Once every month or so the tissues lining the inside of the womb come away and are passed out through the vagina with some blood. This is called menstruation and is often referred to as “having a period”.
Menstruation or “The period”
Once every month or so the tissues lining the inside of the womb come away and are passed out through the vagina with some blood. This is called menstruation and is often referred to as “having a period”. Each period can last from 2 – 8 days; 4 – 6 days is the average. Periods continue throughout a woman’s reproductive life. Periods usually start between the ages of 12 and 15 years; this is known as the menarche. Periods usually stop altogether between the ages of 40 and 50 years; this is known as menopause. However, the age at which menstrual periods begin or end can vary.
The length of the menstrual cycle is the interval from the beginning of one period to the beginning of the next period. It is usually about28 days but can vary between 21 and 35 days, or even more. The length of each period, as well as the amount of bleeding, varies from woman to woman. It may also vary in the same woman from time to time. For the first couple of years that a girl has her periods, they may not occur regularly. The same is true for women who are going through menopause, when the periods gradually stop coming altogether. In addition, other factors such as illness, anxiety, or depression can speed up, delay or prevent menstruation. A woman who is very thin or who exercises a great deal may also not menstruate regularly.
What causes menstruation? Menstruation only occurs when a woman is not pregnant. After a menstrual period, the lining of the womb starts to build up and prepare itself to receive a fertilized egg. If no fertilized egg reaches the womb within 2 – 3 weeks, the lining of the womb breaks down, and bits of tissue leave the womb during the menstrual period about a week later.
When a baby is conceived and a fertilized egg reaches the inside lining of the womb, the breakdown of the womb’s lining stops. Women do not have their periods during pregnancy, and usually the menstrual period does not start again until several months after the baby is born. Breastfeeding delays the return of the period even longer, depending on how often and how long the woman breastfeeds.
During a menstrual period, most women use clean cloths, sanitary napkins, or fresh tampons to absorb the blood. It is important to keep the outside genital area clean in order to avoid infections. It is not necessary to wash the inside of the vagina, since it cleanses itself naturally after each period. Washing the inside of the vagina, especially if harsh chemicals or soaps are used, can irritate the inside.