Menstrual cycle is a woman’s monthly hormonal cycle. During this menstrual cycle, a female’s body goes through multiple changes to prepare for future pregnancy.
Menstrual cycle is usually broken down in the following 4 phases, the characteristics of which are as follows:
During ovulatory phase if conception occurs, then secretory phase persists by continuous secretion of progesterone and the uterus keeps on thickening to help the conceived foetus to survive. In case of no conception, a sudden drop in progesterone leads to cessation of secretory phase which is then followed by menstrual phase.
A regular menstrual cycle indicates that the body is working normally. But there are certain medical conditions in which the menstrual cycles can become irregular, stop completely or maybe associated with other symptoms. In such cases, an underlying disease maybe the cause and warrants further health check-up and investigations.
Common period problems generally experienced by women:
- Menstrual pain:
Pain that one experiences during the menstrual phase is called dysmenorrhea. It is a common problem that women experience during cycles. Some women may just experience a feeling of heaviness while some others may experience severe cramps in the lower abdomen. This pain is usually caused due to contractions of the uterine muscle and can be worsened by additional factors like high level of stress, smoking, excessive caffeine, underlying infections or any other disease.
This menstrual pain can usually be relieved by small dose analgesics (Pain killers). Taking antispasmodic medicines helps in relaxing the uterine muscles and thus reduce pain. In case the pain lasts beyond the duration of menstrual phase or is very severe, then consult a doctor for detailed examination and investigations.
Normally a menstrual cycle will last for anytime between 21-35days. An irregular cycle means the menses are not on their expected time. In this condition, the menstrual cycle becomes either shorter or longer than average duration.
Causes of irregular cycles can be excessive weight gain, hormonal problems such as hyperthyroidism, high amounts of prolactin or PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Long term infection or inflammation also leads to irregular menstruation.
Treatment depends on the cause of the irregular cycles. A doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control in the form of an intrauterine device, the pill or vaginal ring. These birth control hormones help in regulating menstrual cycles. Specific lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and proper diet further help in controlling hormone levels and regularise menstrual cycle.
Missed period means absence of menses, which is also called amenorrhea. Amenorrhea affects 3-4 % of women. Amenorrhea which is not caused by pregnancy or breastfeeding could indicate insufficient secretion of the hormone “oestrogen” in the ovaries. Insufficient levels of oestrogen hampers development of ovarian follicles and prevents ovulation which further leads to amenorrhea. If a female has not had menses for 3months and has had negative pregnancy results, then she should consult a doctor/specialist to find out the reason behind her amenorrhea and subsequently initiate appropriate treatment.
Heavy and abnormal bleeding:
Ovulation means the release of an ovum from the ovary into the fallopian tube. Any disease which affects ovulation can result in heavy or abnormal bleeding. Heavy bleeding can also be seen in various medical conditions like uterine fibroid, uterine polyps, bleeding disorders and many more. If menstrual bleeding lasts for more than 8 days, then one should consult a doctor immediately for investigations.
A doctor may prescribe hormonal birth control, such as IUD (intrauterine device), contraceptive pills or vaginal ring. If birth control or other medicines are not effective, surgery may be required to treat the cause of heavy bleeding.
Here are a few things you can do during menses that would improve overall health and wellbeing:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can relieve abdominal cramps. It also helps in preventing dizziness and weakness which might occur due to menstrual blood loss. Drink at least eight glasses of water every day to remain adequately hydrated.
- Never skip any meal: Skipping meals can lead to low blood pressure, which can cause nausea, weakness dizziness. So ensure that meals are eaten regularly and in healthy proportions.
- Reach for tea instead: Drink some tea instead of the sugary treats. Add some ginger to it for that extra zing; ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce the pain. Opting for mint tea can help prevent nausea.
- Taking multivitamins: Taking multivitamins just before and during periods can help keep pain, nausea, and dizziness at bay. This is because good-quality multivitamins provide iron, vitamin B12, vitamins C which all help in revitalising and keeping the body healthy.
- Lie down: Make sure to lie down during severe pain or in case of excessive dizziness. Drink a glass of water and proceed to do some breathing exercises to relieve the symptoms.
- Take antacid: Acid reflux is a common problem during menstrual cycles which is experienced in the form of nausea, vomiting and burning sensation in the stomach. Avoid oily and spicy food and take antacids to relive the symptoms.
- Taking painkillers: Analgesics and anti-spasmodics help in reducing the severity of pain. Consult a doctor for appropriate dosage that needs to be prescribed for pain relief.