What Happens to the Endometrium After Menstruation?

Medically Reviewed on 11/21/2022
What Happens to the Endometrium After Menstruation
Each month during menstruation, you shed the endometrium of the uterus

After menstruation, the endometrium begins to heal and rebuild. The endometrium is the tissue that lines the uterus and functions to support and protect a potential pregnancy.

If pregnancy occurs, the endometrium thins and sheds during menstruation. It is then completely healed and rebuilt the following month. Unlike most adult wounds, the endometrium heals quickly (within days). This happens over 400 times throughout a woman's reproductive life.

What is menstruation?

Menstruation is the regular vaginal bleeding that takes place as part of a woman's monthly cycle. Every month, the body prepares for pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, the uterus sheds its lining, which is the endometrium. The menstrual blood contains both blood and uterine tissue. 

Periods typically begin between ages 11-14 and last until menopause, which occurs at around age 51. Periods usually last 3-5 days and can cause the following symptoms:

How does endometrium repair itself after menstruation?

Endometrial healing starts almost immediately as the shedding begins and is complete by the time bleeding stops (up to 8 days). In the menstruating tissue, degrading tissue and reepithelializing sites can be detected by histology and scanning electron microscopy. Once bleeding stops (when reepithelialization is complete), the entire tissue thickens and regeneration begins. As the tissue regenerates, quick reepithelialization helps guard against bacterial invasion.

Reepithelialization can first be recognized as the migration of epithelial cells from exposed gland stumps, which can be seen by scanning electron microscopy. These cells then spread outward to meet comparable cells from other glands or those moving from any intact residual epithelium.

Reepithelialization occurs at the same time as the repair of wounds to spiral and transverse subepithelial endometrial arterioles within the stroma, which can sustain severe injuries during tissue disintegration. However, the stem or progenitor cells in the basalis layer (which is not shed) are responsible for the endometrium's complete renewal. This regeneration, which depends on estrogen activity, is fully completed by the time of ovulation. It typically occurs 14 days after the start of menstruation and 9 days after bleeding stops and full reepithelialization occurs.

Several cell types, cytokines, mediators, and the vascular system interact in a complex way to heal a wound. All injured tissues experience an influx of inflammatory cells, beginning with neutrophils that release chemokines locally to draw other leukocytes to the wound site. Together, these cells emit a variety of mediators and cytokines that encourage thrombosis, angiogenesis and reepithelialization.

The extracellular matrix is secreted by the fibroblasts and acts as scaffolding for cellular activities. Most adult tissues develop scar tissue because of the growth and extension of fibrous tissue (fibrogenesis), which is predominantly formed from stromal cells. However, there is no apparent fibrosis in the repaired endometrium. In addition, while most wounds require 4-6 weeks to heal, the endometrial lining usually does so in just 5 days.

Given that stromal cells are the leading cause of scarring in most tissues, it is expected that endometrial stromal cells generated from stem or progenitor cells during endometrial regeneration will have different programming. The rate at which the endometrial surface reepithelializes suggests that the stem or progenitor cells are activated more quickly than in other tissues. Menstrual fluid has higher levels of transforming growth factor -1 than peripheral blood, which theoretically might develop endometrial stromal cells into myofibroblasts.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/21/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

Menstrual Fluid Factors Mediate Endometrial Repair. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frph.2021.779979/full

Physiology of the Endometrium and Regulation of Menstruation. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00031.2019

The Menstrual Cycle: An Overview. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=menstrual-cycle-an-overview-85-P00553