Your Menstrual Cycle: An Overview

What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a monthly hormonal cycle the body goes through as it prepares for the possibility of pregnancy. The average young woman typically starts menstruating about two years after her breasts begin to develop and pubic hair starts to grow, which is often around age 12, but can be a few years earlier or later.

Your Menstrual Cycle: An Overview

Understanding how the menstrual cycle works is important for women of all ages for a number of reasons, including helping you get pregnant, avoiding getting pregnant, understanding when something may be wrong, and managing menstrual symptoms.

How long does a menstrual cycle last?
Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends the first day your next menstrual period arrives. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but the exact length will vary between women or even change from month to month for the same person. If your periods come somewhere between every 24 to 38 days, your cycle is considered regular, but if your cycle is longer or shorter, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician to find out what’s going on.

What is ovulation?
Ovulation is a process that occurs in the middle of your cycle, usually near the 14th day. At this time, one of the ovaries releases an egg so that it can be fertilized by sperm and lead to pregnancy. You’re most likely to get pregnant in the three days leading up to and including ovulation. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the uterine lining sheds and you’ll get your menstrual period. It’s not uncommon to experience a bit of discomfort during ovulation, such as pain in the lower abdomen and some spotting or bleeding, but some women don’t experience any symptoms.

What happens during menstruation?
Menstruation is the part of your menstrual cycle when the endometrium that lines the uterus is shed and you get your period. This happens when an egg from your previous cycle isn’t fertilized and levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop. The low hormone levels let your body know that it no longer needs a thick uterine lining to support pregnancy, and then sheds this blood, mucus, and tissue from the uterus through the vagina.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.

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