what athletes should know about women’s period and menstrual cycle

what is menstrual cycle? what is period?

The menstrual cycle is the monthly hormonal cycle a female’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. The menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of a woman’s period to the day before her next period. A period or menstruation is normal vaginal bleeding that is a natural part of a healthy monthly cycle for a person with a uterus and ovaries. A period is made up of blood and the womb lining. The first day of a woman’s period is day 1 of the menstrual cycle.

your period is your body’s way of releasing tissue that it no longer needs. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. Every month there is a complex interaction between the pituitary gland in the brain, the ovaries and the uterus.

Menarche is the start of periods. It will occur when all the parts that make up a girl’s reproductive system are mature and working together. The period consists of a small amount of blood and the endometrium. The bleeding is caused by the breaking of fine blood vessels within the womb as the lining detaches itself.

To understand the menstrual cycle, it helps to know about the reproductive organs inside a woman’s body. These are:

  • 2 ovaries – where eggs are stored, developed and released
  • the womb (uterus) – where a fertilised egg implants and a baby develops
  • the fallopian tubes – two thin tubes that connect the ovaries to the womb
  • the cervix – the entrance to the womb from the vagina
  • the vagina

What causes menstrual cycle irregularities?

Menstrual cycle irregularities can have many different causes, including:

  • Pregnancy or breast-feeding: A missed period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Breast-feeding typically delays the return of menstruation after pregnancy.
  • Eating disorders, extreme weight loss or excessive exercising: Eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa — extreme weight loss and increased physical activity can disrupt menstruation.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with this common endocrine system disorder may have irregular periods as well as enlarged ovaries that contain small collections of fluid — called follicles — located in each ovary as seen during an ultrasound exam.
  • Premature ovarian failure: Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function before age 40. Women who have premature ovarian failure — also known as primary ovarian insufficiency — might have irregular or occasional periods for years.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): This infection of the reproductive organs can cause irregular menstrual bleeding.
  • Uterine fibroids: Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. They can cause heavy menstrual periods and prolonged menstrual periods.

What can I do to prevent menstrual irregularities?

For some women, use of birth control pills can help regulate menstrual cycles. Treatment for any underlying problems, such as an eating disorder, also might help. However, some menstrual irregularities can’t be prevented.

In addition, consult your health care provider if:

  • Your periods suddenly stop for more than 90 days — and you’re not pregnant
  • Your periods become erratic after having been regular
  • You bleed for more than seven days
  • You bleed more heavily than usual or soak through more than one pad or tampon every hour or two
  • Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart
  • You bleed between periods
  • You develop severe pain during your period
  • You suddenly get a fever and feel sick after using tampons

when do girls get their period?

Every month, in the years between puberty (typically age 11 to 14) and menopause (typically about age 51), your body readies itself for pregnancy. The lining of your uterus thickens and an egg grows and is released from one of your ovaries.

There isn’t one right age for a girl to get her period. But there are some clues that it will start soon. Most of the time, a girl gets her period about 2 years after breast development. Another sign is vaginal discharge mucus that a girl might see or feel on her underwear. This discharge usually begins about 6 months to a year before a girl gets her first period.

A delay in starting periods isn’t usually a cause for concern. Most girls will be having regular periods by age 16 to 18. menstrual cycles tend to shorten and become more regular as you age. Between the ages of 12 and 52, a woman will have around 480 periods, or fewer if she has any pregnancies.

Your cycles may change in different ways as you get older. Often, periods are heavier when you are younger (in your teens) and usually get lighter in your 20s and 30s. This is normal.

  • For a few years after your first period, menstrual cycles longer than 38 days are common. Girls usually get more regular cycles within three years of starting their periods. If longer or irregular cycles last beyond that, see your doctor or nurse to rule out a health problem, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • In your 20s and 30s, your cycles are usually regular and can last anywhere from 24 to 38 days.
  • In your 40s, as your body starts the transition to menopause, your cycles might become irregular. Your menstrual periods might stop for a month or a few months and then start again. They also might be shorter or last longer than usual, or be lighter or heavier than normal.

in general, Your period can last between 3 and 8 days, but it will usually last for about 5 days. The bleeding tends to be heaviest in the first 2 days. When your period is at its heaviest, the blood will be red. On lighter days, it may be pink, brown or black. You’ll lose about 30 to 72ml (5 to 12 teaspoons) of blood during your period, although some women bleed more heavily than this.

Most girls don’t have any problems with their periods. But call your doctor if you:

  • are 15 and haven’t started your period
  • have had your period for more than 2 years and it still doesn’t come regularly (about every 4–5 weeks)
  • have bleeding between periods
  • have severe cramps that don’t get better with ibuprofen or naproxen
  • have very heavy bleeding (bleeding that goes through a pad or tampon faster than every 1 hour)
  • have periods that last more than about a week
  • have severe PMS that gets in the way of your everyday activities

painful periods and premenstrual syndrome(PMS)

Some women will have pain in their lower abdomen. You might have lower backache on its own or with the pain in your belly. The pain can often be stronger on the first day or two of your period and will vary in strength and severity from one women to another. Some women also have a headache or feel very tired just before their period arrives or on the first day. Mood changes, teariness and easily losing your temper can sometimes be an indicator that you are getting your period, this is referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For some women this can be so overwhelming that they are unable to go about their normal lives.

PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is when a girl has emotional and physical symptoms that happen before or during her period. These symptoms can include moodiness, sadness, anxiety, bloating, and acne. The symptoms go away after the first few days of a period.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual tension (PMT) is a collection of emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms. Symptoms that may be felt by some women in the days leading up to her period include:

  • abdominal bloating
  • acne
  • headache, including migraine
  • irritability
  • pains, especially backache
  • low mood
  • feeling generally emotional or troubled
  • insomnia
  • lack of concentration
  • breast tenderness or swelling
  • slight weight gain
  • binge eating

As soon as the period begins and the woman starts shedding blood, the symptoms generally improve. In most cases, symptoms will be completely gone by the time the period has ended.

The following factors may increase the chances of PMS:

  • too much caffeine consumption
  • stress
  • a history of depression or other mental illness
  • smoking and alcohol consumption
  • a family history of PMS
  • low levels of some vitamins and minerals, calcium, and B vitamins

Some women also experience heavier than normal periods, known as menorrhagia. Menorrhagia should be evaluated by a doctor as it can lead to problems such as anemia, because of a low blood count.

Why do periods cause bloating?

The short answer is hormones. PMS occurs during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. That’s when the hormones estrogen and progesterone can fluctuate. It’s also when the lining of your uterus gets thicker. If you become pregnant, the fertilized egg attaches to your thickened uterine lining. If you’re not pregnant, the thickened lining leaves your body, and you have a period.

Hormones may not be the only reason you have physical symptoms leading up to your period. Other causes for your symptoms may relate to:

  • your genes
  • the type and amount of vitamins and minerals you take
  • your diet, especially if it’s high in salt
  • the number of drinks and foods you have with caffeine or alcohol

The steps in the menstrual cycle are triggered by the rise and fall of chemicals in the body called hormones. as mentioned, the pituitary gland in the brain and the ovaries in the female reproductive tract manufacture and release certain hormones at certain times during the menstrual cycle that cause the organs of the reproductive tract to respond in certain ways. The specific events that occur during the menstrual cycle can be described as follows:

  • menses phase: This phase, which typically lasts from day one to day five, is the time when the lining of the uterus is actually shed out through the vagina if pregnancy has not occurred. Most women bleed for three to five days, but a period lasting only two days to as many as seven days is still considered normal.
  • follicular phase: This phase typically takes place from days six to 14. During this time, the level of the hormone estrogen rises, which causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to grow and thicken. In addition, another hormone—follicle-stimulating hormone—causes follicles in the ovaries to grow. During days 10 to 14, one of the developing follicles will form a fully mature egg (ovum).
  • Ovulation: This phase occurs roughly at about day 14 in a 28-day menstrual cycle. A sudden increase in another hormone—luteinizing hormone—causes the ovary to release its egg. This event is called ovulation.
  • luteal phase: This phase lasts from about day 15 to day 28. After the egg is released from the ovary it begins to travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. The level of the hormone progesterone rises to help prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. If the egg becomes fertilized by a sperm and attaches itself to the uterine wall, the woman becomes pregnant. If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.

lets go through the normal period most women usually experience(your timing might differ a bit):

Day 1 starts with the first day of your period. The blood and tissue lining the uterus (womb) break down and leave the body. This is your period. For many women, bleeding lasts from 4 to 8 days. Hormone levels are low. Low levels of the hormone estrogen can make you feel depressed or irritable.

During Days 1 through 5 of your cycle, fluid-filled pockets called follicles develop on the ovaries. Each follicle contains an egg.

Between Days 5 and 7, just one follicle continues growing while the others stop growing and are absorbed back into the ovary. Levels of the hormone estrogen from the ovaries continue rising. By Day 8 the follicle puts out increasing levels of estrogen and grows larger. Usually by Day 8, period bleeding has stopped. Higher estrogen levels from the follicle make the lining of the uterus grow and thicken. The uterine lining is rich in blood and nutrients and will help nourish the embryo if a pregnancy happens. Estrogen helps boost endorphins, which are the “feel good” brain chemicals that are also released during physical activity. You may have more energy and feel relaxed or calm.

few days before Day 14, your estrogen levels peak and cause a sharp rise in the level of luteinizing hormone (LH). LH causes the mature follicle to burst and release an egg from the ovary, on Day 14. A woman is most likely to get pregnant if she has sex on the day of ovulation or during the three days before ovulation (since the sperm are already in place and ready to fertilize the egg once it is released). A man’s sperm can live for three to five days in a woman’s reproductive organs, and a woman’s egg lives for 12 to 24 hours. In the few days before ovulation, your estrogen levels are at their highest. You may feel best around this time, emotionally and physically.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a hormone released by your brain that tells the ovary to release the egg. LH levels begin to surge upward about 36 hours before ovulation, so some women and their doctors test for LH levels. LH levels peak about 12 hours before ovulation. Women who are tracking ovulation to become pregnant will notice a slight rise in their basal temperature (your temperature after sleeping before you get out of bed) around ovulation.

on Days 15 to 24, the fallopian tubes help the newly released egg travel away from the ovary toward the uterus. The ruptured follicle on the ovary makes more of the hormone progesterone, which also helps the uterine lining thicken even more. If a sperm joins with the egg in the fallopian tube (fertilization), the fertilized egg will continue down the fallopian tube and attach to the lining of the uterus (womb). Pregnancy begins once a fertilized egg attaches to the womb.

If the egg is not fertilized, it breaks apart. on Day 24, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop if you are not pregnant. This rapid change in levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause your moods to change. Some women are more sensitive to these changing hormone levels than others. Some women feel irritable, anxious, or depressed during the premenstrual week but others do not.

In the final step of the menstrual cycle, the unfertilized egg leaves the body along with the uterine lining, beginning on Day 1 of your next period and menstrual cycle.

how to use female hygiene period products

no matter what you are using, remember to Follow the instructions that came with your period product. use a product appropriate in size and absorbency for your menstrual bleeding. The amount of menstrual blood usually changes during a period. Some women use different products on different days of their period, depending on how heavy or light the bleeding is. 

Sanitary pads: Sanitary pads are strips of padding that have a sticky side you attach to your underwear to hold them in place. One side of the pad is made of an absorbent material that soaks up the blood. Pads come in many sizes, so you can choose one to suit how heavy or light your period is. Pantyliners are a smaller and thinner type of sanitary pad that can be used on days when your period is very light.

Tampons: Tampons are small tubes of cotton wool that you insert into your vagina to soak up the blood before it comes out of your body. There are 2 types of tampon – ones that come with an applicator and others without an applicator that you insert with your fingers. In both cases, there’s a string at one end of the tampon, which you pull to remove it. Tampons come with instructions that explain how to use them. If the tampon is inserted correctly, you should not be able to feel it inside you. If you can feel it or it hurts, it might not be in properly. It is not possible for a tampon to get stuck or lost inside you. Your vagina holds it firmly in place and it expands inside you as it soaks up the blood.

Menstrual cups: Menstrual cups are an alternative to sanitary pads and tampons. The cup is made from silicone and you put it inside your vagina. Menstrual cups collect the blood rather than absorb it. Unlike sanitary pads and tampons, which are thrown away after they’ve been used, you can wash menstrual cups and and use them again.

Try to change or rinse your feminine hygiene product before it becomes soaked through or full. Most women change their pads every few hours. A tampon should not be worn for more than 8 hours because of the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Menstrual cups and sponges may only need to be rinsed once or twice a day. Period panties (underwear with washable menstrual pads sewn in) can usually last about a day, depending on the style and your flow.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but sometimes deadly condition caused by bacteria that make toxins or poisons. In 1980, 63 women died from TSS. A certain brand of super absorbency tampons was said to be the cause. These tampons were taken off the market.

Today, most cases of TSS are not caused by using tampons. But, you could be at risk for TSS if you use more absorbent tampons than you need for your bleeding or if you do not change your tampon often enough. Menstrual cups, cervical caps, sponges, or diaphragms (anything inserted into your vagina) may also increase your risk for TSS if they are left in place for too long. Remove sponges within 30 hours and cervical caps within 48 hours.

female pregnancy and period

Once you start your periods, 1 egg develops and is released during each menstrual cycle. After ovulation, the egg lives for 24 hours. Pregnancy happens if a man’s sperm meet and fertilise the egg. Sperm can survive in the fallopian tubes for up to 7 days after sex. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when ovulation happens but in most women, it happens around 10 to 16 days before the next period.

Occasionally, more than 1 egg is released during ovulation. If more than 1 egg is fertilised it can lead to a multiple pregnancy, such as twins.

A woman can’t get pregnant if ovulation doesn’t occur. Some methods of hormonal contraception – such as the combined pill, the contraceptive patch and the contraceptive injection – work by stopping ovulation.

At different times in a woman’s life, ovulation may or may not happen:

  • Women who are pregnant do not ovulate.
  • Women who are breastfeeding may or may not ovulate. Women who are breastfeeding should talk to their doctor about birth control methods if they do not want to get pregnant.
  • During perimenopause, the transition to menopause, you may not ovulate every month.
  • After menopause you do not ovulate.

Can my period be stopped?

No method guarantees no periods, but, according to a 2014 article in the International Journal of Women’s Health, you can suppress your cycle with various types of birth control such as:

  • Birth control pills: If you take daily birth control pills, after a year you’ll have about a 70 percent chance of suppressing your cycle.
  • Hormone shot: A hormone shot can affect your fertility for up to 22 months. After a year, you’ll have about a 50 to 60 percent chance of suppressing your cycle; about 70 percent after 2 years.
  • Hormonal IUD: One year with a hormonal IUD (intrauterine device) gives you about a 50 percent chance of suppressing your cycle.
  • Arm implant: With a birth control implant inserted in the upper arm, your chance of suppressing your cycle is about 20 percent after 2 years.
What is amenorrhea (absent periods)?

Amenorrhea is when a woman stops having periods altogether, usually having missed three periods in a row. It is also used if a girl has not begun menstruation by the age of 15 years.

Reasons for this include:

  • excessive exercise or weight loss
  • stress
  • some medications, including birth control
  • hormonal problems
  • pregnancy

Why should I keep track of my menstrual cycle?

If your periods are regular, tracking them will help you know when you ovulate, when you are most likely to get pregnant, and when to expect your next period to start.

If your periods are not regular, tracking them can help you share any problems with your doctor or nurse.

If you have period pain or bleeding that causes you to miss school or work, tracking these period symptoms will help you and your doctor or nurse find treatments that work for you. Severe pain or bleeding that causes you to miss regular activities is not normal and can be treated.

How can I keep track of my menstrual cycle?

You can keep track of your menstrual cycle by marking the day you start your period on a calendar. After a few months, you can begin to see if your periods are regular or if your cycles are different each month.

You may want to track:

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms: Did you have cramping, headaches, moodiness, forgetfulness, bloating, or breast tenderness?
  • When your bleeding begins: Was it earlier or later than expected?
  • How heavy the bleeding was on your heaviest days: Was the bleeding heavier or lighter than usual? How many pads or tampons did you use?
  • Period symptoms: Did you have pain or bleeding on any days that caused you to miss work or school?
  • How many days your period lasted: Was your period shorter or longer than the month before?

how should you exercise based on your menstrual cycle?

Scientific studies are also exploring how fluctuations of hormones across the menstrual cycle can lead to different outcomes in training. the period is a complex time from a hormonal standpoint. Both progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest during the entire length of the period phase of the menstrual cycle, which can make people feel tired and less energetic.

In a poolside interview in 2016, Olympic Bronze medal swimmer Fu Yuanhui discussed her period as a factor affecting her performance at the Olympic games. She’s one of several athletes who have begun to speak publicly about how their menstrual cycle affects athletic performance.

Some research has found that strength training during the follicular phase resulted in higher increases in muscle strength compared to training in the luteal phase. If you start paying attention to your cycle phases, you may find your strength training pays off the most in your follicular phase. women are 3 to 6 times more likely than men to have injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

A recent meta-review of studies looked at how hormonal changes may impact tendon laxity and risk of tendon injury. It found the risk was highest in the days leading up to ovulation, when estrogen is high. The luteal phase was associated with the lowest risk.

In the second part of your cycle, progesterone rises significantly. Your body temperature is also higher during this phase — body temp shoots up by at least 0.4 degrees celsius after ovulation and stays high until menstruation. Your body is preparing for a potential pregnancy, should an egg have been fertilized at ovulation. As a result, you may find that you don’t have as much endurance during your luteal phase. You may not be able to hit max lifts, and may feel worse in training compared to the first part of your cycle.

So, don’t judge the results of your training based on your performance in this phase alone. Decreased performance is a perfectly normal experience in the luteal phase of your cycle.

Based on the info above, you might want to schedule your rest days during your luteal phase. That doesn’t mean you should entirely skip training in this phase, as you’ll still improve from strength training in the luteal phase. If you’re not sure exactly when you’re ovulating, or you want a baseline for how long your average luteal phase tends to be, try taking ovulation tests for a few cycles (ovulation can shift cycle-to-cycle, but it’s usually your follicular phase that’s getting shorter or longer).

Also, if you want to take time off from training for vacation, your luteal phase is a great time to take it in order to reduce impact on your strength goals.

What benefits training has during period?

Decrease PMS symptoms: If you experience fatigue and mood swings in the days leading up to your period and during your cycle, regular aerobic exercise may lessen these symptoms.

Tap into your endorphins: Because exercise gives you a natural endorphin high, it can elevate your mood and actually make you feel better. one of the main benefits of exercise while on your period is the endorphin release and workout “high.” He also said that since endorphins are a natural painkiller, when they release during exercise, you may feel relief from uncomfortable periods.

Experience more strength and power: One study found that the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle (day one being the first day of your period) may allow you to experience greater gains in strength and power due to low levels of female hormones.

Combat painful periods: If you experience painful periods, also called dysmenorrhea, you know all too well how uncomfortable this time of the month can be. The good news is that exercises such as light walking may help you decrease these symptoms.

What exercises should you do during period?

Light walking or other light cardio

Keep your cardiovascular or aerobic exercise at a lower intensity or back off on the amount you do. Consider light cardio, walking, or shorter bouts of aerobic exercise. There’s research supporting the idea that your lungs work better later in your cycle, so consider keeping that type of training for the end of your period.

Low-volume strength training and power-based activities

Due to the potential for an increase in strength during this time, including low-volume strength training and power-based activities is a smart move. In fact this is a great time to do longer flow sessions that involve a mix of strictly strength work and cardio.

Yoga and Pilates

The two to three days leading up to your period is a great time to engage in activities like yoga, which can help relax your body and potentially reduce symptoms like cramping, breast tenderness, and muscular fatigue and soreness.

If you’re not experiencing any discomfort from your period, feel free to continue with your regular exercise routine. Just be mindful of the adjustments your body makes during this time. If you find that your body isn’t performing like it usually does, give yourself a break and ease up on the intensity.

What exercises you should not do during your period?

In general you should reduce training stress and volume during this time. Just like certain activities may be more appropriate to participate in during your period, there are also some exercises you may want to avoid. That said, many women will be able to continue with their normal exercise routine with just some minor adjustments.

If you’re feeling unusually tired, you may want to cut back on intense cardiovascular or endurance-type training. During this time many women report experiencing an increase in rate of perceived exertion, so exercises that’re moderately difficult feel much more difficult during this time. He said it’s also ideal to eliminate skill and precision training during these few days.

What else should you do during your period?

take care of your eating habits during period

You should avoid eating too much salt. How do you know if your diet is too high in salt? The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg.

Processed foods contain a lot of salt as well as other ingredients that may not be the healthiest for you. Instead, focus on eating fruits and vegetables, as well as other healthy foods like whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and seeds.

do not forget to drink water, plenty and often during period

Make sure you drink plenty of water on the days leading up to your period. Try carrying a water bottle around with you, and aim to fill it up several times a day. There’s no single recommendation for the amount of water to drink each day. The amount varies from person to person and depends on the environment, personal health, and other factors. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Many reusable water bottles hold 32 or 24 ounces. So depending on the size you use, you may only need to drink 2 to 3 bottles a day to get your 64 ounces.

do not do alcohol and any other type of drugs during period

Experts believe that both alcohol and caffeine contribute to bloating and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Instead of these beverages, drink more water.

If you have a hard time skipping your morning cup of coffee, try replacing it with a drink that has less caffeine, like tea, or substitute some of the caffeinated coffee for a decaffeinated type.

do not forget to stay active during period

Regular exercise is key to reducing your PMS symptoms. Experts recommend that you aim for one of the following:

  • a few hours of moderate physical activity a week
  • an hour or more of vigorous activity a week
  • a combination of these levels of activity

For an optimal fitness plan, add some exercises to build your muscles a few times a week.

Consider medication during period

If home remedies don’t reduce your bloating before and during your period, you may want to talk to your doctor about other treatments. Some of these include:

  • Birth control: Taking birth control pills may help you reduce PMS symptoms. You should talk with your doctor about the best birth control method for you.
  • Diuretics: These pills help reduce the fluid your body stores. Your doctor may prescribe them to ease severe bloating.