Menstrual Cycle Health: What You Need to Know

Your menstrual cycle is more than just a monthly inconvenience. It’s a vital sign of your overall health and well-being. Your cycle can tell you a lot about your hormonal balance, your fertility, your mood, and your risk of certain diseases. In this blog post, we’ll explain some of the basics of menstrual cycle health and how you can take care of it.


What is a normal menstrual cycle?

A normal menstrual cycle is one that is regular, predictable, and painless. The length of a cycle can vary from person to person, but the average is about 28 days. A cycle is measured from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. A period is the bleeding that occurs when the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is shed. A period usually lasts for 3 to 7 days.

The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones, mainly estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate the growth and release of an egg (ovulation) from the ovaries and the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy. The first half of the cycle, called the follicular phase, is dominated by estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the growth of a follicle that contains an egg and also thickens the endometrium. Around day 14 of the cycle, a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) triggers ovulation, which is when the egg is released from the ovary and travels to the fallopian tube. The second half of the cycle, called the luteal phase, is dominated by progesterone. Progesterone maintains the endometrium and prepares it for implantation if fertilization occurs. If fertilization does not occur, the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, causing the endometrium to break down and bleed.

What are some common menstrual problems?

Many people experience some degree of menstrual problems at some point in their lives. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Dysmenorrhea: This is the medical term for painful periods. It can cause cramps, lower back pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or headaches. Dysmenorrhea can be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea is caused by prostaglandins, chemicals that cause uterine contractions and inflammation. Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by an underlying condition, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Amenorrhea: This is the absence of periods for more than three months in a row. It can be caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, or hormonal imbalances. It can also be a sign of an eating disorder, excessive exercise, stress, or a thyroid problem.
  • Oligomenorrhea: This is when periods are infrequent or irregular, occurring more than 35 days apart. It can be caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), stress, weight changes, or hormonal imbalances.
  • Menorrhagia: This is when periods are heavy or prolonged, lasting more than seven days or soaking through more than one pad or tampon per hour. It can be caused by fibroids, polyps, adenomyosis, endometriosis, or bleeding disorders.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): This is a group of physical and emotional symptoms that occur before a period. They can include bloating, breast tenderness, acne, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue, or food cravings. PMS affects up to 80% of people who menstruate.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): This is a severe form of PMS that interferes with daily functioning and quality of life. It affects about 5% of people who menstruate. It causes intense mood swings, anger, sadness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, difficulty concentrating,
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