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What is the Menstruation Cycle?

Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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The menstruation cycle refers to the female reproductive cycle. It includes ovulation and menstruation, and usually occurs regularly each month. Most women begin their menstruation cycle in early adolescence, and continue to experience the cycle regularly until menopause, at about age 50. The typical menstruation cycle lasts 21 to 35 days, with the average being 28 days. Ovulation typically occurs halfway through the cycle, and the menstrual period usually occurs at the end of the cycle.

When a young girl has her first menstrual period, or menarche, she is generally considered to be fertile. Most girls experience menarche sometime between the ages of eight and 15. The physical changes that accompany puberty generally begin about two years before menarche.

The reproductive cycle known as the menstruation cycle generally consists of more than just the menstrual period. The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. On average, ovulation occurs on the 14th day of the menstrual cycle. A women is considered most likely to conceive on days 11 to 14 of the average menstrual cycle.

During the first days of the menstrual cycle, the uterine lining of a fertile woman normally becomes thick, so that a fertilized egg can potentially implant itself and begin to grow into a fetus. If the woman does not conceive during a given menstruation cycle, then the uterus will generally expel its lining, along with the unfertilized egg. The expulsion of the uterine lining usually results in a period of vaginal bleeding that can last for two to seven days. This vaginal bleeding may be heavy or light, and is often accompanied by painful cramps and other physical symptoms, including bloating, fatigue, and mood swings. These symptoms are considered normal symptoms of menstruation, and can usually be eased with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management activities.

The period of vaginal bleeding known as the menstrual period is generally considered the final step in the menstrual cycle. Once the menstrual period has ended, the menstruation cycle typically begins anew. Estrogen levels in the fertile woman's body typically rise during the first two weeks of the cycle. This increase in estrogen levels is considered responsible for the gradual thickening of the uterine lining, and, eventually, for ovulation. Most women reach the onset of menopause between the ages of 45 and 50, when menstruation cycles can lengthen and become irregular, leading to eventual cessation of ovulation and menstruation.

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Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Sep 18, 2014

Does anyone use the menstrual cycle to prevent pregnancy or to get pregnant? How does that work? Is it reliable?

I've read that pregnancy is least likely right after menstruation and most likely right before ovulation. I wouldn't want to rely on this method to prevent a pregnancy, but it might be helpful for those who want to get pregnant.

Has anyone here managed to get pregnant by timing intercourse around ovulation time?

By ddljohn — On Sep 17, 2014

@burcinc-- 39 days is a bit too long. Do you know if your cycles have always been this way or is this a recent change?

If it has always been this way and you don't have any other issues, it might just be how your reproductive system works. But if this has occurred recently and if you also notice a difference in the number of days your period lasts and the blood flow, you need to see a doctor. There might be an underlying health condition causing these changes. Your doctor will get to the bottom of it.

By burcinc — On Sep 17, 2014

I've kept an eye on my menstruation cycle for a few months and it seems that my cycle lasts 39 days. Is this abnormal? I don't have any issues like heavy flow though. Do I need to see a doctor?

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