What is Menstruation? How does it occur?

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Anshruta Poddar

 

What is Menstruation? How does it occur?

 

Menstruation is the monthly shedding of the lining of the uterus resulting in the vaginal discharge of blood and tissues. Also known as a period, menstruation is a perfectly normal and healthy occurrence that typically occurs for 4-7 days each month. A menstruator hits menarche (the first period) anytime between the age of 8-13 years, followed by menopause (the last period) which can occur any time after the age of 45 years. The phase in between is when a menstruator is in the child-bearing years.

During menstruation, it is of utmost importance that the menstruator uses sanitary products that are clean and hygienic. The disposal of such products must also be undertaken with great care. There is a variety of sanitary products available in the market today; sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, etc. While each of these products has its own pros and cons, using any of them is ideal as long as they are regularly changed (or washed in case of menstrual cups) and hygienically disposed.

To comprehend menstruation, it is crucial to understand the four phases of the menstrual cycle.

 

  1. Menstrual Phase: The menstrual cycle starts with the first phase; Menstruation. This is when the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina, resulting in your period. When a pregnancy has not occurred, the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop. The thickened wall of the uterus is no longer required, and hence it disintegrates and flows out of the cervix in the form of blood, tissues and mucus. This phase can last between 4-7 days on average, and can be accompanied by cramps, mood swings, bloating, and body pain.

 

  1. Follicular Phase: This is the phase of the egg-development. It starts with the release of the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone stimulates the ovaries to produce small sacs called follicles. Each follicle contains an immature egg in it. With every passing day, the follicles grow in size and the egg inside starts to mature. Simultaneously, the uterus lining also starts to thicken in anticipation of the matured egg getting fertilized. Only the healthiest egg or two will completely mature. This is coupled with a surge in the hormone estrogen. This phase typically lasts for 16 days.

 

  1. Ovulatory Phase: At the end of the follicular phase, a mature egg is released from the follicle. The egg makes its way down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. This phenomenon is termed Ovulation. During ovulation, the basal body temperature rises, and the vaginal discharge resembles the consistency of an egg white. The egg is viable for 24-36 hours after ovulation, and if fertilized during this time frame, it can result in a pregnancy. Ovulation occurs roughly in the middle of the menstrual cycle; however, the exact timing differs from body to body as well as cycle to cycle.

 

  1. Luteal Phase: The process of the luteal phase depends on whether or not a pregnancy has occurred post ovulation. In case of a pregnancy, the uterine walls continue to thicken to allow for successful implantation of the fertilized egg. The body also starts producing the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) hormone, that supports the pregnancy. It is this hormone that pregnancy tests pick up, and detect whether or not one is pregnant. If one does not get pregnant, then the hormone levels once again drop and eventually the uterine wall dissolves and starts to shed; resulting in the onset of one’s period. This phase typically lasts for 12-14 days.

 

As seen above, menstruation is simply the result of the biological process that deals with reproduction. However, it is upsetting to note that menstruation is still a taboo in several households. Menstruators are not only disallowed from performing certain routine activities during their period, they are often subject to discrimination and judgement. Since they are unable to openly talk about their plight, they are not able to ask for the adequate resources and sanitation facilities to have a dignified period. To think that millions of menstruators across the country are suffering in silence for 4-7 days each month, is disheartening to say the least.

 

At Ujaas, the team aims to create conversation around this stigmatized topic, and gradually change the mindset of the masses towards being more accepting of the predicament of the menstruators. No one deserves to suffer for something that is perfectly natural and healthy. Through awareness campaigns, workshops and training sessions, Ujaas has undertaken the mammoth task of trying to change the ‘Psychle’; the psyche of people with regards to menstruation as well as the vicious cycle of injustice and prejudice that menstruators find themselves stuck in. Ujaas is also reaching out to menstruators in the remote corners of the country and distributing affordable sanitary napkins.

 

The ocean is vast, but each drop will make a difference; with this ideology Ujaas will continue its efforts in this space with a whole lot of passion and drive. To support this initiative, one can visit our website www.ujaas.in and sign up as a volunteer, or alternatively donate for the cause. Every little step will go a long way in brightening the future of someone in need!

 

Also read,

 

What is menstrual hygiene? How important is menstrual hygiene?

 

How is Ujaas helping in shattering stigma related to menstrual health? How can someone volunteer for this initiative?

5 Misconceptions around menstrual health in India.