They appear every month and we have to deal with cramps, feeling tired and bleedings. All women and adolescent girls know what periods bring with them, but why do women even have periods? We answer this question and clear up other facts that are important for you to know. To answer the question why women have periods, we first have to answer ‘What are periods?’
Read: 12 MOST COMMON PERIOD QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What are periods?
The first menstrual period a girl has begins during puberty. The bleeding is a sign of the onset of sexual maturity and the ability to reproduce, which means your body is now able to get pregnant and have children. An interplay of hormones is repeated in your body from now on in more or less regular cycles. A cycle length is between 25-35 days, on average the female cycle lasts 28 days. A cycle starts with the first day of bleeding and stops on the last day before your next bleeding. The period itself usually lasts between 3-7 days, on average for 5 days. Cycle lengths, period lengths and bleedings are often irregular for young girls and menopausal women. The menstrual fluid consists of blood from the uterus and parts of the endometrium.
When does a woman get her period?
The first period a woman has is called menarche. It usually onsets between the age of 11 – 14 but there are some factors that can influence it, like malnutrition for example. Women get their periods until they are around 45 – 55 years old. At that age, the so-called ‘menopause’ starts. On average a woman gets her period circs 500 times throughout her life.
What factors affect menstruation?
The menstrual cycle is a very complex process involving many hormones, the female genitals and the nervous system. There are many factors that can affect the onset of your menarche, the lengths of your cycles, how much you bleed and how long your period lasts.
Body weight for example plays a role in the menstrual cycle. Underweight often brings the hormone release and thus the menstruation to a standstill. Recent studies show that extreme obesity leads to irregular menstrual periods. Compared to women with ideal weight, overweight women are also less likely to get pregnant. Proper nutrition is therefore particularly important for fertility and a healthy and regular cycle.
Stress is another factor that affects hormone release and menstruation. The menstrual period is then completely absent in some cases. If women are afraid of being pregnant, the stress sometimes leads to the later onset of menstruation. Psychological and physical balance have a positive effect on your period. So, not only the right food is important, but also that you take care of your psychological health by taking time to relax and most importantly: by getting enough sleep!
Regular exercise as well as psychological and physical balance are the most beneficial for pain-free and reasonably pleasant periods. But: too much exercise and overexertion can influence the hormone release to such an extent that menstruation does not occur. Read all about what the right exercises are during your period and what you should avoid in THIS blogpost.
The female genital organs
The woman’s internal genital organs consist of two ovaries and fallopian tubes, the uterus and the vagina. The ovaries have the task of developing mature, fertilizable egg cells. When the ovary is stimulated by specific hormones, the egg matures. Around the middle of the cycle, the mature egg cell separates from the ovary (this is called ‘ovulation’) and is collected by the fallopian tube.
The egg finally migrates through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The uterine lining is prepared for the absorption of the egg by the action of the specific hormones we mentioned and progesterone (progesterone is a luteal hormone, so another specific hormone working in your body). Progesterone is released shortly after ovulation. If the egg is fertilized, it settles in the endometrium. This is the beginning of pregnancy. But: what happens if no egg cell was fertilized?
What happens to my body during menstruation?
If fertilization does not take place, there is a reduced release of progesterone, which causes the endometrium to degrade and remnants of the menstrual period to be rejected. So, this is what happens every month during your period and those are the reasons why women bleed. As we mentioned earlier, the female cycle lasts on average for 28 days and afterwards begins again. As long as your egg cells are not fertilized and you don’t get pregnant, your cycles begin again.
Good to know:
Many women think that when they bleed, they are 100% not pregnant. This is a common period myth. Yes, mostly when you get your period you are not pregnant. But: Around one in four pregnant women has at least slight bleeding in the first few weeks or months. In the event of pregnancy, so-called implantation bleeding can occur, which is misleading. The reason? If a fertilized egg nests in the endometrium, there may be a slight bleeding. Read all about common period myths and the truth about them in this blogpost (link to blogpost ‘common period myths’)
Can I feel the ovulation?
Many women feel their ovulation. It can be that you feel a weak pain in the lower abdomen. Some women also get a little bleeding at the time of ovulation. The time of your ovulation can be determined by your body temperature. At the time of ovulation, it rises by 0.5 degrees (Celsius). Some women use temperature method as a natural contraception method. If the body temperature rises, ovulation has occurred. This happens about eight to ten days after your menstruation (usually this is around the 14th day in your cycle). This is also the most fertile time in the cycle. Some other symptoms how you can notice ovulation is that in the middle of your cycle, the vaginal discharge becomes slimy and sometimes pulls strings. The time of ovulation can also be recognized from the consistency of the mucus.