From the time a women begins menstruation (usually between the ages of 10 or 11 to the early teens) she will probably have a period approximately once a month until she reaches menopause (usually at around age 50). Menstruation therefore has a major influence on women's lives - sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Whether you are someone who struggles with menstruation problems or a woman who's lucky not to experience many difficulties, it's important that you understand your menstrual cycle and appreciate its influence on your fertility.
The Menstrual Cycle
Many of us, once we've gone through the menarche (first period) experience, begin to take our periods for granted. We're often interested in finding good brands of sanitary protection and discovering new ways of coping with menstrual symptoms, but have little inclination to become better informed about the workings of the menstrual cycle. If we menstruate regularly and we know when our periods are due, we take a pregnancy test if they are late - and that's it.
However, a better understanding of the roles of the female reproductive organs and the menstrual cycle will help you manage your fertility (and your life). Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you to prevent or to conceive a pregnancy. It can also give you early warning signals of a gynecological health problem.
While women are encouraged these days to see menstruation as a positive thing to be celebrated, that doesn't mean that having periods is easy. In fact, there are probably as many menstrual problems as there are women having periods, because each woman is different.
Common menstrual problems include cramping, heavy bleeding, bloating, constipation and other digestive problems, as well as premenstrual syndrome -which is discussed in more detail below. Some women even experience pain in the middle of their menstrual cycles, at the time of ovulation.
Furthermore, certain disorders of the female reproductive system can make periods particularly problematic. These include endometriosis and uterine fibroids, among others. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can actually stop you having periods completely, is menstrual problem with potential consequences for your fertility.
Whereas some menstrual problems are severe enough to require medical treatment, many are best taken care of using home remedies and over the counter medications.
Most women can relate to feeling sad, stressed and perhaps also physically uncomfortable for some time before their period begins each month. This is called premenstrual syndrome (PMS) also referred to as premenstrual tension (PMT). PMS symptoms vary in severity from case to case. Not all women who suffer from PMS will be affected by the condition for their whole menstruating lives.
Coping with PMS can be difficult, particularly if your relationships and professional life is suffering as a result of your negative emotions. In rare cases, PMS becomes severe enough to cause depression, resulting in a condition called PMDD (premenstrual dysmorphic disorder).
Treatment for PMS is usually without medication. Knowing when to expect PMS can help you to plan your life around it. In some cases, medical intervention may be necessary.