The time between the first day of a menstrual period and the beginning of the next one is referred to as a menstrual cycle. Usually a typical cycle lasts for 28 days. However, this differs from person to person and can last anywhere between 22 and 45 days.
At the onset of puberty, girls usually have their first vaginal bleeding, which over time becomes a regular occurrence. The onset of this regular cycle is termed as menarche. Girls startmenstruating somewhere between the ages of 9 and 16 and continue to do so till their early 50’s.
Period or menstruation is a monthly bleeding from the uterus and is a part of a healthy woman’s menstrual cycle. All hormonal changes and changes in the ovaries and uterus that happen during a menstrual cycle are aimed at achieving pregnancy. When pregnancy doesn’t occur, the uterus sheds its inner lining with blood and mucus through the cervix and vagina due to hormonal changes.
On an average, a menstrual period lasts somewhere between 3 and 7 days. This varies from person to person.
Scientific studies reveal that on an average, a woman can lose anywhere between 30 and 90 ml of fluid which constitutes both of blood and mucosal tissue over 3-7 days of menstruation
Slight abdominal pain and cramping during periods is normal. The intensity and duration varies from person to person. This is due to the release of hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins which stimulate contractions of smooth muscles of which the uterus is one. Unless the pain is completely debilitating, in which case visiting a doctor would be recommended, most symptoms can be cured using home-made remedies such as hot water compresses and abdominal massage.
The period pains are caused by the cutting off of blood supply to the thickened endometrium (Ischaemia) and the contractions from the uterus (cramps) to expel the blood and its contents.
Having a balanced diet, aerobic exercises, and painkillers like Brufen, placing a hot water bottle or a warm towel on the abdomen can all help ease the period pain?
Women usually experience one or a combination of physical and emotional symptoms just before they start their monthly periods. Some of the symptoms include temporary weight gain or feelings of heaviness, tenderness of the breasts, headaches, cramps and general irritability. All these together constitute what is known as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). PMS usually sets in a week or so before menses starts and goes away before the bleeding starts.
The topic of menstruation is shrouded by a heavy veil of taboo. For centuries, communities across the world have associated menstruation with all things dark and evil. Menstrual blood is considered impure and menstruating women are often forbidden from entering places of worship, kitchens and farmlands due to fear of ‘polluting’ these spaces. Over the years, these perceptions have been proven wrong and science has helped confirm that menstruation is a perfectly normal, healthy, biological function.
Majority of females have very limited or no knowledge about menstruation and the importance of personal hygiene while menstruating. Maintaining adequate hygiene during menses is necessary to stay away from infections as well as for general comfort and easy mobility. Due to this lack of knowledge, many women follow very unsafe practices such as using coir andunsanitary cloth pads during their menses
It is important to use an absorbent material to soak up menstrual blood in order to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. It is a known fact that many women use traditional cloth napkins during their period. While this may not be totally sanitary, it is not completely unsanitary either. If cleansed well and dried properly under the sun, these pads can be re-used a few times. But in most cases, this does not happen. In order to avoid the ‘shameful’ exhibition of these cloth napkins, women hide them in nooks and reuse the unsterile pads leading to infections and complications. Sanitary napkin – The most widely used sanitary product is the disposable ‘sanitary napkin’. Most napkins have an absorbent core and a leak-proof barrier that holds the napkin together. These use and throw napkins are available in a variety of sizes and are by far the most popular female hygiene product in India. Tampons – Unlike the sanitary napkin which is placed outside the vulva, tampons are miniature cylinders of absorbent material that can be inserted into the vagina. Menstrual cups – These silicone cups can be placed inside the vagina to collect the menstrual flow. Unlike the sanitary pad or the tampon, menstrual cups can be sterilized and reused.
One time sanitary products should be disposed of with care. Sanitary pads should not be thrown out in the open as it may turn into a breeding ground for bacteria. They should not be flushed down the toilets either as the plastic can choke up drains. They should be wrapped in newspaper and thrown out along with the garbage. If your village or town does not have a daily garbage collection facility, it is better to burn them instead of letting them lie around.
While opting for a sanitary solution is best, in case a sanitary napkin or a tampon is not available, a clean cotton cloth can be used to soak up the menstrual flow. The cloth should be changed periodically depending on the flow. In case you plan to use the same piece of cloth again, make sure it is washed thoroughly, dried under the sun and stored in a clean and dry place.
Talking openly about puberty and menstruation at home and school are probably the best options.
Your period doesn’t have to stop you from doing things you usually do. You can still go to school, help at home, see your friends, play sports and do all the things you’d normally do.
Itching in the vaginal area during menses is due to dampness and chaffing of the skin and tends to be worse on those with sensitive skin. It is advisable that you change your towel every 4-6 hours. If this does not help, then you need to change your brand.
Most women’s cycles are around 28 days, but different women might have different cycles and your own schedule might change from month to month due to excessive stress, excessive exercising, sickness, or a change in your weight (loss of body weight or obesity). The first two years after you get your first period can be especially irregular; you might even skip whole months. As long as you get your period eventually, it’s not a big deal.