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What Exactly is Menstruation?

Samantha Kaczala | Interrobang | Lifestyles | September 11th, 2017

For women who might not remember their health studies, menstruation is the shedding of the thickened uterine lining that comes out of the vagina as a thickened blood or blood clots. The time a woman bleeds is more commonly called the period. The time from your last period to the beginning of your next one is called the menstrual cycle. Periods can be light, moderate or heavy in regards to the amount of blood that comes out, in other words the flow of blood. Most periods last from three to five days, but two to seven days is also normal.

What is the normal amount of days for a menstrual cycle?

According to Treena Orchard, PhD associate professor in the School of Health Studies at Western University, it is a sliding scale to the range of days, which is entirely dependent on the woman. A number of different circumstances, like eating habits and anxiety, can affect the amount of days a menstrual cycle will last. Taking certain medication that effect hormones, such as birth control, can also effect the days of a woman’s menstrual cycle and period itself. On average, a cycle can range from 21 to 35 days in adults and 21 to 45 days for young teens, the most common amount of days from these ranges is 28 days.

Cramps: Why? Where? When?

Painful periods, the technical term being dysmenorrhea, are common among woman, but do you know why it happens? During your period the body makes chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract and tighten. They occur in the lower belly where the reproductive organs are. In some cases, pain may occur in the back or thighs. Cramps usually start at the beginning of your period or a couple days before it. In some cases the pain of cramps can become more painful due to medical conditions, such as endometriosis, which is when tissues that develop only in the uterus grows outside of it.

When you should see a doctor or nurse for cramp like pain:

• Pain in the pelvic area that is not linked to your period and lasts more than a day

• If pain medicine is not helping

• The pain is getting worse

• If you also have pain well before or after your period

• What else do women experience during their period?

According to Orchard, there are many kinds of things that impact a woman’s reproductive system, many being both positive and negative. Where some women don’t like periods at all, others are more creative and positive. It varies from woman to woman.

Common symptoms:

• More sexually aroused

• Breast sensitivity

• Nausea

• Headache

• Extreme tiredness

• Listlessness

• Creativity

• Bloating (fullness feeling in the belly)

• Diarrhea

• Irritability

• Overly positive

Rare symptoms that are normal:

• Light flow the entire period:

When you are used to having a heavy flow in the beginning of your periods it may be surprising, even concerning, to see your flow practically non-existent. This is a sign of endometrial sparing. Instead of shedding the uterus lining the body will recycle it. When this happens, the period tends to be brief and light.

Mittelschmerz: Dr. Avaleen Vopicka, staff physician at the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic at Fanshawe College, described mittelschmerz as a middle-cycle pain due to ovulation. The pain is located on one side of the abdomen in the area of the ovaries. Mittelschmerz, on a classic cycle of four weeks, occurs around 14 days after the first day of your last period. In addition a woman may feel nausea and have light menstrual spotting. The pain usually only lasts six to eight hours, but occasionally can be 24 to 48 hours. It is rarely serious.

What is abnormal for a woman’s menstrual cycle?


The lack of a menstrual period. There are two ways to indicate amenorrhea:

1. No period by the age of 15

2. Woman and girls who haven’t had a period for 90 days or more

Some of the causes include:

• Pregnancy

• Extreme weight loss

• Stress

• Excessive exercising

• Eating disorders

• Breastfeeding

• A serious medical condition that needs to be treated

The lack of a regular menstrual cycle means there is a hormone imbalance in the body. Missing estrogen can have an impact on the body and could indicate that there are serious problems with the reproductive organs.

Vicarious Menstruation

A very rare medical condition where a woman may periodically harmlessly bleed from her mouth, ears, lungs, nose, eyes, bladder and/or skin instead of from the uterus when her normal period should be or is occurring. No concrete reason as to why this happens, just that it does. Without confi rmation from a doctor, some of the symptoms could be a sign of a serious illness and should be checked out by a doctor anyways.

Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding that is diff erent from menstrual. Some symptoms include:

• Bleeding between periods

• Period lasts longer than eight days

• Had regular periods that suddenly turn irregular

• Bleeding heavier for more days than normal

• Spotting anytime in the menstrual cycle

• Bleeding large clots and amounts of blood that soak through a tampon or pad every one to two hours

Some of the causes may not be serious, but others could be so it is always safer to see a doctor if any of the listed symptoms occur.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

A rare, but sometimes deadly disease that should be treated as soon as possible. TSS is a bacteria which can produce toxins. When the body cannot fi ght against the toxins the symptoms of TSS will appear. A woman can get TSS from a tampon. Make sure to use the right tampon for the appropriate amount of blood fl ow to decrease the risk of getting TSS. If you suddenly show the following symptoms while wearing a tampon, immediately remove it and contact a doctor.

• Sudden fever over 102 degree F

• Muscle aches

• Vomiting

• Dizziness and/or fainting

• Sore throat

• Diarrhea

• Blood shot eyes

Menstrual information resources:

• Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -

• The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

• Fact Retriever, Interesting facts or the curious mind: 70 Interesting Facts on Menstruation -

• Thought Catalog: 25 Little Known Facts About Your Period -

• Very Well: Women’s Health Menstruation: Mittelschmerz- The Pain Between Periods -