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Friday, June 14, 2024

Comprehending the Menstrual Cycle: Nature’s Wonder

A woman experiences menstruation every month unless she has some hormonal imbalance. Menstruation prepares your body for pregnancy. Your hormones stimulate your uterus to shed its lining every month unless you are pregnant. This cycle is called the menstrual cycle. Understanding your menstrual cycle is important, as, from that, you can gauge what is exactly happening in your body. Irregular menstrual cycle phases or abnormal bleeding can be identified and treated once you know the actual issues.

Let’s go deeper…

A staggering fact is that a woman has more than 2 million follicles, which are called ‘pre-egg’ cells, in her ovaries. As you grow older, this number reduces, and so, when you reach the age of menses (around 11 years old), you have around 400,000 follicles. For reasons unknown, only up to about 500 of those follicles mature into eggs in your entire life. Releasing those eggs depends on a few factors, like birth control, the number of pregnancies you had, your breastfeeding cycle with your previous baby, etc. These all affect your ovulation. Your egg follicles age with your age. At menopause, you experience absolutely no release of eggs.

The Ovulation

Ovulation means when an egg is released from the ovaries. A woman has had her eggs since she was born. When your period begins, 1 egg develops and is released during each period cycle. Post ovulation, your egg lives for 24 hours. A regular menstrual cycle indicates a high chance of pregnancy. Pregnancy happens when a man’s sperm meets a woman’s egg and fertilizes it. Sperm can survive for up to 7 days in the fallopian tubes after intercourse. Sometimes, more than 1 egg is released during ovulation. If the sperm fertilizes more than one egg, it causes multiple pregnancies like twins, and triplets.

The menstrual cycle

 In order to understand the menstrual cycle phases, let us know about the reproductive organs of a female body. Below are the listed organs and their functions:

  • 2 ovaries: They store, develop, and release eggs
  • Womb: Here, the eggs are fertilized and the embryo is developed
  • Fallopian tubes: They are 2 thin tubes connecting the ovaries to the womb
  • Cervix: This is the entrance to the womb through the vagina
  • Vagina

A menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends on the previous day of your next period. An average menstrual cycle is 28 to 29 days, but it differs for every woman. Few teenage girls might have a 45-day cycle, whereas young women might have cycles that last from 21 to 38 days.

The first period is called menarche. In Western countries, the average age for your first period is 12 to 13, but it can begin as early as 9 or as late as 16.

The last period is called menopause. The usual age for women to attain menopause is 51 to 52. Some women get it at around 60. These days, due to an irregular and unhealthy lifestyle, many women get it as early as 35!

From the time a girl starts getting menstrual periods, she goes through a complexity of hormonal changes that stimulate various reactions in her body. Let us go through a step-by-step guide to understand exactly what happens over the course of a 28-day cycle:

Step 1

The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that produces a chemical called gonadotropin and releases the hormone follicle (GnRH). This follicle signals the pituitary gland (also in your brain) to release Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and some Luteinizing Hormone (LH).

Step 2

The follicles in the ovaries mature into an egg. This happens due to FSH and LH and it happens over the course of about 14 days.

Step 3

When the eggs mature, estrogen is released and the uterine lining thickens. This makes the uterus ready to accommodate an embryo and this is called the ovulation period.

Step 4

When the oestrogen level reaches the highest level, the pituitary gland is stimulated again to produce even more LH. This completes the maturation of the follicles into eggs.This new stream of LH occurs around the 12th day of your menstrual cycle and lasts for about two days. This is called ovulation, and exactly on this day, you can conceive a child, and your uterus is ready to carry an embryo.

Step 5

Now, the egg that is ready is transferred to the uterus through the fallopian tubes over the course of a few days. This is your most fertile time for pregnancy. A high estrogen level in your system enables thinning of the cervical mucus. This helps the sperm travel to the fallopian tubes and contact the egg to further fertilize it. This is about halfway through your cycle, and your libido is at its highest!

Step 6

The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle follows. Once the follicle releases an egg, it is called the corpus luteum. Its main function is to release more estrogen and lots of progesterone. This keeps the uterine lining in place and creates a pregnancy. Your body temperature will also rise at this junction.

Step 7

If in the above ovulation period you get pregnant, then the fertilized egg will travel to the uterus and implant itself into the uterine lining, or endometrium. This will send a signal to the corpus luteum to produce more progesterone, which helps maintain the lining of the uterus and continue a healthy pregnancy. If you do not conceive during your ovulation period, then the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone, which stimulates the endometrium to release. This is the starting point of your period.

Step 8

The decrease in progesterone levels again causes your next period and also stimulates the hypothalamus to release GnRH. Thus, all the steps of your menstrual cycle are repeated; thereby maintaining the cycle!

Symptoms of a normal menstrual cycle

Usually, period symptoms differ from woman to woman. Below are a few symptoms that are completely normal during menstruation.

  • Grumpiness
  • Insomia
  • Food cravings
  • Food aversion
  • Cramps in lower abdomen and back.
  • Swelling
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne

Conclusion

The menstruation cycle is a Nature’s miracle that enables a woman to conceive a child and give birth. The process is truly intricate and magical! Birthing is a woman’s greatest privilege.  

Uneeb Khan
Uneeb Khanhttps://www.hopequre.com/online-therapists
As a mental health counselor offering online therapy, I help clients heal past traumas, improve struggling relationships, and make positive life changes through services like clinical, behavioral, and relationship therapy. My online counseling targets issues from parenting challenges to preventing breakups, managing stress, overthinking, and more. I meet clients who are emotionally stressed and provide customized therapy facilitating deep healing, all conveniently through online sessions.

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