Everything You Need To Know About Your Menstrual Cycle And Period

Everything You Need To Know About Your Menstrual Cycle And Period

20 Oct 2022 | 8 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 274 Articles

Do you know when your last period began or how long it lasted? Well, if not, it might be time for you to start paying attention to it. Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you understand what’s normal, time your ovulation, and also identify significant changes, such as a missed period or an irregular menstrual cycle. It can also help you plan your pregnancy better in the future. 

While irregularities in a menstrual cycle is considered pretty common, they shouldn’t be ignored, as in some cases they indicate a serious underlying health condition. Keep reading as we give you more details about menstruation, an average period length, and when to seek medical advice from your doctor.

What Is Menstruation?

Menstruation is defined as the monthly shedding of the lining of your uterus. It is also known by the terms menses, menstrual cycle, or period. The menstrual blood (which is a combination of tissues from your uterus and blood), passes from your uterus through the cervix and is expelled out of your body through the vagina.

What Is a Normal Menstruation Cycle?

The menstrual cycle is a term used to describe the series of changes occurring within your body, as it prepares itself for a possible pregnancy each month. Your menstrual cycle is considered to begin on the first day of your period and generally lasts for about 28 days. However, keep in mind, that your average period length can also range between 21-35 days. 

The Different Stages of Your Menstrual Cycle

Different stages of your menstrual cycle
Your menstrual cycle is categorised into four stages that occur between the 28-day period / Image credit: Freepik

Hormonal changes trigger different changes in your body during the menstrual cycle. In fact, these changes lead up to your period, and they occur in a predictable manner every month. The changes are categorised into different stages, and we have given an in-depth overview of them in the next section.

Stage 1: The menses phase

This phase lasts from day one to five of your menstrual cycle. During this phase, the lining of your uterus sheds blood through the vagina, confirming that pregnancy has not occurred. Most women bleed for at least three to five days, but again the length varies from one person to another. A period length ranging between 2-7 days is also considered normal.

Stage 2: The follicular phase

This phase occurs from days 6-14 of your menstrual cycle. During this time, the level of oestrogen production in your body rises, which causes the lining of your uterus to grow and thicken. Additionally, a separate hormone, known as the follicle-stimulating hormone, encourages the growth of follicles in your ovaries. Between days 10-14, one of the developing follicles will form a fully mature egg, also known as an ovum.

Stage 3: Ovulation

A sudden increase in a hormone called the luteinizing hormone causes your ovary to release an egg (oocyte). This phenomenon is called ovulation and it typically occurs on day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.

Stage 4: The luteal phase

The follicle that released the egg begins to shrink into a structure called corpus luteum. It begins to produce both oestrogen as well as progesterone hormones. Due to the production of progesterone, the lining of your uterus begins to change and prepares for pregnancy. During the last days of your cycle, your uterine lining becomes thicker and more complex with blood vessels, glands, and tissue swelling. These changes occur to prepare for the process of implantation and pregnancy.

However, if implantation of a fertilised egg doesn’t occur, the corpus luteum in your ovary continues to shrink. Additionally, during this time the oestrogen and progesterone levels in your body decline. This phenomenon causes the blood vessels in your thickened uterine lining to constrict and cut off blood flow. Without any blood flow to support it, the thickened uterine lining dies and sheds from the uterus. 

How Can You Track Your Menstrual Cycle?

To determine whether your menstrual cycle is normal you can start keeping a record of it in a calendar. Begin by tracking your start date every month and identify the regularity in the upcoming months. Make sure to do this for several months in a row to detect any irregularities or missed period.

If you are concerned about your period cycle, then make sure to take note of the following factors every month. You can later show this record to your doctor, as it will help them identify any abnormalities easily.

  • Your end date: Record your end date to determine the average length of your period, and whether it varies every month or stays consistent.
  • Flow: Mark the heaviness of your flow. Does it seem lighter or heavier than usual? Have you been passing blood clots every month?
  • Abnormal bleeding: You should also keep a note of the days when you notice unusual bleeding in between your period.
  • Pain: Describe the pain that is associated with your period. Do you experience extreme pain every month, or is it moderate sometimes?
  • Other changes: Keep a record of your behavioural changes, and any other bodily changes that you have noticed during this time. 

What Causes Irregularities In Your Menstrual Cycle?

What causes irregularities in your menstrual cycle?
Irregular period can be caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding, PCOS, or premature ovarian syndrome / Image credit: Pexels

There are many factors that can cause irregularities (missed period, abnormal bleeding, excessive pain) in your menstrual cycle. Some of them include:

  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding: A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Additionally, women who are breastfeeding can experience a delay in their period after pregnancy.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is an endocrine system disorder, which causes the high production of androgen in your body, failed ovulation, and cysts in your ovaries, causing missed or irregular period.
  • Eating disorders, extreme exercising, weight loss/weight gain: Eating disorders like anorexia or a drastic change in your body weight can also affect your menstrual cycle, leading to irregularities.
  • Premature ovarian failure: This condition causes your ovaries to stop functioning, prematurely, before the age of 40. When this happens, your ovaries don’t produce sufficient oestrogen or release eggs regularly, causing irregularity in your menstruation.
  • Uterine fibroids: This condition causes non-cancerous growths in your uterus. They can cause a heavy menstrual period or prolonged menstrual period.

What Can You Do to Prevent Irregularities In Your Menstrual Cycle?

Following a healthy lifestyle, indulging in moderate physical activities regularly, and consuming a balanced diet can help regulate your menstrual cycle. In addition to this, you can also consider taking hormone-regulating pills or birth control pills to normalise your cycle. But only add these medicines to your routine after thorough consultation with your doctor.  

When Should You Seek Medical Advice From Your Doctor About Your Period?

When should you seek medical advice from your doctor?
Consult your doctor if you haven’t had your period for over 90 days, or you are experiencing more severe pain than usual / image credit: Freepik

If you notice the following symptoms during your menstrual cycle, then make sure to seek advice from your doctor right away.

  • If you haven’t been menstruating for more than 90 days and you are not pregnant
  • Your cycle has become erratic
  • You are bleeding for more than seven days
  • You have excess bleeding
  • Your period cycle is less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
  • You are bleeding between your period
  • If you experience severe pain and cramps during your period
  • If you suddenly get a fever and feel sick after using tampons

Conclusion

It is essential to keep a track of your menstrual cycle to rule out the possibility of any serious health conditions like PCOS or ovary failure. Plus, tracking your period length could also help your doctor determine conditions like infertility and start appropriate treatment measures much before you plan your pregnancy. So, in case you notice any abnormalities in your cycle, as mentioned above, consider scheduling an appointment with a gynaecologist and getting a thorough medical checkup to determine the exact cause and administer the right treatment.

FAQs

What are the four stages of the menstrual cycle?

The four stages of the menstrual cycle are: the menses phases, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

What does a normal menstrual cycle look like?

A normal menstrual cycle can range anywhere between 28-35 days.

Why do period days change?

There could be a number of factors affecting your period, such as excessive weight gain or loss, hormonal changes, eating disorders, or serious health conditions like PCOS.

What can delay your period?

Factors like PCOS, premature ovarian failure, pregnancy, or breastfeeding can delay your period.

How late can your period be?

Your period can be late by a month, but if you haven’t menstruated over 90 days, and you are not pregnant, then you should definitely consult a doctor. 

Also read:

Ovulation symptoms: Check out the most common symptoms of ovulation to track your menstrual cycle.

Ovulation calculator: Use this effective ovulation calculator from BabyChakra to determine your most fertile days. 

Cover Image Credit: Freepik.com

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