This week’s blog is written by one of New Gen’s AmeriCorp members, Barbara Haupt! To learn more about Barbara, click here!
We get questions about periods ALL THE TIME! And because there is sooo much to know about periods, we have decided to split up the information and create a Menstrual Cycle Blog Series!!! We will start with The Basics!
Let’s get on the same page about periods, menstrual cycles, and ovulation. A period is the time of menstrual bleeding, when layers of the uterine wall and any egg that has been released are flushed out of the body. Although the average age for periods to begin is around 12 years old, it can vary tremendously. A typical period for most women lasts between 3 and 7 days. Women experience all sorts of symptoms in the week or two leading up to their periods, including acne, breast tenderness, emotional changes, feeling tired, constipation, or unusual food cravings (chocolate!). These are considered symptoms of PMS or “Premenstrual Syndrome.” Some people really hate these sorts of symptoms, but others appreciate the reminder that their body is going through the same process every month! These symptoms can help girls and women know their period is on its way. Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of one month’s period and ends on the first day of the next period. For most women, this cycle lasts between 20 and 35 days, although it can be longer or shorter.
So why do girls have periods anyway?
Periods are a sign of fertility, meaning that girl or woman is able to get pregnant. Hormones cause the walls of the uterus to begin thickening and trigger an egg to release from the ovaries and travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus. This release is called ovulation. It usually happens about 2 weeks before each period and the egg survives for roughly 24 hours. This means that the most fertile times for women whose cycles are regular is the 5-7 days leading up to ovulation and the day or two after. But for a woman with irregular periods (especially teens) this is not a reliable way to keep track of when she will be fertile because ovulation could be happening at any time during the cycle!
Okay, although I could go on and on about periods, I’ll save some for next week. And the week after : ) Have a specific question??? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
-Barbara Haupt, AmeriCorps Member
Reviewed by Debby Davidson