The menstrual cycle is a process by which the woman gets rid of her uterine lining once every month. The uterine lining prepares itself every month to receive a fertilized egg. When the egg is not fertilized, the lining is shed and is released from the body in the form of bleeding. Most menstrual cycles last for anything from 3-10 days.
In the average woman, a menstrual cycle lasts for about 5 days with normal to moderately heavy bleeding. Sometimes, however, women have problems with their menstrual period, which leads to irregularities like painful periods, heavy bleeding, skipped periods or very frequent periods. All these form a part of menstruation problems. Let us now study each one of them in detail.
Common Menstruation Problems
Amenorrhea or Infrequent Menstrual Cycles
Amenorrhea is a condition in which the girl does not get her first period by the age of 16 or skips three consecutive menstrual cycles and she is not pregnant. Generally, amenorrhea is a sign of a deeper complication. Here are some of the causes, which can lead to amenorrhea.
Girls who exercise too much put themselves at risk of scanty or infrequent periods. Excessive exercising disrupts hormonal balance and causes irregular cycles. In fact, women trainees who undergo severe and stressful physical regimes while training for the military services often complain of an absence of their periods.
Malnourishment, which is typically seen in eating disorders like anorexia, can also lead to amenorrhea. Starvation coupled with excessive exercise completely disrupts the hormonal cycles of the body and affects the functioning of the reproductive organs. This can lead to temporary amenorrhea.
Often women complain of absent periods when they are battling intense physical or emotional trauma. Stress can temporarily halt or delay a woman’s menstrual cycles.
Hormonal disorders like PCOS also called as polycystic ovaries lead to amenorrhea. In this, the ovaries develop multiple cysts, which completely ruins the menstrual cycle.
Oligomenorrhea is a condition in which the woman gets her periods but they are either infrequent or very scant. Unlike amenorrhea in which there is a complete absence of periods, in this, the periods take place but are not very regular. The woman may have 1- 2 skipped cycles.
Premature Ovarian Failure
Premature ovarian failure occurs when the ovaries stop functioning before the age of 40. They stop producing eggs and the woman may have a very difficult time conceiving. There is no certified cure to reverse this illness. However, the woman can be put on hormone replacement therapy to substitute for the declining estrogen levels. This protects her from heart disease and osteoporosis.
Some Menstrual Complications Associated With Heavy and Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding
Uterine fibroids are benign tumours that develop in the woman’s uterus during her childbearing years. In most cases, these tumours are very harmless. However, multiple and large fibroids can lead to painful and very heavy menstrual periods. The woman may continue to bleed for days and may also bleed in between her periods.
In most cases, the woman has no problems with fertility and can conceive. Only in the case of very large fibroids, surgical intervention may be needed as they can interfere with her ability to conceive. Often surgery and medication is the course of action taken to tackle fibroids.
Endometriosis is a severe, painful disorder in which parts of the uterine lining is shed and begins to grow in other parts of the uterus like the ovaries, fallopian tubes and even organs like the stomach and the intestines.
The uterine lining also becomes considerably thicker. The woman may bleed intermittently and may experience very painful periods. This is one of the number one causes of female infertility. Hormonal treatments and surgery can reverse the condition to a large extent. In case the woman is rendered infertile, she may consider the option of in vitro fertilization.
Dysmenorrhoea is a condition in which the woman suffers from very intense, painful periods. The pain is crippling and debilitating and it starts to affect the woman’s social, occupational and other areas of functioning. The condition is often caused by a severe uterine infection, endometriosis or ovarian cysts all of which cause painful periods.
It is normal for women to suffer from cramps during their periods. The problem occurs when the cramps are so severe that they need to be hospitalized or confined to bed rest. Often painful cramps can be easily alleviated with the help of heating pads and moderate exercise. Severe cramps, however, need close medical attention.
PMS or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
This is a very common problem and is not actually considered a disorder. PMS stands for pre-menstrual syndrome associated with discomfort just before the onset of the period. Women often complain of breast tenderness, mood swings, menstrual cramps, bloating, headaches, nausea and vomiting just before the start of their menses.
These symptoms begin sometime a week before the period starts. These changes occur due to a change in the hormonal cycles of the body. While 80% of women experience some or all of these symptoms, some women are particularly sensitive and may feel chronic discomfort because of PMS. In such cases, medication prescribed by the doctor may ease the discomfort to a large extent.
Most girls attain puberty and start their periods by the average age of 13. In many cases, there are early bloomers and later bloomers. Some girls are known to start their period as early as 9 or 10 while others may get their first period only by the age of 15. A lot of this is dependent of genetics. You are likely to start menstruating at the same age as your mother or grandmother did. In case a girl has not reached menarche by the age of 15 or 16, it is time to see a doctor.
Menorrhagia is another menstrual complication characterized by very heavy and prolonged bleeding. This is indicated when the girl soaks one pad within an hour or so. The girl ends up using several pads in a day and bleeds continuously for more than a week. Often these girls become social recluses and do not venture out of their homes.
An imbalance between progesterone and estrogen causes the uterine lining to keep building up and this is one of the primary causes. The disorder can be treated with timely investigation and intervention.