There are a number of ways women reference their menstrual cycle this day in age and each woman has their own individual feelings about it too. Even with the wealth of information out there about this particular time in your life a lot of women actually don’t know much about their reproductive cycle or what is happening in their body. The fact of the matter is, and as corny as it sounds, it really is a miraculous time in a young girl’s life. This is going touch on some of the basic info about your menstrual cycle but also cover some more in-depth issues and information you may not know.
Most girls will start their periods between the ages of 10 and 16. This is the stage of puberty when your body starts preparing itself to become pregnant (and yes, you can get pregnant before your first menstrual cycle). Even though this is the common age of young girls to start having their period it is not the “rule”. It is different for every girl and can fall far outside of the norm. Some young woman, especially those who are athletic or aren’t getting adequate nutrition, can go for a long time before having their first period, while others may have it at a much younger age. If you start having a period outside of the average don’t be concerned. Each woman’s body is different.
Menstrual Cycle Stages
Many women are unsure of what all goes on in their body during their menstrual cycle. It’s actually quite an interesting bit of information to have so you know what your body is going through. Each cycle is made up of the rising and falling of different hormones and each phase is doing something different in your body.
The first part of your cycle is the menstrual phase when your uterus sheds its lining, or you have your period. Even though it can appear to be more, few people know, a woman only loses about 6 to 8 teaspoons of blood during a period. You may experience cramping due to the lining breaking down and the uterus contracting to “clean” itself. As your period comes to an end hormones change you begin the follicular phase. This is when your ovaries start preparing to release an egg.
Around midways through your cycle, or around day 14, your body releases the egg it has been prepping. This is called ovulation. The body then switches gears and starts producing a hormone, called progesterone, to prepare the uterus to be a nice cushy place for the egg to land. If the egg hasn’t been fertilized it will pass through and hormone levels will drop. This is when the shedding of the cushion your uterus has made, in preparation for a fertilized egg to implant, starts and your cycle starts over again. And just so you know, this is the “textbook” version of how it works. Not all cycles are the same and each phase isn’t always the same.
“It’s that time of the month.” Well, a lunar month is more like it or February. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. A lot of women are confused by the cycle. Let’s actually look at it as a lunar cycle. The first day, or day 1, of your menstrual cycle, is the first full day of your period with a full flow (the Full Moon). You may have a day or so of spotting before but day 1 isn’t until the “Full Moon”. Just like the moon, which eventually gets smaller, so will your period until it is gone. Usual periods last 5 to 7 days but, like with most things, can be shorter or longer and don’t always stay the same. From the first day of your period to the first day of your next period is your cycle length. It is around 28 days for most women but can be more or less. If your cycle is shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days on a regular basis let your healthcare provider know, especially if it is bothersome.
When to be Concerned
There are times when a period isn’t just a period, especially if you experience severe pain, have abnormally long or short cycles, or just have an uneasy feeling that something just isn’t right. After all, who knows your body better than you? Menstrual cycle irregularities can be a sign of a more serious issue.
Hopefully, this has helped you understand a little bit more about what is secretly going on in your body each month and how the menstrual cycle works. Keep in mind that most of these numbers are averages and each body is different and may not fall exactly within these specs. And that’s OK. However, if you have a concern or something just doesn’t seem quite right be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider.