- Take the Menopause Quiz
- Essential Screening Tests Every Woman Needs Slideshow
- Surprising Benefits of Sex Slideshow
- Patient Comments: Women's Health - Menopause Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Menstruation - Symptoms
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
- Introduction to women's health
- Women's general health and wellness
- Female anatomy
- The female reproductive System
- Female hormones
- Diseases more common in women
- Cancer in women
- Women's cosmetic concerns
- Fertility, birth control, and infertility
- The mature woman - post menopause
Quick GuideWomen's Health: Nutrition and Health Care Reform
For about 40 years of her life, a woman experiences a normal phenomenon called the menstrual cycle. Regular loss of blood and tissue from normal sloughing of the inner lining of the uterus (menstruation) occurs every 26 to 35 days (more or less monthly) in every normal non-pregnant woman prior to menopause. Each monthly cycle can be divided into a follicular phase (an egg develops), ovulation (egg release) at mid-month, and a luteal phase (during which the uterine lining readies itself to receive a fertilized egg). If the egg is not fertilized, the uterine lining is shed, and a woman has her menstrual period. Then, the entire sequence of events is repeated.
Most women do not have difficulties during the first half of their menstrual cycle, but once the egg has been released, there may be problems such as pelvic pain. During the second half of the cycle, a woman may experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and she may have menstrual cramps at the onset of her menstrual flow.
Approximately 70%-90% of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome. PMS symptoms include irritability, nervousness, cramps, bloating, and headaches. A particularly severe condition, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is even more troublesome than PMS.
Every step of a woman's menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones. The production of these hormones is dependent on the general good health of the woman. The loss of too much body weight can result in the cessation of menstruation. There are a number of disorders marked either by absent periods or by periods that are too long, heavy, irregular, or painful. Underlying conditions, which may include polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, need to be medically evaluated.
Ironically, there is a medical condition in which affected women benefit from menstruation. The disease is hemochromatosis, which is characterized by too much iron in the blood. Menstruating women with hemochromatosis can lose enough blood during their menstrual periods that they may not need further treatment to remove the excess iron.