Menstrual cycle or periods is a natural biological process that happens in females. It is a series of changes that occurs in your body to prepare for a possible pregnancy and involves an interplay of hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Controlled by rise and fall of hormones, a normal menstrual cycle is about 28 days long and has four main phases. The length of the menstrual cycle may be longer or shorter in some women. Usually periods start between the age of twelve and fifteen and it is called as menarch. In some cases, menstruation can start as early as eight. Woman stop menstruation between 45 and 55 and it is called as menopause. During a normal period, the bleeding usually lasts for about two to seven days. (ALSO READ Regulate your periods: 5 ways to regulate an irregular menstrual cycle).

What is a normal menstrual cycle and what are the phases?

A normal menstrual cycle is a biological process that occur in the reproductive system of the females and it can be categorised into four phases: Follicular phase, ovulation phase, luteal phase and menstrual phase.(ALSO READ Why breasts sore before period: Here’s everything you should know about premenstrual breast swelling).

The menstrual cycle starts with the follicular phase during which the follicles of the ovary prepare to release an egg. A hormone is released by the pituitary gland to stimulate the growth of egg cells. These eggs develop in follicles present in the ovaries and a hormone is secreted by the follicle to stimulate thickening of uterus lining. The soft tissue lining of the uterus known as the endometrium prepares for a possible pregnancy. (ALSO READ Can you get periods twice a month?).

The next phase is ovulation in which a hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland to trigger the release of the matured egg from the ovaries. The egg then travels to the fallopian and stays there waiting to get fertilized.

In the luteal phase, the unfertilized egg in the fallopian tube dissolves or disintegrates in the fallopian tube. The hormone produced by the follicle for the thickening of uterus lining gets used up. (ALSO READ Pimples during periods: Here’s how to prevent pimples during menstrual cycle).

The last phase of the cycle is the menstrual phase or the bleeding phase. With no more hormones from the follicle, the lining of the uterus is shed through the vagina. Blood vessels and soft tissue exit the body in the form of menstrual bleeding. This lasts for about five days and the loss of 10 to 80 ml of blood is considered normal. During the menstrual phase, woman may experience severe abdominal cramps, back ache, uterine pain and pain in the upper thighs. (ALSO READ Heavy bleeding during periods: Cause, symptoms and treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding).

What are the symptoms during a menstrual cycle?

There are several symptoms of menstrual cycle including mood swings, fatigue, bloating, breast tenderness and acne. These symptoms are called as Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and they may interfere with your daily schedule. The symptoms of PMS usually subside with the start of menstruation.

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