A menstrual cycle or period is a monthly series of changes a woman’s body goes through in preparation for the possibility of a pregnancy. Every month, one of the ovaries releases an egg in a process called ovulation. A woman may experience hormonal changes that will prepare the uterus for pregnancy. When ovulation takes place and the egg is not fertilized the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina this is called a period (CDC).
To determine what is considered a normal period cycle there are a few things that you need to be mindful about every month:
- Cycle and date – Basically know how long does your cycle usually last? Is it long? Is it short?
- Flow – What does the flow look like, does it look heavy or light? Does it tend to chang through the cycle or different months? Also do you see any major blood clots?
- Is there any pain? Do you experience cramps throughout the entire cycle, or is it mostly in the early days?
- Do you experience abnormal bleeding? So, do you see any spotting in between periods?
- What other changes do you experience during your cycle? Do you experience a change in mood, or irritability? Any changes in your sleep?
There are many reasons why a woman can experience irregularities in their menstrual cycle.
- Eating Disorders or Extreme Weight Loss – sometimes seen in athletes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Premature ovarian failure – the loss of normal ovarian function before the age of 40
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Uterine fibroids- these are cancerous growths of the uterus can cause heavy and prolonged menstrual periods.
For some women, birth control can help regulate menstruation, but that may not always be the case. Irregularities in menstruation, especially when you’ve had a normal cycle for the most part should be discussed with your primary care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. Shorter and Longer Cycles
A normal period cycle lasts between 21-35 days, with around a week of bleeding. It is important to cycle track in order to be able to spot any irregularities in flow and period arrival. When a woman goes through perimenopause and menopause, it is likely that she will experience changes in her period cycles. She may miss periods, experience longer or shorter cycles, experience spotting, and many more potential symptoms. There is typically no reason to be concerned, as there are scientific, medical explanations as to why these symptoms may occur. It is all a part of a woman’s natural aging process!
Due to the lowering estrogen levels that result from Perimenopause, the uterine lining progressively gets thinner. This results in potential for shorter and lighter periods. However, as this is a natural process, it should not raise a huge reason for concern. On the other hand, once a woman is reaching the end of perimenopause, they may experience longer periods. This sudden change is due to anovulatory cycles, which is when ovulation does not occur. As a result of these cycle changes, it is recommended that women refrain from using tampons and diva cups, but rather, use pads and panty liners. The pads and panty liners tend to be better for the increased sensitivity occurring in the uterine region. For example, inserting a tampon can be extra difficult and painful, because naturally, there is less lubrication in the vaginal area due to perimenopause.
-Written by Kaila An MPH
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