‘Why do women have periods’, is a common question asked by many adolescent girls as well as women who are menstruating. Let us answer questions related to why women have periods and know more about this biological process in detail.
Women undergo a monthly cycle called ‘menstruation’ every month. It is also known by other names such as menses, menstrual period or just period. A woman is said to be menstruating when she gets her periods. During a period, a woman tends to bleed from her vagina because the woman’s body begins to shed the inside lining of her uterus. This menstrual blood contains tissues from the internal lining of the uterus. This blood and tissue flows from the uterus down to the cervix and then flows out of the body through the vagina. This brings us to the question – what happens during a menstrual cycle? Let’s find out in the following paragraphs.
What Happens during Periods?
Menstruation is a complex biological process that involves the female reproductive organs, messages from the brain and the female hormones. If you have a look at the female reproductive organs, you will find that there are two ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus and the vagina. Together, these organs make up the sex organs of a woman. All girls are born with ovaries that contain eggs. These eggs mature during puberty and are released from the ovaries. The start of a girl’s periods is called ‘menarche’. This occurs when all the female sex organs mature and start functioning together. A girls first period generally occurs at the age of 12 years. It can occur at about 8 to 16 years of age. It is a major step in a girl’s life which indicates that she is now turning into a woman.
Now, coming back to the process of menstruation. The pituitary gland releases Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH stimulates the ovaries to release an egg. The ovum that is released travels down the fallopian tube down to the uterus. In the meantime, the uterus begins to prepare itself by thickening the internal lining, i.e., endometrium. The hormone estrogen causes the uterus to start thickening the internal lining to receive a fertilized egg. This thickened endometrium contains blood and other nourishment for a fertilized egg to grow. The egg will patiently wait during the ovulation period for a sperm. If the woman has sex during this time, the sperms will travel down the vagina into the uterus and reach the egg. Once it is able to penetrate the egg and fertilize it, the woman will conceive a baby. Suppose the egg is not fertilized by a sperm, the estrogen and progesterone levels in the body will drop. This will cause the thickened endometrium to strip itself away as there is no growing fetus to support. The egg, endometrium or tissue lining as well as the blood from the fine blood vessels attached to the endometrium begin to break off from the uterus. These tissues along with fresh blood are shed through the vagina and this is called menstruation or periods.
What are the Symptoms of a Period?
A woman who will start her periods, will experience many symptoms before bleeding commences. These symptoms cause a lot of discomfort to women. These symptoms include pain in the abdominal area, nausea, sweating, fatigue, muscle aches, backache, lethargy, breast tenderness, weight gain, etc. These symptoms occur due to contractions of the uterus that are similar to those occurring during childbirth. The hormone, prostaglandin causes these contractions that help in shedding of the uterine lining. This leads to abdominal cramps and pain. The cervix dilates when the blood and tissues are being passed through it into the vagina. This leads to lower abdominal cramps as well as pain in vagina. The hormonal imbalance in the body causes other aches and pain as well as feelings of nausea, lethargy and fatigue.
A woman will experience about 450 to 500 periods all through her life. A period can last for about 3 to 7 days. It may seem as if one is losing all the blood in their body, but actually the blood loss during a typical period is just about 5 to 12 teaspoons. Some women experience light periods and some experience heavy bleeding called menorrhagia.
As you can see, periods occur due to the hormonal action on the female sex organs. An egg is released every month that helps a woman get pregnant. If pregnancy does not occur, this egg along with the uterine lining is shed every month leading to periods. So as long as you do not run out of eggs and reach menopause, you will continue to have periods. Hysterectomy or other medical and surgical processes can also cause end of periods. Periods are a sign of womanhood. So, take it in your stride and celebrate being a woman.