Women are blessed to have the unique ability to contribute to, grow and nurture, and then give birth to baby humans. As a pelvic floor health specialist, I work mainly with women during pregnancy and postpartum. However I feel like we get distracted from the process that allows us to even get to that point in life. That would be our periods. The blessing or curse, however you like to look it!
The menstruation cycle is the long name of what women in today’s society call “the period”. Over time it has also developed many other names, code words, phrases, ect. However, let’s going over some basic menstruation medical vocabulary so that you can be more aware of what they actually mean.
There is a special word for the first period a young girl ever gets and it is: Menarche.
The absence of a period is known as amenorrhea.
An usual period or dysfunctional menstruation cycle is called: dysmenorrhea.
Most young girls are aware that they get a period around the average age of 9-11 years old. Most of the them have no idea why or what it actually means. As a health provider I think that this is a huge problem with today’s world. Young girls often don’t understand what’s happening in their own bodies, so they have no idea what’s normal, or what’s abnormal? This leads to a significant amount of under diagnosed menstrual dysfunctions, and a significant amount of young girls who are not getting the care that they need.
So the ultimate question is “What is a period?”
A period or menstruation cycle is the cycle of hormonal shifts that lead to a woman having eggs released to be fertilized, and once the body recognizes that no eggs have been fertilized through intercourse, then it begins the process of “sloughing” or cleaning out the eggs the ovaries released to be fertilized, thus causing the bloody show in periods.
Now that is general overview of what’s happening within the ovaries and uterus. We can’t leave out what is happening hormonally because that is the driver of the ship in this case! The hormones that we will be looking at are estrogen, progesterone, LH, and FSH hormones.
As you can see from the chart, while you are on your period – all of these hormones are relatively low and “level-ish”. Then you can see where the changes begin to happen around ovulation where FSH and LH automatically spike with a general increase in estrogen. Once estrogen, LH, and FSH come down after the egg is released, then you see progesterone spike and then taper slowly to join the others.
If the egg were to be fertilized, this would create a completely different pattern of hormone shifts, but this chart is specifically for a non-pregnant female.
These hormone shifts are actually what drives the physical or emotional symptoms you feel during a menstrual cycle (or period). These symptoms are, but not limited to, cramping, bloat, headaches, mood changes, and fatigue. It’s important to recognize that periods can happen in SUCH a variety of ways. Some women have no symptoms, and some can have really severe. The miscommunication and confusion among today’s society is where some of these extreme symptoms have been dubbed as “acceptable and normal” when in reality there is nothing normal about them.
In next week’s blog we going to be covering more abnormal signs and symptoms during your menstrual cycle and what is actually means. So if you found this blog helpful, please share it with a friend and check back next week for the follow up blog to this!