The first time a girl has a period is a defining moment in her life. It indicates major biological changes in her body and means that she is now able to conceive a child.
Every month when your period comes, also known as menstruation, your body produces the lining of the uterus. Menstrual blood flows through the cervix and exits the body through the vagina. A typical period lasts anywhere from 3 to 7 days.
Here are 7 important things to know about your period, for both young women who are only learning about menstruation and those experiencing changes in their regular cycle.
Why are you getting periods?
Every month, an egg begins to grow in one of the ovaries. After it is fully developed, it leaves the ovary and travels to the uterus through the fallopian tube. This process is called ovulation.
During this time, the level of estrogen (a female hormone) in your body begins to increase and causes the uterine lining to thicken.
If you have sexual intercourse and the man’s sperm reaches the egg and fertilizes it, the egg attaches itself to the thick uterine wall, and you become pregnant.
If the egg is not fertilized, it breaks down and envelops the lining of the uterus and is eliminated from the body in the form of menstrual secretions.
1. Changes before menstruation may mimic pregnancy
Not all pregnancy-related reactions of the body indicate an actual pregnancy. Your period may trigger symptoms like these as well.
As we have already proven, in the days leading up to your period, your body thickens and prepares your uterine lining if you get pregnant.
Your body does this by secreting certain hormones that contribute to the formation of the endometrium that secures and nourishes the fetus. You may also experience other symptoms typical of pregnancy, such as nausea, vomiting, and back pain.
2. Prolonged or heavy bleeding may indicate fibroids
Many women tend to overlook heavy bleeding. Some people may not notice they bleed more than they usually do in a particular cycle, and use healthier products than they normally would.
Some women’s periods may last longer than the usual 3 to 7 days, but they may underestimate the importance of that as well.
However, profuse bleeding during periods and cycles of more than 7 or 8 days may be an indication of the growth of a fibroid. A fibroid is a non-cancerous, fibrous, and muscular growth that appears in or around the uterus. Occasionally, you may also notice blood clots in your menstrual flow. This could also be a sign of fibroids.
3. Excessive menstrual pain may indicate endometriosis
Abdominal pain and cramps are common complaints during periods when the uterine wall is shed.
During menstrual periods, the endometrium secretes prostaglandin, a hormone that causes inflammation and pain.
However, severe pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis that affects your ability to do daily activities in a major way can be an indication of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory disorder in which uterine tissue, which is normally supposed to grow and stay inside the uterus, grows outside the uterus. This tissue also forms the endometrium, which breaks down during periods.
4. Irregular periods may indicate a hormonal disorder
While it is normal to have irregular periods when one is younger if the condition persists into or after the early twenties, this could be a cause for concern.
If your irregular periods are accompanied by other symptoms, such as obesity, excessive facial and body hair, hair loss, and acne, then this may be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
These cysts prevent eggs from being released from the ovaries and hinder the entire menstrual process. This often causes missed periods.
5. Stress can exacerbate PMS symptoms
Many women experience the pain of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a disorder that usually affects women before the onset of their menstrual period and is characterized by stress, anxiety, mood swings, depression, anger, fatigue, mild body aches as well as occasional bloating, breast tenderness and swelling.
PMS tends to negatively affect a woman’s relationships with family and friends. It also reduces work performance and often leads to higher healthcare expenditures.
6. Low body mass index affects fertility
To have regular periods and the ability to get pregnant, your body mass index (BMI) must be at least 22. BMI measures the amount of fat in your body.
If you have an irregular period, check your BMI. The reduction in fat propels the body into an emergency, making it focused on only performing the most important functions and sustaining life. Thus, the body may stop menstruating.
This can have a big impact on your fertility. If you don’t have periods, your ovaries won’t release eggs for ovulation and subsequent fertilization.
7. Your period does not protect you from pregnancy
The faster this myth is denied, the better. Yes, the likelihood of getting pregnant during your period is lower because you have just passed your ovulation cycle and the next ovulation cycle is still days away.
However, there are a few exceptions. Your menstrual cycle is the time between your last period and the next.
If you have a shorter period (21 to 24 days, for example), you may get pregnant even if you have sexual intercourse during your period. If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, use a condom regardless of the time of the month.