The parts of the body involved in the menstruation cycle include the brain, pituitary gland, uterus and cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vagina. Body chemicals called hormones rise and fall during the month and make the menstruation periods happen. The ovaries make two important female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Other hormones involved in the menstrual cycle include follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), made by the pituitary gland. In the first half of the menstrual cycle, levels of estrogen rise and make the lining of the uterus grow and thicken. In response to follicle-stimulating hormone, an egg (ovum) in one of the ovaries starts to mature. At about day 14 of a typical 28-day cycle, in response to a surge of luteinizing hormone, the egg leaves the ovary. This is called ovulation. In the second half of the menstruation periods, the egg begins to travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Progesterone levels rise and help prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. If the egg becomes fertilized by a sperm cell and attaches itself to the uterine wall, the woman becomes pregnant. If the egg is not fertilized, it either dissolves or is absorbed into the body. If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.
Women can have various kinds of problems with their menstruation periods, including pain, heavy bleeding, and skipped periods. Some examples are:
Amenorrhea - the lack of a menstruation period. This term is used to describe the absence of a period in young women who haven't started menstruating by age 16, or the absence of a period in women who used to have a regular period. Causes of amenorrhea include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and extreme weight loss caused by serious illness, eating disorders, excessive exercising, or stress. Hormonal problems (involving the pituitary, thyroid, ovary, or adrenal glands) or problems with the reproductive organs may be involved.
Dysmenorrhea - painful menstruation periods, including severe menstrual cramps. In younger women, there is often no known disease or condition associated with the pain. A hormone called prostaglandin is responsible for the symptoms. Some pain medicines available over the counter, such as ibuprofen, can help with these symptoms. Sometimes a disease or condition, such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, causes the pain. Treatment depends on what is causing the problem and how severe it is.
Abnormal uterine bleeding-vaginal bleeding that is different from normal menstrual periods. It includes very heavy bleeding or unusually long periods (also called menorrhagia), periods too close together, and bleeding between periods. In adolescents and women approaching menopause, hormone imbalance problems often cause menorrhagia along with irregular cycles. Sometimes this is called dysfunctional uterine bleeding (DUB). Other causes of abnormal bleeding include uterine fibroids and polyps. Treatment for abnormal bleeding depends on the cause.
You should consult your health care provider for the following:
If you have not started menstruating by the age of 16.
If your period has suddenly stopped.
If you are bleeding for more days than usual.
If you are bleeding excessively.
If you suddenly feel sick after using tampons.
If you bleed between periods (more than just a few drops).
If you have severe pain during your period.