Periods, medically known as menstruation, is the bodily process that marks the beginning of womanhood. It also stays with her for a greater part of her life.
Understanding what happens during periods will help you deal with it better and stay on course.
Female reproductive system
Why women have periods?
The female reproductive system consists of two ovaries placed on either side of the Uterus along with the fallopian tubes. Each of the two ovaries stores thousands of follicles.
Each ovarian follicle contains a hollow ball of Cells with an immature egg in the center.
Click here to check the animation on menstruation.
|Prior to ovulation, the Hormone Estrogen stimulates the Uterus to build up its lining (endometrium) with extra blood and tissue, making the walls of the Uterus thick and cushioned. This is done in order to receive the egg and prepare the Uterus for pregnancy.|
- A woman’s first period is known as menarche and normally occurs at the ages of 10–17. 3, p. 381 A From menarche, a woman gets her period roughly each month until she reaches menopause, which generally occurs in the late 40s or early 50s.
- Bleeding during periods lasts for 3–7 days, averaging to 5 days. Blood loss during a cycle usually ranges from 10–80 mL. Menstrual blood, unlike blood resulting from an injury, usually does not clot unless the bleeding is very heavy.
There are many problems that women may experience with their Menstrual cycle. Some of the most common period problems include:
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Painful periods (Dysmenorrhea)
- Absence of periods (Amenorrhea)
- Heavy periods (Menorrhagia)
- Unusual vaginal bleeding.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome refers to a set of symptoms that some women experience before each period. The symptoms include:
- Physical reactions like bloating, headaches, tiredness and food cravings.
- Psychological reactions like irritability, anger, depression and lowered self-esteem.
Painful periods (Dysmenorrhea)
Dysmenorrhea refers to menstrual condition characterized by severe menstrual cramps and pain associated with period. Symptoms may include cramping in the lower abdomen, pain in the lower abdomen, low back pain, pain radiating down the legs, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness, fainting headaches, etc.
Absence of periods (Amenorrhea) Thecondition, where a woman has no periods is known in medical terms asamenorrhea. Women who have never had a period are said to be affectedwith primary amenorrhea, although this condition is quite rare. Primaryamenorrhea is usually due to a genetic or physical abnormality.
Sometimes, periods suddenly stops in women who had previously been menstruating regularly. This condition is referred as secondary amenorrhea. The most common reason to miss a period, once the Menstrual cycle has become regular, is pregnancy. Other causes of missed periods may include:
- stopping the use of birth control pills,
- extreme weight loss,
- excessive exercise (e.g., ballet dancing, distance running, gymnastics),
- stress and
- hormonal imbalances.
|When periods do not stop completely, but have long gaps between them,it is called oligomenorrhea. Women who have no periods for more than 6months or who have only three or four periods in a year need to seekadvice.|
Heavy periods (Menorrhagia)
Heavy periods are medically known as referred to as menorrhagia. This condition can be caused by hormonal imbalance, Endometriosis and uterine growths. Severe or heavy bleeding will make a woman Anemic for which medical assistance may be necessary.
Unusual vaginal bleeding
Unusual vaginal bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or after Menopause are all signs of serious problems and requires medical attention.
Treating/preventing problems associated with periods
Periods can cause a lot of discomfort for many women. In many cases, pain-relieving medications can help reduce symptoms such as cramps.
However, medications must be taken in consultation with the doctor. Hot baths or use of heating pads or hot water bottles can also ease cramps.
Other lifestyle changes that can help reduce the problems of periods include:
- dietary changes,
- nutritional supplements and
- regular exercise.
Nutrition and period problems
Studies have shown many nutrients are closely linked with periods. Women with premenstrual syndrome usually have low levels of calcium, chromium, copper and magnesium. Supplementation of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin D and vitamin E have been shown to reduce symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome.
Sex during periods
In healthy couples, there is no need to avoid sex during period. However, it be obliged to be borne in mind that the risk of transmitting a blood borne infection, like Hepatitis C and AIDS is higher when having unprotected sex at this time. Hence, those at risk should not have sex during a period—or ever have sex without a condom.
Return of periods after childbirth
Whether breastfeeding or not will determine how long a woman will take to return to menstruation. The Hormone that stimulates milk production, prolactin, also slows downs Ovulation and the return of menstruation. Therefore, women who are fully breastfeeding may not have periods for months or until breastfeeding ends.