What is menstrual cycle?

Menstrual Cycle

Normal menstrual cycle: Overview

The menstrual cycle is the series of changes the body goes through to prepare for a possible pregnancy. About once a month, the lining of the uterus (endometrium) starts to thicken. Then an ovary releases an egg. If the egg is fertilized by sperm and attaches to the lining of the uterus (implants), pregnancy begins. If the egg isn't fertilized or a fertilized egg doesn't implant, the uterus sheds its lining. This is the monthly menstrual bleeding, or period. Periods happen from the early teen years until menopause, around age 50.

A normal cycle lasts from 21 to 35 days. Count from the first day of one menstrual period until the first day of your next period to find the number of days in your cycle.

You may have no discomfort during your menstrual cycles. Or you may have mild to severe symptoms. If you have problems, ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicine. It may help relieve pain and bleeding.

Menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle is the body's monthly pattern of preparing for a possible pregnancy. The lining of the uterus (endometrium) starts to thicken. One of the ovaries releases an egg. And then, if the egg isn't fertilized or a fertilized egg doesn't attach to the lining of the uterus (implant), the endometrium sheds from the uterus as a menstrual period.

Menstrual phase (period).

The thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) is shed, causing menstrual bleeding. Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding. Bleeding usually lasts for 4 to 6 days.

Follicular phase.

The lining of the uterus thickens. Also, inside a sac (follicle) on the surface of an ovary, an egg becomes ready to be released.

Luteal phase.

The egg is released (ovulation). Ovulation days can range from about day 7 to day 22 of the cycle. But for each person, the ovulation day is often on the same day each cycle.

  • If the egg is fertilized by sperm, it may attach to (implant in) the lining of the uterus, and pregnancy begins.
  • If the egg is not fertilized or a fertilized egg does not implant, the lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period. Then the cycle starts again.

What is your menstrual cycle?

Your period is part of your menstrual cycle, the time from the first day of your period to the first day of the next period. A normal menstrual cycle for teenagers can be anywhere from 21 days to 45 days.

For the first year or two, your cycle may not be regular and you may not have a period sometimes. If you are underweight because of dieting or exercise, have a lot of stress in your life, or are overweight, your periods may be hard to predict.

Your menstrual cycle makes it possible for you to get pregnant. Sometime around the middle of each cycle, you will ovulate, which means one of your ovaries will release an egg. You may have a slight discharge from your vagina or some spotting of blood when you ovulate.

What symptoms are linked to the menstrual cycle?

For about a week before a period, some people may have premenstrual symptoms. You may feel irritable. You may gain water weight and feel bloated. Your breasts may feel tender. You may get acne. You also may have less energy than usual. A day or two before your period, you may start to have pain (cramps) in your belly, back, or legs. Cramps can range from mild to severe. These symptoms go away during the first days of a period. And some people have no symptoms.

When your ovary releases an egg in the middle of your cycle, you may have pain in your lower belly. You also might have red spotting for less than a day. Both are normal.

How can you manage menstrual cycle symptoms?

Getting regular exercise, eating a variety of healthy foods, and reducing stress may help menstrual symptoms. It may also help to limit food and drinks that make your symptoms worse, such as alcohol or caffeine.

Keep track of the day you start your menstrual period each month. If your cycle is regular, the calendar can help you predict when you'll have your next period.

To help you figure out if you have a pattern of premenstrual symptoms, try keeping track of your symptoms.

Medicine for menstrual pain and bleeding

Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine to help relieve your menstrual pain and bleeding. Start to take the recommended dose of pain reliever when symptoms start or 1 day before your period starts. If you are trying to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before you use any medicine.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil), reduce menstrual cramps, pain, and bleeding by lowering the level of the hormone prostaglandin.
  • If NSAIDs don't relieve the pain, try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
  • Take the medicine for as long as the symptoms would normally last if you didn't take the medicine.

Other ways to relieve menstrual cramps

Here are more ways to relieve menstrual cramps:

  • Apply heat to your belly with a heating pad or hot water bottle. Or take a warm bath. Heat improves blood flow and may decrease pelvic pain.
  • Lie down and prop up your legs by putting a pillow under your knees.
  • Lie on your side, and bring your knees up toward your chest. This will help relieve back pressure.
  • Exercise. This improves blood flow, produces pain-fighting endorphins, and may reduce pain.

What controls your menstrual cycle?

Your hormones control your menstrual cycle. During each cycle, your brain's hypothalamus and pituitary gland send hormone signals back and forth with your ovaries. These signals get the ovaries and uterus ready for a pregnancy.

The hormones estrogen and progesterone play the biggest roles in how the uterus changes during each cycle.

  • Estrogen builds up the lining of the uterus.
  • Progesterone increases after an ovary releases an egg (ovulation) at the middle of the cycle. This helps keep the lining ready for a fertilized egg.
  • A drop in progesterone (along with estrogen) causes the lining to break down. This is when your period starts.

A change in hormone levels can affect your cycle. Other things can also change your cycle. They include birth control pills, low body fat, losing a lot of weight, being overweight, stress, and very hard exercise training. Pregnancy is the most common cause of a missed period.

What is a menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is the series of changes in the body to prepare for a pregnancy. About once a month, the lining of the uterus (endometrium) starts to thicken. Then an ovary releases an egg. If the egg is not fertilized or doesn't implant, the uterus sheds its lining. This is the monthly menstrual bleeding.

What controls your menstrual cycle?

During each menstrual cycle, your brain sends hormone signals back and forth with your ovaries to get the uterus ready for pregnancy. Estrogen builds up the lining of the uterus. Progesterone helps keep the lining ready for a fertilized egg. A drop in hormones then causes the lining to break down, starting your period.

What are the phases of the menstrual cycle?

A normal menstrual cycle has three phases. During the menstrual period, the uterus sheds its lining, which bleeds through the vagina. During the follicular phase, the lining of the uterus thickens. In the luteal phase, if an egg is fertilized and attaches to the lining, a pregnancy starts. If not, the lining breaks down.

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