The menstrual cycle is an exquisitely elaborate biological system for human reproduction. Like all biological systems there can be problems with feedback mechanisms which throw it out of kilter.
In the menstrual cycle, there is a complex communication between the ovaries which produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the hypothalamus and its pituitary gland of the brain which produce the hormones FSH and LH. In most cases abnormal bleeding results from these communicative and biologically active hormones not being produced or not functioning in a normal way. There are cases of other abnormalities such as problems with clotting (for instance, if a patient on the blood thinner, Coumadin), cancer or infection of the lining of the uterus, threatened or completed miscarriage, or polyps inside the uterus which can cause abnormal bleeding, but these are relatively infrequent compared to the hormonal problems which otherwise cause irregular or heavy bleeding.
It would be appropriate to review the series of events which occur in the normal menstrual cycle.
The hormones FSH and LH cause the ovary to begin to develop an egg for ovulation. This egg is surrounded by special cells which produce estrogen and progesterone. The estrogen causes the lining of the uterus to grow and thicken in preparation for receiving a fertilized egg. When the egg is released from the ovary (ovulation), the ovary produces increased amounts of progesterone to mature the uterine lining into the so-called secretory state. If the fertilized egg is not implanted, progesterone causes the lining to degenerate. Whatever of the blood and tissue is not reabsorbed by the uterus is released in the menstrual period. The length of the period varies from three to seven days, the average being five days. The average amount of blood loss is between thirty to eighty cc’s. If the period is longer or heavier than this, it is considered to be variably abnormal.
So what are some of the things that can go wrong? First of all, there is not an egg released. This happens from time to time in all females. It is called an anovulatory cycle. Adequate amounts of progesterone are therefore not released, and the lining of the uterus sheds little or not at all. A physician would order a pregnancy test to be sure this was the reason for the missed period. The next period may be heavier or lighter. The reason it could be heavier is that other areas and organs of the body can produce estrogen which causes the lining to grow and thicken. Estrogen can be produced by the adrenal glands, the liver, the breasts, and by fat tissue in active but smaller quantities than the ovary.
A girl just starting her periods may have anovulatory cycles. A woman nearing menopause has more and more anovulatory cycles, until she ceases to have periods at all. This is the definition of menopause, that is, if she has no period in over a year, the month of the first missed period is the date of onset of her menopause. If sometime after that year she has bleeding, then she needs to be evaluated for some other cause of bleeding It is not clear exactly what the cues are for menopause to begin. It is known that for some reason a woman’s ovaries stop responding to the signals of FSH and LH to ovulate. For this reason the pituitary gland produces more FSH and LH in order to get a response, and these elevations of FSH and LH can be measured in the laboratory as evidence of menopause or other ovarian failure.
There are medical examinations and tests which need to be done if there is abnormal bleeding in a menopausal-aged woman. First of all she needs her regular Pap smear. A cancer of the cervix can bleed in an irregular way. She needs an internal exam to look for abnormal growths, for instance of the ovaries and uterus which might suggest cancer in either one. The internal exam would indicate whether the uterus is abnormally large, perhaps from uterine fibroids. Sometimes a small amount of tissue is scraped from the lining of the uterus for microscopic evaluation.
Treatment for the abnormal bleeding may range all the way from watch and wait to hysterectomy, the total cure for abnormal bleeding. The physician may recommend a long-lasting injection of progesterone to keep the lining thin. There is a device called the IntraUterine system which can be inserted to release small amounts of progesterone and keep the lining thin. If the bleeding is heavy, the patient may be given a medicine called transexamic acid to reduce flow by up to fifty per cent. Sometimes a patient may have a limited operation just to remove a uterine fibroid which is causing the heavy bleeding. There is a specialized heating device which can ablate the uterine lining. It is interesting that the United Kingdom has reduced the rate of hysterectomy by fifty per cent by using these other techniques to treat abnormal uterine lining associated with menopause.
So, take heart. You’ll probably sail through menopause without a hitch, but if you do have abnormal bleeding, there are many excellent treatments which can address any problems which arise.
Period Warning Signs
Usually, there’s nothing to worry about when women experience some bit of pain and discomfort during the menstrual period. However, some women may experience symptoms that could trigger alarm bells and warrant a visit to the doctor.
If you suffer from severe menstrual cramp that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medications, then better see a gynecologist right away to rule out endometriosis. This condition is characterized by abnormal uterine growth that extends outside the uterus and causes agonizing pain during one’s period or even during bowel movements, urination, and sexual intercourse.
Watch out for heavier-than-normal bleeding as it could be a sign of benign tumors in the uterine wall called uterine fibroids. These are harmless but, when heavy bleeding persists, could result to anemia. It’s high time to see the doctor if this happens often to make sure you’re not suffering from cancer or a blood-clotting disorder.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may be another culprit for unusual heavy menstrual bleeding and excruciating cramps. PID is an infection in any or all organs of the reproductive system as a complication of sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhea or Chlamydia. This is something that should be taken seriously as PID, if left untreated, could lead to infertility.
If you find yourself writhing from an acute shooting type of pain that starts on one side and spreads throughout your pelvic region, it might be a ruptured ovarian cyst. Although this type of cyst is often benign and asymptomatic, in some cases, it can be life threatening as a result of hemorrhage or infection.
Don’t take these signs and symptoms for granted. There is simply no reason to suffer and no excuse to not see the doctor as soon as possible. Your health is your most important possession, so take care of it.
Period Pain Relief
Most women know what it is to have a painful period at some time, and up to 50% have reported that such pain seriously disrupts their lives, Aromatherapy can be a natural way to help cope with period pains.
Period pain is what a female may experience when she has her menstrual cycle. The pain can come before or during her menstrual cycle and the intensity can vary from person to person. The pain may be slight cramps or it can be so debilitating she may have to check into a hospital.
Severe period pain can be treated with certain antispasmodic pain relievers like Ibuprofen. These medicines work at the very spot of the pain by helping the body to reduce the production of prostaglandins – the molecules that cause pain. Pain relievers can be taken on the day you have your periods, or it can be taken a day earlier as well.
I have also found that tapping the Ankle Point is great for relieving period pain. This is about four fingers above the ankle bony thing that juts out on the inside of your leg. Tap both points as you just say the Setup a few times; and if it does it for you too, you now have a shortcut for period pain!
Some of the most common natural treatments of period pain involve eliminating certain foods from your diet, eating more healthy foods, moderate exercise and herbal remedies. Unsurprisingly, many of these treatments promote a healthier lifestyle more generally, and all of these changes are likely to benefit your health tremendously.
Extremely painful periods should never be accepted as normal so go and book an appointment with your medical adviser today. If he or she is not sympathetic find a new one. The level of pain you are experiencing could be caused by many things including some illnesses such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts. It can also be influenced by your genetics i.e. your mom and grandmother may have suffered as well. But this doesn’t mean you have to live with it.
I used to suffer from severe menstrual cramps every month and they would last for about 8 days, how I never got fired at work is beyond me when I look back now. My sickness record was horrendous, but I just could not concentrate with the debilitating pain.
The homeopathic medicine Magnesium phosphoricum, Mag phos for short, is an excellent medicine for many pains. It’s so good, it is often referred to as the homeopathic analgaesic. Pain is all about tension, or tense muscles. And tension can come about from resistance. And from a dietary deficiency of magnesium.
Finding a suitable remedy for your dysfunctional thyroid gland is vital in helping to reduce heavy periods if the thyroid is the cause. Thyroid supplements are one of the best ways to get the thyroid working properly again and as a result relive you from what can sometime be an unbearable period pain.
Attitudes towards menstruation
At the time of menarche young girls talk together about the approaching change. For most it is an emotional event, approached with trepidation and excitement of becoming a woman. As girls sense their budding femininity it can be a time of blossoming of self confidence, but in the absence of good role models among older sisters or other woman, it can be a source of anxiety instead. This may be a factor in development of Anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders.
The Menstrual Cycle
Normal female reproductive function involves the complex interplay of hormones and the reproductive organs. The part of the brain containing the hypothalamus produces hormone-releasing substances and the pituitary gland produces the Luteinizing Hormone and Follicle stimulating Hormone. These in turn stimulate the ovaries to produce the hormone oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen induces the growth of breasts and other female sexual characteristics. This process create the cycle of menstruation, inducing maturation of the egg in the ovary, it release down the fallopian tube in preparation for fertilization, and if it is not fertilized, it disintegrations and discharge with the endometrial wall of the uterus, resulting in the flow of blood, the average cycle lasts twenty eight days but can be as long as forty days.. Bleeding occurs fourteen days after the release of the egg if it is not fertilized.
Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS includes both physical and emotional symptoms that many girls and women get right before their periods, such as:
- sore breasts
- food cravings
- depression or feeling blue
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty handling stress
Different girls may have some or all of these symptoms in varying combinations. PMS is usually at its worst during the 7 days before the period starts and disappears once it begins. But girls usually don’t develop symptoms associated with PMS until several years after menstruation starts – if ever.Although the exact cause of PMS is unknown, it seems to occur because of changing hormone levels. During the second half of the menstrual cycle, the amount of progesterone in the body increases. Then, about 7 days before the period starts and right around when PMS occurs, levels of both progesterone and estrogen drop.PMS affect up to 75 percent of all women of menstruating age at some time and may occur from two to fourteen days before the period starts.
Many girls experience abdominal cramps during the first few days of their periods. They’re caused by prostaglandin, a chemical in the body that makes the smooth muscle in the uterus contract. These involuntary contractions can be either dull or sharp and intense.The good news is that cramps usually become less severe as girls get older and they don’t usually last long. But call your daughter’s doctor if she has severe cramps that keep her home from school or from doing stuff with her friends.
Irregular Periods before Pregnancy
It can take up to 2 years from a girl’s first period for her body to develop a regular cycle. During that time, the body is essentially adjusting to the influx of hormones unleashed by puberty. And what’s “regular” varies from person to person. The typical cycle of an adult female is 28 days, although some are as short as 22 days and others are as long as 45.Changing hormone levels might make a girl’s period short 1 month (just a few days) and long the next (up to a week). She can skip months, get two periods almost right after each other, or alternate between heavy and light bleeding from 1 month to another.
But any girl who’s sexually active and skips a period should see a doctor to make sure she’s not pregnant. And if your daughter’s period still hasn’t settled into a relatively predictable pattern after 3 years, or if she has four or five regular periods and then skips her period for a couple of months, make an appointment with her doctor to check for possible problems.
All girls go through puberty at different rates. Some reach menarche (the medical term for the first period or the beginning of menstruation) as early as 9 or 10 years old and others don’t have their first periods until they’re well into their teen years. So, if your daughter is a “late bloomer,” it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with her.
When girls get their periods actually depends a lot on genetics. Girls often start menstruating at approximately the same age their mothers or grandmothers did. Also, certain ethnic groups, on average, go through puberty earlier than others. For instance, African-American girls, on average, start puberty and get their periods before Caucasian girls do.
Although most period problems are harmless, a few conditions can be more serious and require medical attention.
Amenorrhea (the Absence of Periods)
Girls who haven’t started their periods by the time they’re 16 years old or 3 years after they’ve shown the first signs of puberty have primary amenorrhea, which is usually caused by a hormone imbalance or developmental problem. Hormones are also often responsible for secondary amenorrhea, which is when a girl who had normal periods suddenly stops menstruating for more than 6 months.Of course, pregnancy is the first possible cause to rule out when a girl skips periods. But some other things that can cause both primary and secondary amenorrhea include:
- low levels of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which controls ovulation and the menstrual cycle
- significant weight loss or gain
- anorexia (In fact, amenorrhea can be an initial sign that a teen is losing too much weight and may have anorexia.)
- stopping birth control pills
- thyroid conditions
- ovarian cysts
Menorrhagia (Extremely Heavy, Prolonged Periods)
It’s normal for a girl’s period to be heavier on some days than others. But menorrhagia usually leads to soaking through at least one sanitary napkin (pad) an hour for several hours in a row or periods that last longer than 7 days. Girls with menorrhagia sometimes stay home from school or social functions because they’re worried they won’t be able to control the bleeding in public.The most frequent cause of menorrhagia is an imbalance between the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which allows the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) to keep building up. When the endometrium is finally shed during menstruation, the resulting bleeding is particularly heavy.Because many adolescents have slight hormone imbalances during puberty, menorrhagia isn’t uncommon in teens. In some cases, heavy menstrual bleeding is caused by:
- fibroids (benign growths) or polyps in the uterus
- thyroid conditions
- clotting disorders
- inflammation or infection in the vagina or cervix
- Dysmenorrhea (Painful Periods)
There are two types of dysmenorrhea, which is severely painful menstruation that can interfere with a girl’s ability to attend school, study, or sleep:
Primary dysmenorrhea is more common in teens and is not caused by a disease or other condition. Instead, the culprit is prostaglandin, the same chemical behind cramps. Large amounts of prostaglandin can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, backaches, diarrhea, and severe cramps. Fortunately, these symptoms usually last for only a day or 2.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by some physical condition like polyps or fibroids in the uterus, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or adenomyosis (uterine tissue growing into the muscular wall of the uterus).Having cramps for a day or 2 each month is common, but signs of dysmenorrhea should be discussed with your child’s doctor.
In this condition, tissue normally found only in the uterus starts to grow outside the uterus – in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other parts of the pelvic cavity. It can cause abnormal bleeding, dysmenorrhea, and general pelvic pain.
Treating Pregnancy Menstrual Problems
Have your symptoms diagnosed by a general practitioner or a gynecologist. Do not attempt to self diagnose as this can be very misleading. Discuss your progress with a practitioner or a gynecologist. Report any new symptom.
Points to note :
Unusual bleeding, especially between periods
Any unusual pains in the abdomen or on intercourse
Swelling or Lump appearing anywhere in breast, pelvis or labia
What You Can Do to Ease the discomfort
When experiencing a particularly bad bout of PMS or cramps, there are several things you can do at home :
Reduce intake of carbohydrates (sugar, sweet and white flour product) Consume wholegrain, wholemeal bread, wholemeal flour flour or pasta etc
If you have a tendency to bloat, eliminate wheat and all wheat products for a month.
Vegetable protein intake (nuts, beans, and Soya products) should be increase
Dairy foods and eggs should be avoided or decreased. Dairy animals are injected or fed with artificial hormones which will disrupt natural hormone level and the high fat content in dairy food may disrupt the prostaglandin balance
All animal fats should be decreased. While polyunsaturated vegetable oils should be increase to boost intake of essential fatty acids.
Avoid pre-packed and ready-made meals.Read all food labels as many ready made foods are padded out with sugar.
Restrict intake of alcohols, soft drink, tea, chocolate, cocoa and coffee
Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit
Reduce intake of salt (which can cause water retention) and (caffeine which can cause jumpy and anxious mood).
Take magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and calcium, which may reduce the severity of PMS symptoms.
Try over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for cramps, headaches, or back pain.
Take a brisk walk or bike ride to relieve stress and aches (because exercise releases endorphins – chemicals in the body that make you feel good).
Soak in a warm bath or put a hot water bottle on her abdomen, which may help her relax.
This article is not designed as a substitute for personal medical advice but as a supplement to advice for those wishes to understand more about her condition.