doctor. This might be if you have more pain than usual, pain that’s lasting for long periods of time, or your period is coming too often or not often enough. Listening to your body and getting help when needed is the key to staying healthy.



Maintaining a Healthy Menstrual Cycle


Healthy Menstrual Cycle

Understanding the menstrual cycle plays a crucial role in making informed decisions about one's health. Here's what's important to know:


Tracking the Cycle


It's beneficial to track the menstrual cycle. Things to track might include

  • Recording the start and end dates of menstruation to predict future periods

  • Observing symptoms like bloating or breast tenderness

  • Noting changes in appearance, smell, and amount of cervical mucus (discharge) Checking your basal body temperature and cervical position. These will help if you are trying to predict fertility.


Diet & Exercise


A balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can contribute to a regular menstrual cycle. If you have PCOS or endometriosis, it’s especially important to focus on what you eat and how that affects your menstrual cycle. Also, regular physical activities can lessen menstrual pain and help in regulating the cycle.


Dispelling Myths


There are many misconceptions surrounding menstruation, such as:

  • Period blood being dirty - This is not true. Period blood is not dirty and comes from a natural process of the body shedding the lining of the uterus.

  • Not all menstrual pain is normal - Intense pain might be indicative of health issues and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

  • Exercising during menstruation - Contrary to some beliefs, physical activity can help alleviate cramps. It also improves mood during menstruation.

  • Synced Cycles - Some believe menstrual cycles can occur at the same time as others when they spend a lot of time with them. In fact, cycles vary due to multiple factors.


Promoting open dialogue and accurate information about menstrual health can help challenges. It can also correct such myths. This will lead to healthier approaches to managing the menstrual cycle. If any concerns arise regarding fertility or menstrual health, consulting a doctor is recommended and encouraged!



 


About Germie


Germie's mission is to create a female health network that operates as an end-to-end solution to bridge the divide between patient and professional, brought to you in an easy, digestible way.



 

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