Menstruation is a healthy and natural process of the female reproductive system. But why can't we talk about it openly? Why has a period often been a taboo topic? Why do girls feel embarrassed to talk about their periods with their parents? Why people can't realize not talking about the menstrual cycle can create health issues and can affect a girl's self-esteem?
When I was a teenager and got my first period, I was told to keep it a secret from others. Later, when this chapter appeared in textbooks, our biology teacher skipped the section. This upbringing taught me that it is shameful to talk about menses and made me ashamed of my body. So I learned to stay unaware of periods to stay decent.
This guide to menstruation for young girls will help many women to know facts about their periods. So let's talk about it.
What is menstruation?
Menstruation is a natural biological process that every woman and girl goes through each month for about half of her life. A phenomenon that is so significant that the survival and reproduction of specie depend upon it. It is a monthly phenomenon where a women's uterus sheds its lining and experiences changes in her body; uterus, vagina, ovaries, and breasts. She gets her period after every 28 days on average. The other terms used for menstruation are menses, menstrual cycle, or period.
What happens to a woman when she is on her period?
Every month a woman's uterus prepares itself for pregnancy by building up the lining of her uterus. When no intercourse happens, the uterus begins to shed in the form of menstrual blood through a small opening in the cervix and pass out through your vagina. During this process, your body's hormonal system changes; estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease. Therefore, the lower level of these hormones instructs your body to begin menstruation.
There are various other emotional and physical changes you may experience in your body when menstruating, such as:
- Mood swings
- Period cramps: pain in the lower abdomen and back
- Breast pain (tenderness)
- Depression, headache, and anxiety
- Feeling of lythargicity
- Acne problems ( you may get pimples over your face)
- Trouble sleeping
- Food cravings
Women's Reproductive system
The following are anatomical parts of your reproductive tract that are involved in your menstruation cycle and their role:
The pear-shaped organ is known as the womb and locates between the bladder and lower intestines.
The opening of the lower third of your uterus is the entrance to the vaginal canal. Moreover, it allows the flow of menstrual blood.
3. Fallopian tubes
The tubes on each side of your uterus connect to an ovary.
The almond-shaped organs grow eggs; each ovary has 200,000 to 4000,000 follicles.
The buildup lining of the uterus is the endometrium which flows out as your period.
Menstrual cycle: Four phases
Four menstrual phases last throughout the month.
The menstrual phase begins on the first day when you get your period and lasts till the day when you stop bleeding. It may take up to 6 days. However, it varies from woman to woman; your average period days would not be regular for others. So it depends on the age and body type. During this time, you need to use menstrual sanitary pads.
The second follicular phase is usually between days 6 to 14 of your menstruation, during which your estrogen level rises, and the endometrium gets thicker. FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) is the hormone made by the pituitary gland that helps manage your menstrual cycle and stimulates the development of eggs in the ovaries.
The eggs get fully matured in 10-14 days, and in this phase, grown follicles burst. As a result, the matured egg is released into any of the fallopian tubes. Moreover, the LH (luteinizing hormone) level pushes ovulation.
The luteal phase is the premenstrual time where eggs travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus. If a sperm fertilizes the egg, pregnancy takes place. When you don't get pregnant, progesterone and estrogen levels decrease. Then the endometrial lining sheds out of your body, called your period.
What are the problems associated with menstruation?
There are various changes in your body during menstruation; little delay in the period, mood swings during menses, and cramps. However, when they may seem severe to you, you should discuss them with your parents or doctor.
Menstrual disorders concern abnormal menstruation or disruption of the symptoms you get while on your period.
AUB- Abnormal uterine bleeding:
Heavy bleeding and no or irregular menstrual bleeding are the signs of AUB. Usually, the blood loss is about five tablespoons, and when bleeding increases 10 to 25 times more than this each month is abnormal.
Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation (normal before puberty) and vice versa for heavy menstrual bleeding. Primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea are two different conditions.
Dysmenorrhea is painful menstrual periods that are caused by contractions uterine.
PMS- Premenstrual syndrome:
You may experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, such as
- Painful breasts
- Fatigue, headaches, or clumsiness
- Anger issues
- Unmanageable swings, anxiety, or depression
PMDD- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
PMDD is more severe than premenstrual syndrome because of the severity of the symptoms that may experience in PMS.
What are the hygienic ways of managing your periods?
It will help if you use something to soak up the menstrual blood. You may be thinking, what should you use? A pad, menstrual cup, or tampon. You can find various products, but you should choose the one that suits you better.
Note: Always take care of hygiene while using any product.
How do you decide what to use?
Selecting the type of menstrual flow protection is up to you, but the following are a few things to keep in mind:
- Good absorbency
- Comfortability of material
- Shape and length
- Hygiene to avoid any bacteria
- Consider the amount of menstrual flow
- Your skin type and condition of vaginal health
What are pads?
Pads are in rectangular absorbent material that must be attached to your underwear. A sticky strip beneath and extra wings on both edges help secure a pad on the undergarment; Sanitary pads or sanitary napkins are other names. There are various pads, such as super, overnight, scented, maxi or mini. However, the scented pads can irritate your vagina, or maybe you get an allergy.
Note: Use breathable pads so your vagina avoids any allergy.
How to use a pad?
Pads are changeable and should be changed every 4 hours, even if you have light bleeding. In addition, there are reusable and disposable pads mentioned below.
These types of pads are washable after each time you use them. You can get it from any health store or can use pads made from cotton cloth. Moreover, reusable pads are environmentally friendly and save money, yet may harm your vaginal health. Unhygienic ways of use can cause infection and bacteria, which is dangerous.
The sticky strip at the bottom and extra material at the side help you attach it to your underwear and prevent any leakage. The following are the steps to use a pad:
- Firstly, you pell off the paper from the sticky strip
- Attach it to the crotch of your undergarment
- Then wrap the wings at each side to get it a good hold
- You have to unstick the pad from the underwear when it needs to be removed.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a small, flexible funnel-shaped cup usually created with rubber or silicone. This cup is inserted into your vagina, which collects the blood flow. The advantage of a menstrual cup is that it can hold more blood than the alternative method. Moreover, these are eco-friendly and can be used for up to 12 hours, depending upon your flow.
How to use a menstrual cup?
Talking to a gynecologist is the best way before using it and then choosing the type of menstrual cup. The following are a few things to consider before using:
- Your age and the length of your cervix
- The amount of menstrual blood flow
- Cup capacity, firmness, and flexibility
- Strength of pelvic floor muscles
- Ever given birth vainally
The steps to follow:
- Clean your hands
- Lubricate the rim of the menstrual cup
- Insert the cup into your vagina, rim facing towards the vagina, and place it below your cervix.
- Once the cup gets fixed, rotate it to ensure an airtight seal that will help you prevent leakage.
What is a tampon?
Another protection way to absorb menstrual flow during your menstrual cycle is a unique design to insert into the vagina made of rayon, cotton, or from the two. You may use any applicator or not put it inside. Some tampons are scented, and few are not. However, it is better to use a deodorant-free tampon to avoid irritation and allergic reaction in the vagina. A tampon can hold blood for 4-6 hours, depending on your flow.
Note: Read the guide on tampons before using them to prevent harm.
How can you use a tampon?
Tampon has a cylinder shape and a string at one end. It is one of the comfortable ways to prevent any leakage when on periods. Be careful while using any tampon and follow the following steps:
- Wash your hands properly
- Insert it with or without a lubricant
- When removing the tampon; pull the string until it comes out
- Tampons are flushable, but it is better to discard them into a bin or disposable box.
Best food to eat during your periods:
- Water - to avoid dehydration
- Fruits (water-rich)
- Leafy green vegetables - helps to level up iron in your body
- Ginger - prevents specific symptoms of maturation
- Chicken - is rich in iron and protein
- Fish - contains iron, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids
- Dark chocolate - iron and magnesium-rich
Food to avoid during your periods:
- Salt - causes water retention
- Coffee - can lead to water loss and cause headache
- Alcohol - adverse effects on overall body
- Spicy food - unstable your stomach that can affect your periods
Some food is good for you during periods. However, particular food can aid period symptoms.
Your period is a natural occurrence and part of your body's preparation for pregnancy. Every month you don't become pregnant, your body expels tissue that it no longer needs to nourish a fertilized egg in the form of menstrual flow, and you have to use protection to absorb the flow. Menstrual hygiene is a significant risk factor for reproductive tract infections, so it is essential to have access to hygienic ways of managing your periods. In addition, food is vital in maintaining overall health. Therefore a healthy diet is necessary.
Moreover, with time people have started talking about it on social media and the internet, which is empowering enough people to discuss related to menstruation. However, many communities believe it's still a sham, but they never know what a girl costs. Therefore, talking with a doctor or gynecologist when you experience inconsistencies, such as a change in your menstrual regularity or any other issue, is essential.
There is no shame in talking to your parents or a doctor about menstruation and changes in your body.