As humans, our bodies go through a lot of changes since the very first day that we are born. Men and women face different challenges throughout their lives and each challenge is unique in the way that it is handled and the experience it gives you. For example, women have a never-asked-for subscription to monthly bleeding. Yes, I am talking about periods or the menstrual cycle. No matter how important they are, they still fall under the “oh my God no” category.
Although we are able to keep track of them, and they do show symptoms, they still can drop by unannounced and catch you off guard. They can be scary the first time you get them but seeing that as a woman, you will be dealing with them for quite a large portion of your life, then it is safe to say that you need to learn the science behind them in order to have a full understanding of what is going on.
Follow me as I walk you through the most basic things related to periods, or the menstrual cycle.
What is the menstrual cycle?
So, when a woman hits puberty, her body goes through a whole lot of changes. Women hit puberty in different ages that vary from 12 to 16 years old. Along with puberty come a new set of hormones. It is due to these hormones that we get our period. See, these hormones have a purpose. Their purpose is to send our brain signals that our body should start getting prepared for a pregnancy every single month.
These hormones vary in level depending on the stage of your menstrual cycle. Now, with “menstrual cycle”, we refer to the time between two periods. Usually, this cycle is 28 days up to 35 days. It is different for every woman. Here is how to find out how long your menstrual cycle is. Firstly, find out the exact date of the first day of your last period. Then, count the days up until one day before you start bleeding, meaning one day before getting your next period.
Stages of the menstrual cycle
As mentioned earlier, there are a few stages of the menstrual cycle. During these stages, the level of hormones in your body fluctuates which is all in all a normal occurrence. Here’s what happens to your body every menstrual cycle and see how it affects you and your mood.
Stage 1: The menstrual phase
This stage begins at the very first day of your period and it is also the first day of your menstrual cycle. It is characterized by back pain and cramps. Why? Well, because during menstruation, the uterus lining breaks down and sheds itself. Something else that you might experience is low energy and feeling tired.
Stage 2: Preparing for ovulation
After the last day of your period, your body begins to prepare itself for another pregnancy. What helps this whole process is a hormone called the follicle-stimulating hormone also referred to as FSH. This hormone stimulates our ovaries to create another matured egg. During this time, our body produces estrogen, which helps thicken the walls of the uterus with blood and nutrients. This happens due to the fact that your body is preparing itself for pregnancy. In this stage, you can notice that you feel more energetic and in a better mood.
Stage 3: Ovulation
So, this is where it all goes down. Literally. The matured egg is released from the ovaries and travels down the fallopian tube and goes in the uterus. It can survive there from 12 to 24 hours. If the egg comes in contact with sperm during this time, it is fertilized. So you must be extra careful during this time if you want to avoid pregnancy. In this stage, you feel generally better and your mood spikes up. You might also experience an increase in your sex drive since your body is producing high levels of estrogen.
Stage 4: The luteal phase
This phase is what follows up the stage of ovulation. So, the egg has traveled down into the uterus and now your body is producing another hormone called progesterone. This hormone helps build the lining of the uterus, so when there is no fertilization, then there is no need for this hormone. The levels of estrogen and progesterone start to drop and the uterus lining starts to shed. This is when the cycle ends and a new one begins. During this time, you might experience mood swings and low levels of energy. It is called the premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.
Keeping track of your periods is an easy thing to do. Whether you prefer to keep track on a calendar or download one of those apps on your phone, they both work just fine. Keeping track is important as you will notice every little change in your period cycle and consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Talking to other women about periods can be misleading because, as mentioned earlier, the cycle is different for every woman. So, instead of freaking out why your cycle is 35 days while your friend’s cycle is 28, keep track and figure out what’s normal for you and what is not.
Us women spend a huge portion of our lives dealing with periods. No matter how annoying they can get and how much you’d want them to stop, they’re still the reason why we can have children and I think all the struggles of the world are worth it. Women are tough warriors when it comes to periods as well. They take them down like a champ.
Before you go, you might not want to miss: The Right Ways Parents Should Use To Talk To Their Kids Regarding Periods