What is the Menstrual Cycle? Disorders, Prevention, and Treatments

menstrual cycle phases

The menstrual cycle is the process that prepares the woman’s uterus for pregnancy every month, through the development of female gametes and a series of physiological changes.

It is considered a cycle counting from the first day of a period of menstruation until the first day of the next stage.

The first menstruation, also known as menarche, is the day on which the first vaginal bleeding with menstrual origin occurs in a woman, and is the sign that her body is already fertile and gets trained so that the eggs are fertilized to give a place a zygote which will then become the fetus.

This first woman’s menstrual bleeding occurs during puberty and is considered the central event of this period.

From menarquia, it is normal for menstrual cycles to repeat regularly, although it is usual for irregularities in the frequency of menses to occur during the first months of bleeding.

Description and Symptoms of Menstrual Disorders

Menstrual Pain (Dysmenorrhea) can occur during a period or in the proceeding days. Usually, the pain is in the lower abdomen, although it may be elsewhere.

Menstrual pain may get caused by fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease, but in many cases, there is no apparent underlying cause. Menstrual pain often lessens after a woman has had a child.

Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia) consist of a total blood flow higher than the upper limit around 80ml, although any woman whose periods become more burdensome than they usually experience should consult a physician. Hormone disorders are a possible cause.

Heavy periods can occur when a girl first starts having periods, or during the menopause.

In the latter case, they are often a sign of ovulation not happening, so that the period gets delayed, but turns out more substantial than usual when it does arrive.

Other causes include fibroids, the IUD contraceptive, adenomyosis, or very early miscarriage. Anemia may occur if periods are heavy.

Irregular Periods are regular during puberty or the menopause but should One-third if they occur in adult women who have yet to reach the menopause.

Periods may be very early or late, or there may be breakthrough bleeding between periods. Hormone disorders of one type or another are often responsible.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is one possible cause, as this standard condition can disrupt the normal hormone levels.

Causes of Menstrual Disorders

Most women experience some discomfort during their periods. However, severe pain, heavy periods, or other irregularities may be signs of underlying problems.

Various hormones control periods, and sometimes disorders in the hormone system can lead to irregular periods.

Polycystic ovary syndrome, where many cysts form on the ovaries, is a common cause of disruption to the hormone system.

Other common sources of menstrual problems include fibroids, endometriosis (where the type of cells that form the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body), adenomyosis (these cells are in the muscles of the uterus), and pelvic inflammatory disease.


People often take painkillers for menstrual pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (paracetamol) are all commonly used.

These can all have some side-effects: for example, aspirin and ibuprofen can both cause stomach bleeding in some people.

Oral contraceptive pills often give lighter, regular, less painful periods. Some women take the pill for this reason, even when they don’t need to do so for contraceptive purposes.

Breakthrough bleeding sometimes occurs with the use of certain types of oral contraceptive. A healthcare professional should be able to advise if a change of oral contraceptive is needed.

Hormone therapy is often used to counteract hormone imbalances. It can be used to treat polycyclic ovary syndrome.

Progesterone tablets are commonly used and should give more regular periods.

A levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS, a small plastic device) can be inserted into the womb to give lighter periods (it is also a contraceptive).

Antibiotics are used to treat pelvic inflammatory disease. If left untreated, this condition can lead to infertility.

Tranexamic Acid helps the blood in the womb to clot. It is not a contraceptive but does give lighter periods.

Magnesium supplements and vitamin E have been shown to reduce period pain.

Some people use iron tablets if heavy periods start to cause anemia. Heat treatments, such as a hot water bottle, are surprisingly effective in reducing period pain for many women.

Surgery can be used to remove fibroids, ovary cysts, or areas of endometriosis.

Hysterectomy (removal of the womb) was commonly used in the past to treat menstrual disorders, particularly in older women, but is now less frequent, as experts had developed other effective treatments for most of such conditions.


Because the causes are very different and in some cases unknown, there is no method to help prevent these disorders safely.

However, following these guidelines may help reduce symptoms:

  • Food: Eat a healthy diet, rich in vegetables and fruits, like the Mediterranean. Reduce salt intake to avoid bloating and eat a little more sugar than usual, as it can help regulate your blood glucose level if you are feeling short of energy.
  • Exercise: Regularly practice a sport.
  • Relaxation: Avoid as stressful situations as possible. Learn methods of relaxation. It also helps to read a good book or take a walk.

One-third of women suffer from dysmenorrhea or very painful rules.

The pain is similar to that of a cramp, but more intense and comes along with nausea, vomiting or dizziness. It is the doctor who determines the most appropriate treatment for each case.

Some studies indicate that dysmenorrhea may be related to an overproduction of prostaglandins.

In some instances, women find some relief by giving themselves a warm bath or a soothing massage in the abdomen as soon as the first signs of pain appear.

Not many women have a “book” period, that is, 28 days. In fact, many have menstrual cycles of more or fewer days, so it is considered regular oscillation between 21 and 35.

When the period exceeds six weeks of duration is already regarded as irregular, although it is not worrisome in the early years of menstruation, because some time passes until the cycles are regulated.

These unusually long cycles may be oligomenorrhoea (an excessively low number of periods per year) or amenorrhoea (absence of periods).

The oligomenorrhea can be due to some hormonal type disorder or merely to obey the own natural cycle.

To rule out possible diseases that cause it is necessary to go to the gynecologist, who will perform the relevant tests and examinations.

The most common reason for amenorrhea, if you have always had a regular period, is pregnancy. But it is also related to changes in diet, an excess of physical activity or very marked stress.