About half of the human race goes through menstruation during their reproductive years. On average, menstruation starts in the early teen years and finishes in the early 50’s, in their early teens and reach menopause in their early 50s, during which individuals go through approximately 400 to 500 menstrual cycles. Hence, they spend about seven years of their life bleeding. This is by no means a small amount of time. Learn what is going on in our bodies during menstruation so that you can stay safe and healthy during this period.
A normal physiological phenomenon, not “the curse”
✔️ Menses, Period, or That Time of the Month
During reproductive years, the regular rise of certain hormones thickens the uterine lining to prepare it for embryo implantation. If pregnancy does not occur, the thickened lining of your uterus is shed spontaneously, which is called menstruation.
In everyday life, euphemisms like ‘period,’ ‘the curse,’ ‘that time of the month,’ or ‘mother nature’s gift’ are widely used. It is associated with cultural shaming and a taboo on the natural physiological phenomenon. However, it is never something to be ashamed of or kept hidden. There's no reason to be afraid of the accurate word: Menstruation.
✔️ What Causes Menstruation?
The body of a menstruating person prepares for pregnancy, typically with a regular cycle. The uterine lining grows thick and sturdy so that a fertilized egg can be implanted successfully. One of the ovaries releases its egg, which is called ovulation. The egg attempts to attach itself to the uterine wall.
If the egg has not been fertilized or implantation does not occur, the body starts to break down the thick and unnecessary uterine lining. The uterine lining is then shed through the vagina comprising of blood, mucus, vaginal secretions and endometrial tissue.
✔️ Normal Menstruation
Everyone experiences menstruation in their unique way. The characteristics of menstruation that are considered medically ‘normal’ are as follows:
- Menarche and menopause
The average age of menarche globally is 12. However, menarche may occur earlier or later depending on one’s physical development, nutritional status, the amount of exercise they get, and psychological and environmental factors.
The average age of menopause in average age of menopause globally is 51, and most reach it between 50 - 54. The timing of menopause also varies depending on factors like weight, amount of exercise, marital status, and health habits.
- Menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is known to be 28 days long on average, but most menstruating people have their own cycles. Menstrual cycles normally range from about 25 to 36 days. (From the first day of one menstruation to the first day of the next menstruation)
Bleeding on average lasts 3 - 5 days; It’s totally normal to menstruate for up to 3 - 7 days.
- Blood loss
The average person loses 35㎖ of blood during menstruation; It is normal to lose 10 - 80㎖. This average is enough to fill five menstrual pads a day, though not to the level of soaking. The volume varies greatly from person to person.
✔️ What If You Have Any Menstrual Problems?
You cannot always have perfectly regular cycles. However, if your menstruation changes dramatically or becomes irregular, it may be a symptom of a larger health problem. If you notice any unusual signs in your body, seek expert advice.
☑️ Absence of menstruation for 6 months or longer
When one doesn’t reach menarche before age 15, it’s called ‘primary amenorrhea.’ The absence of menstruation for 6 months or longer by someone who has had menstruation is called ‘secondary amenorrhea.’ The leading causes of secondary amenorrhea are as follows:
- Pregnancy - Breastfeeding
- Stress - Undernourishment
- Hormonal imbalance - Uterine or ovarian problems
☑️ Significantly less bleeding than average; Menstruation lasting a couple of days or less
Leading causes are as follows:
- Underdeveloped uterus - Uterine atrophy
- Low endometrial receptivity - Ovarian insufficiency
☑️ Significantly heavier bleeding than average; Prolonged menstruation
Leading causes are as follows:
- Menarchal or perimenopausal hormonal imbalance
- Uterine fibroids; Intrauterine devices; Polyps; Pelvic inflammatory disease; Endometrial hyperplasia
- Cervical, endometrial, or ovarian cancer; Miscarriage
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
☑️ Bleeding outside of one’s normal menstruation
- In early pregnancy, vaginal discharge can be bloody.
- If you bleed a lot or feel pain in your lower abdomen, it could be a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
- Menstruation is a normal and common physiological process
- Menstruation can be irregular, and there are huge individual differences
- Seek medical advice if you experience any noticeable changes or pain in your menstruation