Anticipation is Mother Nature working her magic within us every month. 10 days before the menstrual period, an egg (or sometimes two) travels down the fallopian tube hoping to meet some sperm and embed itself into the plush uterine wall to grow a baby!
Realization is when fertilization does not happen, and the lush environment is no longer needed, and refurbishment happens. Yes, the uterus sheds its lining, causing bleeding.
During this time of "Realization," there are many fluctuations in our body. The sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone levels is mainly to prepare the body to get rid of the changes in the endometrium. Now, menstruation can vary greatly from woman to woman or even month to month in terms of the cycle length or the flow – light, moderate, or heavy. As a rule of thumb, menstruation can last 3 to 5 days.
Itching is a normal and common anomaly to expect during a period owing to fluctuations in the vagina’s bacteria and pH.
Odor: While menstrual blood has its own distinctive odor, fluctuations in pH and the vaginal microbiome (bacteria) are the likely causes.
Cervix Softening: This is the body’s way of ensuring that menstrual blood flows out of the body completely.
Contractions: Yes, small and rhythmic contractions happen in response to the hormone “prostaglandins”; this ensures the uterus lining is shed and is well on its way out through the cervix to the vagina. This is the cause of menstrual pain ~ Due to the large number of connections of nerves in our pelvic region, this pain is common in the lower abdomen, but also common in the lower back, buttocks and thighs.
Anticoagulants are produced to inhibit clotting and smoothen the flow ideally; but if bleeding is heavy, clotting can still happen.
Frequent use of the restroom: When the prostaglandin hormones go down and the prostaglandin hormones go up, this can cause the need for frequent visits to the loo.
WHEN PAIN IS A CONCERN:
With all of this activity going on, it is no wonder that vaginal sensitivity, discomfort, and even downright menstrual pain are experienced by everyone. While it is normal to experience a certain degree of discomfort and pain, if the pain is significant, interferes with your leading a normal life, and occurs outside your period, then there are probably underlying medical conditions at play. A good rule of thumb is that if simple period remedies like NSAIDs (aspirin or ibuprofen) aren’t doing their thing to ease your pain, you may need to be evaluated by a doctor.
According to Bustle, the causes of severe vaginal pain during menstruation are, as follows:
Engorgement: Swelling of the entire pelvic area.
Vaginal Septum: A barrier in the vagina that is the cause of painful periods and intercourse, and it can be removed by surgery.
Hematocolpos refers to a condition where menstrual blood stays in the body due to obstruction of the hymen. A minor surgical procedure is required to correct this condition and is not a very common occurrence.
Vaginitis: Vaginal inflammation which is caused by bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections.
Endometriosis: The place where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus and is considered to be the growth of abnormal cells. Pain may occur over a period of time, during sexual activity, or even bowel movements, and can be treated with surgery.
Fibroids: Benign uterus tumours that can place pressure on the vagina, especially during a period when they become engorged causing discomfort. It can be treated with medication or surgery depending on severity. Fibroids are common, and about 1 in 3 women develop fibroids at some point in their lives.
Pelvic Floor Spasm: When vaginal muscles get into a chronic state of contraction, it could require pelvic floor physical therapy.
PERIOD SELF CARE:
Usually, the week of your menstruation can be exhausting; and you could notice a drop in your energy levels. Cramps, headaches, and bloating are some of the standard side effects for many. There is also Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Post-Menstrual Syndrome that affect a woman’s emotions, physical health, and behavior causing stress. Many women struggle with PMS, and sometimes it gets so bad that it can result in heavy menstrual bleeding, anxiety attacks, and bouts of depression.
There are some ways to help ease menstrual cramps and some remedies which can be administered at home. Here are some helpful and effective tips for period pain remedies according to Healthline.
OTC Medication: Over-The-Counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can relieve pain.
Heat: Use a hot water bottle, heating pad, warm bath or microwave a sock filled with raw rice which are as effective as popping ibuprofen.
Massage: It is said to significantly reduce pain immediately.
Having an orgasm: An orgasm releases endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins and oxytocin release pain. Simple science... really.
Avoid certain foods: Avoid Foods that cause bloating and are fatty. Also, avoid alcohol, carbonated beverages, caffeine, and salty foods. Moderating these can alleviate cramps and decrease tension.
While such a normal bodily function for women can cause quite an upheaval for 3 to 5 days, it is a normal and natural function and should not cause you stress. It is a part of your natural feminine cycle. Studies show that Female hormonal cycles have natural and predictable fluctuations that affect mood, energy and cognition – and each phase of our cycle gives us brain superpowers which we can harness, too.
Yes, discomfort is part and parcel of this monthly scenario; but there is something virtual and sacred about a woman and her period! It is a sign that we are WOMEN – strong and independent and capable of taking on anything!