WHAT IS MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
The menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes a woman’s body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg in a process called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina and blood flows. This is known as a menstrual period.
AT WHAT AGE DO GIRLS START THEIR PERIOD?
The average age for a girl to get her first period in some countries may vary depending on some factors, but the range of age is about 8 to 15 years old and they usually have periods until about ages 45 to 55.
WHAT CAUSES A PERIOD?
A period happens because of changes in hormones in the body. Hormones are simply chemical messengers. The ovaries release the female hormones known as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause the lining of the uterus or womb to build up. The built-up lining is ready for a fertilized egg to attach to and start developing. If there is no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds. Then the same process happens all over again.
It usually takes about a month for the lining to build up, then break down. That is why most girls and women get their periods around once a month.
WHAT CAUSES MENSTRUAL CYCLE IRREGULARITIES?
Menstrual cycle irregularities can have many different causes which may include the following:
PREGNANCY OR BREAST-FEEDING: A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Breast-feeding typically delays the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
EATING DISORDERS, EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS OR EXCESSIVE EXERCISING: Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, extreme weight loss and increased physical activity can disrupt menstruation.
POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME: Women with this common endocrine system disorder may have irregular periods as well as enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid called follicles that are located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound exam.
PREMATURE OVARIAN FAILURE: Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function before age 40. Women who have premature ovarian failure also known as primary ovarian insufficiency might have irregular or occasional periods for years.
PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE: This infection of the reproductive organs can cause irregular menstrual bleeding.
UTERINE FIBROIDS: Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. They can cause heavy menstrual periods and prolonged menstrual periods.
TIPS TO CONSIDER
However, some people still have a long way to go as several thousand women still use rags, leaves and other unsanitary substances during their periods. These not just restrict them to stay at home, they also affect their health. Here are some tips every woman should follow to maintain menstrual hygiene.
KEEP YOUR VAGINAL AREA CLEAN
It is important to keep your vaginal area clean especially during periods when there is blood flow from the body. Use warm water and diluted soap to wash the area. You can also use recommended vaginal washes available in the market to keep yourself clean. If, however, they irritate your skin or vagina, discontinue the use and speak to a doctor. The vagina also has a self-cleaning mechanism, so these washes aren’t really necessary for most women.
NEVER USE TWO PADS SIMULTANEOUSLY
There is a saying that “two are better than one”. Here, two are not better than one. Some women who experience heavy flow, tend to use two sanitary pads at one go to control the flow and prevent staining of clothes. This, however, is a bad idea as it can cause infections in the vaginal region. Stick to one and keep changing it often if the flow is more.
WEAR COMFORTABLE AND CLEAN UNDERWEAR
While changing your sanitary pad is essential, it is also important to wear something comfortable during these days. Tight thongs or underwear made of fabric that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe will also lead to infections. Instead, stick to clean and comfortable cotton knickers that do not stick to your skin.
CHANGE YOUR PAD EVERY FOUR HOURS
If you use sanitary pads to soak the flow during your periods, remember to change it often. Ideally, changing it every four hours is good. If not every day, do this on the first two days when the flow is heavier. On others too, don’t wear the same pad for more than eight hours as this may lead to infections and other complications.
CLEAN REUSABLE PADS PROPERLY
There are sanitary napkins that can be reused for several menstrual cycles. If you use one of these, ensure that you clean them thoroughly after every use so that there are no germs and there is no scope of infection. Follow the instructions given and don’t reuse them after the said number of uses.
For more issues on menstrual flow, visit the clinic.