Menstrual cycle: What’s normal and what’s not

Dr Sushma Tomar, an obstetrician, and gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, shares her insights about the menstrual cycle and shares what is normal, and what is not

woman experiencing menstrual cramps

For a woman, her menstrual cycle is crucial, as it influences and plays a significant role in her overall health. It is a natural process that occurs in the female reproductive system.

The menstrual cycle is due to monthly hormonal changes in the body that occurs from menace to menopause, each month, one ovary release one egg.

A woman first experiences her menstrual period at an early age, usually between twelve and fifteen years of age. The cycle lasts between two to seven days, varying from person to person.

The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of menses to the first day of next menses. In general, 25 days to 35 days cycle, and using two to three napkins per day bleeding is normal. Understanding your cycle is imperative, considering that an irregular change may mean something.

Here are a few typical occurrences that a woman may or may not come across when menstruating.

Spotting:  Usage of birth control pills often leads to sudden spotting; however, few women who are not on birth control pills experience spotting too. It is due to a quick surge and decline in estrogen and may occur at any stage during reproductive years.

If you are on the pill and your spotting does not go away naturally, you must consult your doctor about a high dose pill. If you have been diagnosed with Polyps, retrieval can be done to check for any pre-malignancies or malignancies.

Heavy flow: If you suddenly begin to experience a wave-like heavy flow that requires a change in pad or tampons more than six times in a day, do not ignore this sign, you may have a problem.

It may be fibroids, which are abnormal growths in the Uterus that alter the uterine wall and could be benign tumours or non-cancerous. Sometimes, these tumours are quite large, and can cause tremendous pain; these tend to become common as women age.

Fibroids shrink, or typically disappear during menopause as estrogen depletes, however, dealing with the pain is subjective to one’s tolerance level. Fibroids can be removed through Ultrasound-guided surgery, Uterine Artery Embolisation, Hysterectomy, or other methods.

Irregular periods: The time between each period is almost similar, sometimes a day or two early or late. However, for some, the interval between periods differs substantially. Irregularity of period may be associated with stress, weight loss, or gain, which is a result of your hormones going on a rollercoaster spin.

Perimenopause, the time frame before menopause sets in may also be another symptom, you may experience hot flashes, dizziness, change in sleep patterns, and anxiety.

Irregular menses occur due to many regions like hormonal imbalance, fibroid uterus, uterus cancer, ovarian cancer, Pelvic inflammatory diseases, pregnancy, breastfeeding, Polycystic ovarian diseases, eating disorders, and failure.

In all these conditions, the amount of bleeding, dates of bleeding changes. If there is a sudden change in period, do not waste time, and consult the doctor immediately. If the problem goes undetected, it leads to further and more complications.

No period: Failure in getting your period is often subjected to being pregnant if irregular cycles are not the concern. Some women may yet be fertile even if they’re menstruating; it is due to an overlap of periods at the commencement of ovulation.

If a woman engages in sex at the end of her period, there is a possibility of getting pregnant as the sperm lasts for at least 72 hours in the reproductive tract. If you are not ready for being pregnant, protection is key. If you had unprotected sex, make sure to look up emergency contraception available at pharmacies.

Overconsumption Of I-Pill – Side Effects: Overuse of I-pills causes lower abdominal pain like cramps, breast pain, nausea, headache, tiredness, intermittent bleeding giddiness, heavy & irregular periods. However, all these symptoms go away in a day or two. It may also cause a blood clot, and sometimes stroke, so it should not be taken unless it is necessary.

Abuse of period altering medication (To prepone & postpone): Repeated pre-poning and postponing the period with hormones make your cycle irregular, and ovulation date is also changed. You can have scanty menses or heavy flow after that.