Menstruation is the monthly bleeding from the uterus. The terms menstruation, menorrhoea, menses and period all mean the same thing. Menstruation is the result of the hormonally controlled female fertility cycle. The first menstruation occurs in puberty and is referred to as menarche and the last occurs during the change of life. This is called the menopause. Ideally, the cycle lasts for "one lunar cycle", i.e., 28 days, but varies from individual to individual. Less than 23 days is referred to as polymenorrhoea and more than 35 days as oligomenorrhoea.
The uterine mucous membrane is shed first of all – this results in bleeding which lasts for around 5 days. The uterine mucous membrane then builds up again. An egg cell matures in the ovary during this time. It enters the fallopian tube during ovulation where it is capable of being fertilised for a few hours. If fertilisation occurs, the fertilised egg cell implants in the uterus and grows into an embryo. If fertilisation does not occur, the uterine mucous membrane is shed again during menstruation, the period, and the cycle starts again. This complex process is controlled by hormones. Oestrogens and progesterone are produced by the ovaries, but these are controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, that is our central control centres in the brain.
Why do menstrual disorders and period pain occur?
Menstrual problems are normal. Hormonal interaction, which is responsible for a regular and asymptomatic menstrual cycle, is affected by many factors. This is because our centre in the brain controls many processes in the body via hormones and these hormones as well as other signalling substances and messengers represent a closely interconnected network. Other hormones and messengers also affect the menstrual cycle – especially stress hormones and thyroid hormones. An example: A higher level of oestrogen in the blood increases and prolongs the release of stress hormones by the adrenal cortex. This explains why women are more sensitive to stress at times than men and why they experience greater inner stability after the menopause.
- Acute or chronic disorders
- Disruption of the hormonal balance (thyroid)
- Psychological stress
- Physical stress (competitive sport, climate change)
- Diet (extreme diets and poor diet)
- Environmental toxins and stimulants, medications.
The symptoms range from an irregular cycle through mood changes during the days before the period to painful or extended menstrual bleeding.
Disorders of cycle length: Cycle is too short or too long
- Disorders of flow Bleeding is too light or too heavy
- Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Dysmenorrhoea (period pain)
- Amenorrhoea (absence of a period)
Are period pain and dysmenorrhoea the same?
Practically every woman is familiar with period pain, also known as dysmenorrhoea It occurs during bleeding and may last for hours to days. Some women suffer from spasmodic symptoms in the lower abdomen, others from back pain. Headaches may also occur. Approx. 15 % of women with menstrual disorders describe their dysmenorrhoea as severe. The symptoms can make the period agony but are usually not a cause for medical concern. Pathological changes in the lesser pelvis may cause abdominal cramps and low-back pain – endometriosis, adhesions, myoma. In most cases, no organic changes are identified as the cause. It is then assumed that the balance between oestrogen and progesterone is not optimal and due to this too many messengers are released which stimulate shedding of the mucous membrane, but also stimulate the sensitivity to pain – mainly prostaglandins.
There are factors that promote period pain:
- Early first menstruation (before the age of 12)
- Low body weight (BMI below 20)
- Psychological pressures (stress, anxiety)
- Familial tendencyUnhealthy lifestyle (smoking, alcohol)
PMS refers to the emotional and physical symptoms that occur in the days before menstruation and which disappear when menstruation starts. Approximately every third women suffer from such symptoms – this is also often perceived by the social surroundings.
Is PMS a neuroendocrine disorder?
This means: It is triggered by an imbalance in the regulatory system of hormones and neurotransmitters. The sex hormones that control the menstrual cycle affect many other hormones and messengers – e.g., the happiness hormone serontonin and the calming neurotransmitter GABA. The fluid balance is also affected by the particular hormone combination in the last phase of the cycle before menstruation. Therefore, mood swings, sleep disorders and fluid retention occur in the days leading up to menstruation.
What is a common diagnosis and treatment of period pain?
If menstrual disorders occur regularly and impact the quality of life, they are usually not a cause for concern. However, if menstrual disorders and changes in the flow intensity or duration occur for the first time, you should consult a doctor. There are usually causes, which should be evaluated by a gynaecologist and possibly treated.
Here is some advice and home remedies to help you relieve your symptoms and prevent menstrual disorders:
- Avoid intense physical exertion during menstruation.
- Take short walks and do exercises that relieve cramps and are relaxing.
- Relieve cramp-like pain by applying heat:
- Hot-water bottle
- Moist-warm compresses
- Cherry stone pillows
- Melissa baths
- Avoid stress: Learn and practice a relaxation technique (e.g., yoga, meditation, autogenic training).
- Use the power of medicinal plants in the form of herbal teas – especially with yarrow and melissa
- If you are prone to fluid retention and breast pain: Eat preferably low-salt, light foods before and during menstruation.
- Eat preferably light, easily digestible foods high in fibre during menstruation.
Support menstrual disorders naturally using natural medicines Natural medicine enables a woman to gently regulate and influence her hormone balance without using hormones. Many medicinal plants have proven successful here. The most important such as vitex and black cohosh are contained with another 7 proven medicinal plants in the Pascofemin® product family.
- What is menstruation?
- What happens in the menstrual cycle?
- What are some possible causes of menstrual disorders?
- What types of menstrual disorders are there?
- What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
- What is a common diagnosis and treatment of period pain?
- What helps counter period pain and other menstrual disorders?