The Menstrual Cycle is a masterpiece of organisation. Your brain, your hormones, your ovaries, adrenal glands, thyroid gland and sexual organs all get together to do their part in initiating and executing your period each month.
Our menstrual cycles begin with our first period (called ‘menarche’ - average age is 10 – 12 years old, but it can occur anytime between 8 and 16 years old) and continues until menopause (average 45-55 years old).
In a sexually mature woman, the ovaries release one egg each month (or occasionally two), at the time of ovulation. The lining of the uterus (the endometrium) thickens up in response. After ovulation, this lining changes to prepare for potential implantation of a fertilised egg to establish pregnancy.
If fertilisation and pregnancy do not occur, the uterus sheds the lining and a new menstrual cycle begins. This process of the shedding of the lining is called ‘menstruation’. While menstrual cycle length may vary from woman to woman, 28 days is taken as the average ovulatory cycle. Our periods generally last for a few days (usually 3 to 5 days, but anywhere from 2 to 7 days is also considered normal) and involves the loss of about 30 – 40 millilitres of blood.
Periods vary greatly and mean different things to different women – to some, they are of no significance and are a minor inconvenience but to others, they can be a major pain the butt and can cause PMS symptoms (see below).
Your body is pretty incredible! This intricate chemical and biological event is actually very cool and is monthly proof of your massive amounts of girl power. Whilst we love nothing more than curling up on the couch with a tub of ice-cream and the remote, your period really shouldn’t prevent you from doing anything and everything you normally enjoy doing.
Getting your period is a completely NORMAL part of being a woman, and regular periods are a reminder that your body is working as it should. If you suspect that your periods are irregular, or if something doesn’t feel right, please do see a doctor.
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a combination of emotional and physical symptoms that us women experience during our menstrual cycles. These symptoms usually start around seven to 14 days before your period begins and usually stop very soon after your period starts.
Possible symptoms include:
Every woman experiences different symptoms; some months your PMS may be worse than others or you may have no PMS symptoms at all.
No one seems to know for sure what causes PMS, but symptoms seem to be linked to the changes in hormone levels that happen during your menstrual cycle. We think that the best thing you can do is to look after yourself! A balanced diet, exercise, adequate sleep and hot baths (with wine) seem to help. Minimising stress is a good one, too, as stress can also play havoc with your hormones.
Just the sound of this potent term unnerves many of us, but this disease – although extremely serious – is fortunately, extremely rare.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a life-threatening infection that is often associated with the use of tampons (though tampons themselves do not cause TSS) and, in some cases, diaphragms and contractive sponges. However, TSS can also be triggered by other events (e.g. childbirth, surgery), injuries, or certain illnesses.
WHO IS AT RISK of Toxic Shock Syndrome?
THE BEST WAY TO REDUCE THE RISK when using tampons is to:
THE SYMPTOMS of Toxic Shock Syndrome develop suddenly. They may include:
If left untreated, TSS can put people at risk of organ failure, shock, or death. If you suspect you have Toxic Shock, remove your tampon and call for medical help immediately.
Learn more about Toxic Shock Syndrome HERE
If you’ve got any other questions or concerns about your cycle, we recommend you visit a trusted doctor or health professional.