How the menstrual cycle works?!? – Part two!

In part two, we will discuss the luteal phase, the role of oestrogen in the female body, and abdominal pain at different stages of the cycles!


Grab yourself a cup of tea, or a hot chocolate 😉 , and enjoy!





The luteal phase ( from ovulation to menstruation ) can normally last for 10 – 16 days. Studies show that, unlike the follicular phase, the luteal phase tends to be constant for each woman.


The length of a normal menstrual cycle ( 21 – 35 days ) varies due to the instability of the follicular phase.

This phase is determined by your level of oestrogen and can differ from cycle to cycle.


The duration of the luteal phase is evaluated retrospectively, taking into account the first day of menstruation in the new cycle and the date of ovulation in the previous one. The length of the luteal phase is rather stable and thus can be used for ovulation prediction.


The day of ovulation can be detected with the help of basal temperature charts, monitoring changes in cervical mucus, home tests for ovulation, and ultrasound.



The role of oestrogen in the female body


Oestrogen is one of the main female sex hormones produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells.


Oestrogen:

- Stimulates breast growth in adolescence together with other hormones

- Gives shape to the female body

- Affects vocal cords, making women’s voices higher than men’s


Oestrogen levels fluctuate during each menstrual cycle. There are also fluctuations that are caused by age-related physiological changes, such as:

- High oestrogen levels in adolescence and during pregnancy

- Low oestrogen levels in menopause, which cause hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and a low sex drive.


To address oestrogen deficiency, you can choose a diet containing phytoestrogens (vegetable oestrogens), although there is not enough scientific data to prove their effectiveness. You can also take dietary supplements or hormones, which should relieve the symptoms quickly. As hormones can also have side effects and contraindications, only a doctor can prescribe them.



Abdominal pain at different stages of the cycle


You may feel tingling sensations in your right or left ovary area around mid-cycle. It is quite normal for ovulation to cause this sensation, which is called mittelschmerz ( German for ‘middle pain’ ). When ovulation occurs, the follicle releases a small amount of liquid in addition to an egg, which can cause irritation and soreness in one or both ovaries.


Having a dragging pain in the lower abdomen a few days before your period is also common. This usually has to do with physiological changes in your reproductive system. This part of your cycle may also be accompanied by an imbalance in bowel function, which is associated with an increase in progesterone levels.


Discomfort in the lower abdomen during the entire cycle can sometimes stem from problems with your back.


If the discomfort is accompanied by cycle irregularity, heavy menstrual bleeding, painful intercourse, or severe premenstrual pain that affects your daily activities, it’s best to consult a doctor.





Why do period cramps happen?


During your menstrual cycle, your uterine lining, or endometrium, thickens in preparation for pregnancy and if there is no pregnancy, your uterus starts to contract to shed that lining and prepare for the next cycle. This is the main reason why period cramps hurt.


Throughout this process, the cells in your uterine lining release substances called prostaglandins. This increases the contraction of your uterus and decreases blood flow, this is why we get period cramps.


Women who suffer from painful menstrual cramps release more prostaglandins than women who don’t, and other dysmenorrhea causes can also be associated with higher prostaglandin levels. Prostaglandin levels are one of the main reasons why women get cramps.


When do women usually get cramps?


Many girls and women have problems like abdominal cramps and pain during their menstrual period. The medical term for painful periods is “dysmenorrhea.”


Although menstruation is a normal part of a woman's life, severe period pain need not be. Women don't have to simply put up with it – menstrual pain can usually be treated effectively.


If you have very painful periods or the pain keeps getting worse over time, it can be a good idea to see a doctor.


The moment when period cramps start usually depends on their cause. Primary dysmenorrhea tends to cause cramps that last between 8 and 72 hours, and they usually coincide with the start of your menstruation. Some women can get bad cramps before their period since the uterus is already preparing to shed its lining.


Primary dysmenorrhea can cause painful cramps during your period, and they can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as back pain and nausea. These cramps tend to start around your first menstruation, and they will usually remain constant during your period for years.


Secondary dysmenorrhea, on the other hand, causes bad cramps during your period that increase over time. This increase in pain can be accompanied by a heavier flow, pain during different times of the month, or painful intercourse. These new, worsening symptoms can be a sign that it’s time to go to the doctor.


Now we have a thorough understanding of the mentrual cycle , next months article will cover considerations when training around your cycle.


If you have any questions, please comment below.


Thanks, Ana.


References:


Period pain: overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. 2016 Jul 1.


Proctor M, Murphy PA. Herbal and dietary therapies for primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2001(2).


Latthe P, Mignini L, Gray R, Hills R, Khan K. Factors predisposing women to chronic pelvic pain: systematic review. Bmj. 2006 Mar 30;332(7544):749-55.

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