Beyond the Basics: Learn all about what is Menstruation?

Beyond the Basics: Learn all about what is Menstruation?

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03 October 2023 . 6 min read

What is Menstruation?

Menstruation or period is a normal and healthy occurrence seen every month in women of reproductive age. It is vaginal bleeding that occurs a few days every month as the uterus sheds its lining.

Although menstruation is a normal process seen in females, there are many myths associated with it. Empowering young boys and girls with correct information about menstruation is, therefore, of great value.

What is the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is characterised by the monthly shedding of the lining of the uterus when pregnancy does not occur. Menstrual flow from the vagina comprises the uterine lining along with some blood. It usually lasts for 2 to 7 days each month.

Why does menstruation occur?

If you have ever wondered, “Why is menstruation important for a female?" Here’s what you need to know– Menstruation prepares the body for a possible pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, this lining is ruptured or shed through the vagina as menstrual discharge, which includes blood and tissue.

What are the signs and symptoms of periods?

The bleeding is usually heavier on the first two days of the cycle. Besides bleeding, women may also experience:

  • Cramping pain (period cramps) in the stomach and lower back
  • Tiredness
  • Mood changes
  • Bloating
  • Irritability
  • Headaches

Around 80% of women have reported period pain at some point. Before the beginning of the menstrual cycle each month, women may experience some physical and emotional symptoms, referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These symptoms occur due to hormonal changes that happen during menstruation.

Premenstrual symptoms include:

  • Soreness of breast
  • Acne
  • Weight gain or bloating
  • Body ache
  • Food cravings
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in sleep pattern

How much should I bleed during my period?

During periods women lose blood about 30 ml to 40 ml or 2 to 3 tablespoons.

 

Can a woman get pregnant during menstruation?

It is less likely for women to get pregnant during their menstruation. However, it is always recommended to use protection or contraceptives if engaging in sexual intercourse during menses.

 

How to choose the right products for your periods?

Let us understand the various period products available for use: 

Sanitary pads 

Sanitary or period pads, or menstrual pads, are an absorbable material with a sticky side covered by a strip of paper that must be peeled off before attaching to a panty. The absorbent side of a menstrual pad soaks up the period blood and keeps you dry and comfortable.  

How to use a pad? 

  • Remove the sanitary pad from its packing.  
  • Open the pad. Peel off the long rectangular piece of paper to reveal the sticky side and place it on the panty to secure it.
  • Make sure to place it in the right place to absorb all the menstrual blood; it shouldn’t be placed too much in the front or back. 
  • Once the pad is stuck, remove the square-shaped paper from the centre of the pad on the absorbent side. 
  • Flip open the wings to stick the pad on either side of the panty, and you are good to go! 

Sanitary pads should be changed every 4 to 6 hours, depending on your period flow. They should not be flushed in the toilet. So, after removing it, wrap it up and throw it in a dustbin. 

Advantages: 

  • Easy to use and change 
  • Easily available 
  • Inexpensive 

Tampons 

Tampons are small cylindrical pieces of cotton wool with a string at one end. They are meant to be inserted into your vagina and absorb the flow of blood. The string is used to pull the tampon out. Most tampons come with an instruction guide on safe insertion and removal.

How to use a tampon

  • Tampons can be inserted either with or without tampon applicators.  
  • Wash your hands. 
  • Hold the base of the tampon between the index finger and the thumb and insert it gently into your vagina while spreading your legs, pushing it inside while leaving the string hanging out of the vagina. 
  • If there is a tampon applicator, hold it between the thumb and the middle finger at the end of the larger tube, where the smaller tube inserts into it. 
  • Gently insert the free end of the bigger tube into the vagina while spreading your legs apart. 
  • Now press the narrow tube with the index finger to push the
  • Take the applicator out while leaving the string hanging out of the vagina. 
  • This string can be used to pull the tampon out after use to be discarded. 

Important pointers: 

  • If the tampon is inserted correctly, one shouldn't be able to feel it. It might not be inserted properly if you feel it or it hurts. 
  • Change the tampon every 4 to 6 hours, depending on the flow. 
  • If the tampon has been left inside for a long time or there’s an unpleasant discharge, one must see their doctor immediately. 

Menstrual Cups 

Heard about menstrual cups but need information on what they are and how to use them? They are made from medical-grade silicone and are available in several sizes. They are inserted into the vagina to collect blood rather than absorb it.  

How to use a menstrual cup?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly. 
  • Fold the menstrual cup in half at the rim.
  • Spread your legs and insert the cup gently into your vagina, with the rim facing upwards.  
  • Once inside your vagina, rotate it to create a seal. 
  • To remove the period cup, with clean hands, locate its stem and pull it gently, sliding your index finger and thumb inwards to find the base and pinch it to break the seal. 
  • Now the period cup can be pulled out easily. 
  • Empty the blood in a toilet and wash the cup thoroughly. The menstrual cup must be cleaned every 4 to 8 hours.

Advantages:

  • Reusable 
  • Can be used for a longer duration compared to pads and tampons
  • Overall budget friendly in the long term 
  • Eco-friendly
  • No risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Important Pointers: 

  • If correctly inserted, menstrual cups are comfortable and do not leak. 
  • It may be challenging to insert as a beginner. 
  • You must clean your menstrual cup every day and between uses.  
  • When you are at home, remove the cup, empty the blood in the toilet and rinse it with clean water and unscented soap. Once the cup is clean, you can reinsert it. 
  • If you are out of home or travelling, it may seem harder to clean your cup. Remove the cup to empty the blood, and instead of washing it with water, wipe it clean using tissue paper. Reinsert the cup and go about your day. Remember to rinse it as soon as you reach home. 
  • It is recommended to remove and empty the menstrual cup within 12 hours.  

Conclusion

Menstruation is a normal and healthy monthly event in most women of reproductive age. Regular healthy menstruation is a sign that your body is functioning properly. It is often accompanied by other symptoms like bleeding, cramps, body aches, mood swings, etc. Understanding the various symptoms and causes can help women deal with menstruation effectively without letting it impact their education, job, physical activities, and social life.