The process of normal menstruation is referred to as menses and is just one portion of your body’s menstrual cycle, during which your body prepares to become pregnant each month.
Menstrual cycles are counted from the first day of your period- the first day that you have bleeding- to the first day of your next period. On average, a woman’s menstrual cycle is around 28 days.
However, some women have cycles as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days.
At the very beginning of your cycle, female hormones progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest levels. During the process of menstruation, estrogen levels begin to rise, causing the lining of your uterus to thicken and grow.
Meanwhile, an egg in one of your ovaries begins the maturation process. The egg is encased in a sac that is known as the Graafian follicle- this follicle continues estrogen production as the egg grows.
Somewhere around day 14 of the average 28 day cycle, the sac will burst open. The egg will then leave your ovary and remain near the entrance of your fallopian tube until it is fertilized by male sperm.
Whether or not it is fertilized, it will travel through your fallopian tube to your uterus. The process of the egg releasing from the ovary is known as ovulation.
Once the egg has been released, the sac is now referred to as the corpus luteum and remains in your ovary where it continues its production of hormones.
However, instead of producing estrogen, it is now producing progesterone. The increasing levels of both hormones help to increase the lining of the uterus to prepare it for potential pregnancy.
For the few days before, during, and after the ovulation process, a woman is considered to be fertile- when she can possibly become pregnant. Due to the fact that menstrual cycles vary, you may ovulate just before or just after day 14 in your cycle.
If the egg becomes fertilized, it will then become an embryo, pass down your fallopian tube and then implant into your uterus lining.
As the pregnancy grows, a hormone known as hCG is released, which causes the corpus luteum to be stimulated. Then, the corpus luteum will make all the progesterone that is necessary to keep the fertilized egg implanted and growing until the placenta begins to develop.
Then, the placenta will take over the production of hormones and offer nourishment to the growing embryo from the mother.
On the other hand, if the egg does not become fertilized, in about 14 days, the corpus luteum will cease production of hormones and will become reabsorbed into the ovary.
The levels of progesterone and estrogen will once again drop, the lining of your uterus will begin to break down, menstruation will begin, and your cycle will start all over again from day 1.
This is a process that will begin approximately at age 12 and will continue to an average of about 51 years of age when menopause begins. This will signal the end of your menstruation years and therefore, your ability to become pregnant.
Typically, a woman will lose approximately 2 ounces or 60 milliliters of blood- or less- during a normal period. On the other hand, some women may have significantly heavy or longer menstrual periods and lose more blood. This is a condition that is known as menorrhagia.
This is a condition that is characterized by losing 80 milliliters of more of blood or a period that lasts for longer than 7 days and can result in anemia and other complications.
Menorrhagia can be caused by lots of different factors, and is more common in women who have been diagnosed with the condition of fibromyalgia.
Lack of Menstruation
The lack/absence of menstrual bleeding is known as amenorrhea and can be primary or secondary. This condition occurs when a female does not begin menstruating within the typical timeframe of sexual maturation.
Primary amenorrhea will be diagnosed if she has not begun menstruating by the age of 14 and does not have any development/growth of secondary sexual characteristics or if there is no menstruation by the age of 16 with or without normal growth/development of secondary sexual characteristics.
On the other hand, secondary amenorrhea will be diagnosed when a woman misses three consecutive cycles for reasons besides menopause. The condition of amenorrhea can be caused by the following:
- Eating disorders
- Hormone imbalances
- Low/high body fat
- Excessive/intensive exercise/physical training
- Psychiatric disorders
- Rapid weight loss
- Low/high body fat
If amenorrhea lasts for an extended period of time, due to the low amounts of estrogen, a woman is likely to experience a decrease in bone density and therefore, an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Other Abnormal Bleeding Associated with Fibromyalgia
In addition to both amenorrhea and menorrhagia, some of the other types of abnormal bleeding a woman may experience include the following:
Metrorrhagia: this is a condition characterized by light bleeding between periods and can be caused by many factors including medications, abnormal growths on cervix/uterus, miscarriage, or hormonal imbalances.
Menometrorrhagia: this is a condition characterized by irregular bleeding between periods and heavy bleeding during periods and can be caused by several different factors including hormonal imbalances.
Hypomenorrhea: this is a condition characterized by light periods and are often due to hormonal changes caused by low body mass and extreme exercise.
Anovulatory cycle: this is a condition that is characterized by the lack of ovulation and no corpus luteum. These cycles can be of any length.
Less commonly, a woman may ovulate but experience some changes in the length of their cycles due to:
- Polymenorrhea- a condition characterized by a shorter than normal cycle length
- Oligomenorrhea- a condition characterized by a longer length of time between cycles
Women who have been diagnosed with the condition of fibro must be aware that they are likely to experience changes in their menstrual cycles.
If you have any changes at all, you should definitely see your physician to find out what is going on and find treatment.