Despite experiencing it for most of our lives, our period and menstrual cycle can sometimes remain fairly mysterious to us. Often the level of discomfort and pain make us question what is “normal” while social taboos and just plain embarrassment can make it difficult for us to ask questions.
The truth is, women are significantly more biologically complex compared to men – our bodies develop to facilitate the growth of a human being, we have the ability to carry human beings for 9 months, and if our eggs aren’t fertilised, it has developed a system that continually repeats the process involved in preparing the female body for growing a human being – your menstrual cycle.
Keeping track of your menstrual cycles can help you gain an understanding of what’s unique to you, and although nothing is 100% exact when it comes to your period, with every woman being different, there are some things you can be somewhat sure to expect.
We’ll also help you understand the stages and assist in identifying important changes and issues.
What is it exactly?
When you’re younger, the cycle commences at menarche which is your first period, and when you reach midlife, it ends with menopause, which is your last period ever.
The terms ‘period’, ‘menstruation’ and ‘menses’ are all used to refer to the blood loss women experience during this time.
Every woman’s cycle is completely unique to them and your first period usually occurs at around 12-13 years old but can start as early as 9 years old and as late as 16 years of age.
Menopause usually occurs at around 45 and 55 years old for most women, with the average age being between 51 – 52 years old. So, it’s something we must deal with for the better part of our lives.
Why do we have it?
The sole purpose of the menstrual cycle is to prepare our bodies for pregnancy. It results in the lining of the uterus thickening and so, an egg grows and is released from one of the ovaries.
When pregnancy doesn’t occur, oestrogen and progesterone levels fall which results in them signalling your body to begin menstruation.
How long does a menstrual cycle last?
This is an uncertainty and a frequently asked question. The thing is, these cycles vary from woman to woman.
In short, the menstrual cycle is measured from the first day the period occurs to the very first day of the next period – that’s the complete cycle, and that is how you count your menstrual cycle.
For teenagers, a cycle lasts up to as many as 45 days. Again, not for everyone, but by the time we reach our 20’s and 30’s, cycles usually last between 21-30 days.
Periods are ever evolving and change throughout our lifetime. For some woman, they get heavier over time, all the way up until their final period. For others, they get lighter as you get older. For some woman, they can change after pregnancy, becoming lighter or heavier in flow.
Menstruation is the removal or elimination of the thickened lining of the uterus from the body through the vagina.
- The follicular phase
The follicular phase then begins on the first day of menstruation and ends with ovulation. The pituitary gland releases the follicle stimulating hormone through the hypothalamus, and this hormone then stimulates the ovary to produce up to 20 cysts (follicles) which, in turn, accumulate and bead on the surface.
This is when a mature egg releases from the surface of the ovary. This usually occurs in the middle of your cycle, which is usually around 2 weeks before the start of the menstruation cycle.
- Luteal phase
During the ovulation phase, the egg then bursts from its follicle, but the ruptured follicle (cyst) remains on the surface of the ovary.
Through a relatively lengthy process (up to 2 weeks) the follicle then transforms into a form known as the corpus luteum. This form then starts to release progesterone, together with tiny amounts of oestrogen.
This combination of progesterone and oestrogen sustains the thickened lining of the uterus, in preparation for fertilised egg to bond.
Other signs include:
- Your cycle is less than 21 days or longer than 40 days
- You experience heavy bleeding between periods
- Irregular periods
- Bleeding for more than 7 days
Easily track your period using an app and you’ll be able to identify when there may be a problem. Any of the following factors can affect your menstrual cycle:
- Uterine fibroids
A noncancerous growth which may result in a longer and heavier period.
- Eating disorders
Extreme weight loss may disrupt your menstrual cycle or stop it all together.
- Birth control
These pills may make your period lighter or shorter, while some may cancel out your period all together.
You shouldn’t get your period during pregnancy. Therefore, it’s also a common sign that you have fallen pregnant.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
A hormonal imbalance that prevents the egg from developing in the ovaries.
Maintain normal hormone balance with supplements
INOFEM is a supplement that assists with hormonal imbalance. It contains Myo-Inositol which is a pseudo-vitamin compound which plays a significant role in healthy ovulation. Further to this, it has also recently become highly regarded for its benefits for women suffering from PCOS.