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Menstrual cycle

Natural changes in the human female reproductive system / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The menstrual cycle is a series of natural changes in hormone production and the structures of the uterus and ovaries of the female reproductive system that make pregnancy possible. The ovarian cycle controls the production and release of eggs and the cyclic release of estrogen and progesterone. The uterine cycle governs the preparation and maintenance of the lining of the uterus (womb) to receive an embryo. These cycles are concurrent and coordinated, normally last between 21 and 35 days, with a median length of 28 days, and continue for about 30–45 years.

Menstrual cycle

Naturally occurring hormones drive the cycles; the cyclical rise and fall of the follicle stimulating hormone prompts the production and growth of oocytes (immature egg cells). The hormone estrogen stimulates the uterus lining (endometrium) to thicken to accommodate an embryo should fertilization occur. The blood supply of the thickened lining provides nutrients to a successfully implanted embryo. If implantation does not occur, the lining breaks down and blood is released. Triggered by falling progesterone levels, menstruation (a "period", in common parlance) is the cyclical shedding of the lining, and is a sign that pregnancy has not occurred.

Each cycle occurs in phases based on events either in the ovary (ovarian cycle) or in the uterus (uterine cycle). The ovarian cycle consists of the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase; the uterine cycle consists of the menstrual, proliferative and secretory phases. Day one of the menstrual cycle is the first day of the period, which lasts for about five days. Around day fourteen, an egg is usually released from the ovary. Menarche (the onset of the first period) usually occurs around the age of twelve years.

The menstrual cycle can cause some women to experience premenstrual syndrome with symptoms that may include tender breasts, and tiredness. More severe symptoms that affect daily living are classed as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and are experienced by 3–8% of women. During the first few days of menstruation some women experience period pain that can spread from the abdomen to the back and upper thighs. The menstrual cycle can be modified by hormonal birth control.