Author: Ms. Anomitra Dey ( anomitra.dey@gmail.com

Often there is a taboo associated with the discussion about the menstrual cycle. A survey conducted by a research group in India 2014, showed 42% (participating women) were unaware of the menstrual process on a whole along with the use of sanitary napkins.  Strangely, women are also considered as goddesses because they have the power to bring a new life to the world. She nurtures life from a single cell to the multicellular child. The whole process is due to the menstrual cycle, which is essentially associated with female fertility.

Menstrual Cycle:

The menstrual cycle starts with menarche; it’s the time when a girl gets her first menstruation (anywhere between the age of 8-15) and ends with menopause, a phase where the menstrual cycle ceases off (around 45-55 years). The menstrual cycle is typically around 28 days, counted from the first day of menstruation to the next month’s menstruation start. Sometimes the cycle may vary from 24 – 38 days which is considered to be normal. The menstrual cycle is associated with various hormonal changes in the female body.

The cycle begins with menstruation (lasts for 3-8 days) which also known as periods, monthly, chumps, etc., which is a monthly bleeding phase where the inner lining of the uterus is broken down and discarded as blood and tissue flow through the vagina. This is followed by a proliferative phase where the estrogen hormone level surges entering into the follicular phase. During this phase, the uterine line gradually starts thickening, and follicles of the ovary start maturing. 

When a follicle matures the levels estrogen decreases and luteinizing hormone (LH) along with Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) increases, and the ovarian follicle gives out the female egg “oocyte”.  This marks the ovulation, which occurs ideally on the 14th day of the menstrual cycle (may vary from 7th -19th day). The egg lives for 12-24hrs, it is during this time a woman can become pregnant if the egg is fertilized by a sperm (lives for 3 -5 days) and undergo fertilization. Once the follicle releases the egg, it turns into a corpus luteum, that secretes the progesterone hormone, this is known as the secretory phase. 

Uterine Cycle (Resource: Wikipedia)

The secretion progesterone stimulates the uterine lining and prepares itself for the implants of the fertilized egg. However, if the egg does not fertilize the corpus luteum degenerates and eventually the progesterone hormone declines. This drop in the hormone causes the inner line of the uterine wall to break, marking the onset which marks the beginning of menstruation. This completes a single menstrual cycle which occurs periodically. However, the fertilization of eggs leads to pregnancy, it’s during this time there is no menstruation which may continue up to the breastfeeding phase.

Health Conditions Associated with Menstrual Cycle:

Sometimes there are certain health conditions that may be associated with the menstrual cycle. These conditions are due to the hormonal changes that may vary according to the phases which might recur or maybe infrequent. The most common condition before or during menstruation are:

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Often a female becomes irritable and prone to anxiety and depression in this condition. This condition occurs prior to menstruation.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Due to IBS, females may experience bloating, flatulence, and cramping, this might get worse just before the start of menstruation.

 Bladder pain syndrome: This results in painful cramps during PMS and periods.

Menstrual Cycle

Conditions during ovulation: Generally, ovulation isn’t felt by all women; however sometime a woman might experience one-sided pain for a few minutes to a few hours, this is known as mittelschmerz or mid-cycle pain. Sometimes the pain may persist which can be a result of

Cysts: An ovarian cyst may show symptoms such as bloating, cramping, nausea or there may be no symptom at all.  Cysts may vary depending on its types, sometimes the cysts may be worrisome and would require medical attention and sometimes it may resolve inherently.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): In this condition, there are small cysts on the surface of the ovaries due to which the amount of androgen (male hormone) increases. This is often characterized by irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hair growth, weight gain, etc. The causes of this syndrome can be attributed to heredity or due to insulin resistance or obesity.  Therefore, treating PCOS is crucial as prolong syndrome may cause infertility, diabetes, or heart conditions.

Endometriosis: It is a condition where the tissue lining of the uterus grows outside the uterine cavity which can be very painful because of the inflammation on the outside of the uterus causing bleeding and irritation.

These conditions have no appropriate cure; however, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper food and adequate physical activities can keep the conditions in check. Also cultivating overall hygiene is of utmost importance especially during the menstruation. Thus, the menstrual cycle is not just a window for fertility but it’s rather a process of a lifetime. 

About Author: 

A researcher by heart, writer by the soul. Anomitra is a budding scientist who is exploring the art of creative writing and science blogging.

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