What is menstruation?

What is menstruation?

Menstruation is a normal process that women go through every month. Young people, whether male or female, shouldn’t have to wonder what is menstruation. This process should be taught in schools and at home.

The menstrual cycle: What is menstruation?

Menstruation has many names. It is often referred to as a period or menses. Its many names notwithstanding, menstruation is a big part of a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle. This hormonal process happens in the female reproductive system to make it possible for the woman to get pregnant.

The onset of menstruation

Young women need to be educated about the menstrual cycle before they actually experience this process. This is because they need to arm themselves with knowledge ahead of time instead of desperately trying to find out what is menstruation after they’d had their first period.

Menstruation signifies that a girl is about to reach the end of puberty. It happens after the girl has started developing breasts and pubic hair.
A young woman’s first menstruation is called menarche, and it typically happens from age 8-15. The woman is expected to get their periods until they are 45-55 years old.

what is menstruation

The different phases of the menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle kicks off on the first day of menstruation. There are 4 phases in a cycle, and each phase happens just to get a woman’s body ready for pregnancy.

The phases of the menstrual cycle include:

1. The menstruation phase
2. The follicular phase
3. The ovulation phase
4. And the luteal phase

Menstruation

Menstruation, also known as periods, is the monthly discharge of blood from the lining of the uterus (endometrium). This menstrual blood passes through the vagina, and it usually contains mucus and cells from the endometrium.

Follicular phase

The follicular phase starts on the first day of menstruation and lasts anywhere from 11 to 21 days. The follicular phase is when the pituitary gland produces FSH—follicle stimulating hormone. This hormone causes the ovary to make follicles, up to around 20 follicles in total, and each follicle stores an egg. Eventually, all the follicles will die off except for the one that will mature into a ripe egg.

In this stage, the lining of the uterus or endometrium will thicken to get ready for fertilization and pregnancy.

Ovulation

Ovulation occurs when the egg is released from the ovaries. Usually, ovulation occurs about two weeks (14 days) before the next period—that is if the periods are regular. In the ovulation phase, the pituitary gland produces high levels of the luteinizing hormone LH.

The ripe egg is released into the fallopian tube, and the egg goes on to live for around 24 hours. If there is no egg to fertilise the egg, it dies off.
Ovulation is an important time in pregnancy and conception.

Luteal phase

The luteal phase begins at the end of ovulation and ends with the beginning of your next cycle. After ovulation has taken place, the corpus luteum, which holds the ripe eggs, disintegrates and produces the hormone progesterone.

This hormone helps to thicken the uterine lining in readiness for the sperm to fertilise the egg and implant on a comfy uterine lining.
If fertilization occurs and the egg implants on the uterine lining, the body then produces human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG). HCG is the hormone you test for when conducting a pregnancy test.

In the case where there is no fertilization and pregnancy, the corpus luteum will die, causing the progesterone production to decrease. This will also cause the uterine lining to shed and flow out as menstruation.

Menstruation Symptoms

While some women will get their periods without feeling any symptoms or discomfort, a lot of women experience uncomfortable symptoms to include:
Headaches
Dizziness
Abdominal cramps
Bloating
Acne
Mood swings
Diarrhea
Sore breasts
Fatigue

Most of these symptoms will go away if you take over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

Severe menstrual problems

You can’t get a comprehensive answer to the question what is menstruation without knowing about these severe menstrual issues. Some of them are so serious that they affect a woman’s quality of life.

They are:

1. Heavy bleeding or menorrhagia
This happens when a woman bleeds more than normal. Usually, the bleeding can go on for more than 7 days.

2. Painful periods or dysmenorrhea
Women who have this problem suffer from excruciating pain during their periods. The pain is often so intense that some women may require hospitalization.

3. Absent periods or Amenorrhea
When a woman of childbearing age doesn’t get her periods, this condition is referred to as amenorrhea.

It is important to report severe menstrual problems to your doctor. This is the best way to check for any underlying causes.

How to maintain your hygiene during periods

You can either use pads, menstrual cups or tampons during periods. It is important to change your menstrual hygiene products every 3-4 hours to prevent infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Menstruation is a natural part of life! Hopefully, you now have the answers to your what is menstruation question.

Resources: Medicinenet

Healthline

Also read: Male condoms vs female condoms

Written by

Julie Adeboye