Menstruation goes by several names, such as, periods, menses, or a monthly cycle. It is the vaginal bleeding that occurs in sexually mature women after every 28-30 days. This bleeding consists of blood and tissue, and goes on for about 4-5 days.
A menstrual cycle, which begins on the first day of the period, entails menstruation. As part of this cycle, sex hormones inside the woman’s body prepare it for pregnancy. Hormones that influence the menstrual cycle are estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone. Estrogen develops the female reproductive structures in the body, such as the uterus lining called ‘endometrium’. It also promotes little sacs called ‘follicle’ that contain the egg, to release it.
Progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy. It also helps the mammary glands produce milk. The follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) helps mature the egg, so that they can be released. The luteinizing hormone (LH) stimulates ovulation. If the egg gets fertilized by a sperm, the woman conceives. However, if the egg is not fertilized, it gets discarded by the body in the form of vaginal bleeding.
Women may experience mood swings around the time of their periods. This is referred to as the ‘pre-menstrual syndrome’ or PMS. There may be a feeling of anxiety, depression, and fatigue during this time. Some women also experience menstrual cramps. Medical experts usually administer non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help ease the pain. Regular exercises also help prevent menstrual pain.
Several hygiene products are available in the market to help women absorb this bleeding. These include sanitary pads which can be worn inside the undergarment to absorb the flow of blood. Disposable cotton in a cylindrical shape is called a tampon. This is inserted inside the vagina to absorb the bleeding.