What Happens in those 28 Days?

                          Did You Know? l Women loose between 20 and 80 cc (1-2 ounces) of blood during a normal period. l One in six fertilized eggs naturally results in miscarriage, some of which are reabsorbed by the body and the woman is not aware she's been pregnant. l The length of a lady's menstrual cycle i.e. number of days from the first day of any one period to the first day of the subsequent, is determined by the number of days it takes for her ovary to release an egg. Once an egg is released, it is about 14 days until menstruation, for nearly all women. Menstrual Myths & Facts l Myth - Every woman's cycle is or should be 28 days long. Fact - It may vary depending upon climate, nature, health & other pathologies l Myth - Every woman should have vaginal bleeding every month. Fact - In very rare cases, during menstruation, bleeding may occur from other sites viz. nose, breast etc. (Vicarious menstruation) l Myth - Every woman should ovulate during every cycle. Fact - In some cases, ovulation does not occur, yet bleeding occurs. (Anovular menstruation) l Myth - If a woman bleeds, she is not pregnant. Fact - Occasionally, there may be spotting during the entire or first month of pregnancy. An insight into Menstrual Cycle Have women ever wondered about the connection between their body and the 28-day cycle? If not, then here we describe a typical menstrual cycle and we begin to challenge the dominant cultural myths & assumptions about menses. Consider for a moment, all you've heard about menstruation. Who first told you? What did they call it? How is menstruation viewed in your culture? What taboos have influenced you? How does your partner feel about your period? Is your experience different now, compared to earlier in your life? Basic Biology The Cycle begins : When a baby girl is born, she has as many as 2 million primary oocytes (unmatured eggs) stored in her ovaries, each inside it’s own sac called Follicle. Until puberty, they remain in resting phase. At puberty, some 400,000 primary oocytes are left, the rest being atretic. Out of these, some 400 odd are likely to ovulate during the entire reproductive period. Her body begins producing various hormones at puberty that causes the primary oocytes to mature. This is the beginning of her first Menstrual Cycle, called ‘Menarche’. It continues till menopause. A series of changes occur in the uterus & ovaries during the menstruation & intermenstrual period. The average period of menstrual cycle is 28 days which is measured from the first day of the menstrual period. The menstrual cycle of women is controlled by the hypothalamus part of the brain, which is also responsible for regulating body's hunger, thirst, sleeping patterns, libido, endocrine functions etc. It releases a chemical, which leads the pitutary gland to secrete Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which assists in maturing of follicles. The entire menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases. Proliferative Phase : In this phase, immediately after the cessation of the menstrual cycle, the Uterus prepares itself for embedding of the fertilized ovum (egg). As soon as it is ready, the ovarian follicle matures & secretes estrogen hormone into the bloodstream. When the estrogen level reaches a certain point it causes the hypothalamus to release leutenizing hormone releasing factor causing the pituitary gland to release a large amount of Leutenizing Hormone (LH). This surge of LH triggers the one most mature follicle to burst open and release an egg around 14th day after the onset of menstrual bleeding. This is called ovulation. Ovulation : As ovulation approaches, the blood supply to the ovary increases and the ligaments contract, pulling the ovary closer to the Fallopian tube of the uterus, allowing the egg, once released, to find its way into the tube. Just before ovulation, a woman's cervix secretes an abundance of clear "fertile mucous" which is characteristically stretchy. Fertile mucous facilitates the sperm's movement toward the egg. Some women use daily mucous monitoring to determine when they are most likely to become pregnant. Mid-cycle, some women also experience cramping or other sensations. Inside the Fallopian tube, the egg is carried along by tiny, hair like projections, called "cilia" toward the uterus. Fertilization occurs if sperms are present as the ovum (matured egg) reaches the uterus. Secretory Phase : This occurs after ovulation. When fertilization does not result then within about 3 days, the follicle turns into corpus luteum & secretes progesterone hormone, causing changes in the uterine glands and other secretions. Premenstrual Phase : This period, of about 2 days, before beginning of the next cycle, causes changes to occur in readiness for envolution of the corpus leteum i.e. that mature egg which was not fertilized. Menstrual or Bleeding Phase : Lasting for about 4 to 5 days, in this phase, bleeding occurs from the uterus with shedding of the corpus luteum. The unfertilzed ovum also sheds off along with the menstrual blood. Cramps and Other Sensations : Women can experience a variety of sensations before, during or after their menses. Common complaints include backache, pain in the inner thighs, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, breast tenderness, irritability and other mood changes. Women also experience positive sensations such as relief, release, euphoria, new beginning, invigoration, connection with nature, creative energy, exhilaration, increased sex drive and more intense orgasms. Uterine cramping is one of the most common uncomfortable sensations women may have during menstruation. There are two kinds of cramping. Spasmodic Cramping caused by prostaglandins, chemicals that affect muscle tension, and Congestive Cramping which causes the body to retain fluids and salt. Natural Options to alleviate Cramping l Regular exercise to improve blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body. l Avoid using tampons. Many women find tampons increase cramping. l Avoid red meat, refined sugars, milk and fatty foods. l Eat lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains (especially if constipation or indigestion is experienced), nuts, seeds and fruit. l Avoid caffeine. It constricts blood vessels and increases tension. l Meditate and get a massage. l Drink ginger root tea. l Breathe deeply, relax, notice where you hold tension in your body and let it go. l Take time out for yourself! Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS Women have known PMS for many years. It refers to the collection of symptoms or sensations women experience as a result of high hormone levels before, and sometimes during their periods. One type of PMS is characterized by anxiety, irritability and mood swings. These feelings are usually relieved with the onset of bleeding. Most likely, this type relates to the balance between estrogen and progesterone. If estrogen predominates, anxiety occurs. If there's more progesterone, depression may be a complaint. Sugar craving, fatigue and headaches signify a different type of PMS. In addition to sugar, women may crave chocolate, white bread, white rice, pastries and noodles. These food cravings may be caused by the increased responsiveness to insulin before menstruation. In this circumstance, women may experience symptoms of low blood sugar; their brains are signaling a need for fuel. A consistent diet that includes complex carbohydrates will provide a steady flow of energy to the brain and counter the ups and downs of blood sugar variations. Menopause For most women, menopause occurs between the age of 40 to 50 and takes place over a period from 6 months to three years. The menstrual cycle usually goes through many changes, some slow and some sudden, before stopping altogether. A woman's periods may become erratic, closer together, or further apart. A common experience is loss of large amount of blood during a period and passage of large clots. When a woman nears the cessation of her periods, she may not ovulate for one cycle or several cycles. In this case, the endometrium doesn't receive the chemical message to stop thickening. It grows and grows until its heavy bulk causes a heavy flow. Signals of menopause include hot flashes or flushes, changes in sleep patterns, headaches or migraines, high energy, high creativity, and/or mood changes. As with PMS, some of these symptoms are due to hormone imbalances caused by poor nutrition.