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Menstruation is a natural process that is part of a woman’s reproductive health.

To learn why it happens and how it fits into the menstrual cycle, check out this lesson.

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What Is Menstruation?

Menstruation, or a menstrual period, is the periodic shedding of the lining of a woman’s uterus. It is one of the phases of the menstrual cycle. The uterine lining breaks down into a bloody substance. It then passes down through the cervix and exits through the vagina.

The process usually lasts from three to five days. The amount of menstrual blood can vary from period to period and from woman to woman.

Why Is it Necessary?

The uterus is the womb that will cradle a fetus as it grows.

A fertilized egg will implant here, and it is important for the uterus to have a nice fresh supply of nutrients and goodies to help the egg during early development. But, the uterine lining has an expiration date. If the woman does not become pregnant, then the lining is cleared out during menstruation so that a fresh one can be built.

The Menstrual Cycle

The cycle of building and shedding is called the menstrual cycle.

A typical cycle is 28 days, although cycles from 21 to 45 days can often occur. Females do not have periods until puberty. The average age for a female’s first period is age 12. The menstrual cycle continues regularly until menopause occurs, around age 50. The menstrual cycle also ceases during pregnancy.Menstruation must be carefully coordinated with the development of the egg.

An egg begins growth in the ovary. Then, once per cycle, an egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. The moment when an egg is released is called ovulation.

Most eggs never get fertilized, but the uterus must be fully prepared to accept an egg every time ovulation occurs. These two cycles are coordinated with hormone levels. The main hormones involved are follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen and progesterone.

Now let’s take a look at the whole menstrual cycle. Day one of the menstrual cycle is the first day of menstruation. Once the old lining is expelled, a new uterine lining is built up at the same time as the egg is developing.

Ovulation typically occurs around day 14. If the egg is fertilized, then pregnancy begins and the menstrual cycle stops. If the egg is not fertilized, then the uterine lining will begin to degrade and menstruation will start around day 28, which is also the start of the next cycle. The female body is a very complex place.

Symptoms

Symptoms that can occur during menstruation are abdominal cramping, sore breasts, bloating, headache, fatigue, food cravings, and mood swings. Some of these symptoms can also occur prior to menstruation and are called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Lesson Summary

Menstruation is the monthly bleeding that occurs in women as the uterine lining is shed. It is part of the menstrual cycle, and it must occur in order to keep the uterus prepared for a fertilized egg to implant. Menstruation begins at puberty and occurs through menopause if pregnancy does not occur.

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