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Periods !



Periods !


On the rag ... it's just that time of the month. Science-speak or street-slang, like-it-or-not, having periods changes your life. Although horror stories abound--a red stain on your white pants, cramps, buying tampons at your neighborhood store--you can make periods not seem so bad when you think about what they really are: the monthly shedding of an unfertilized egg and lining of your uterus. Not only does this make room for a new healthy lining to be made, but also acts as to cleanse your uterus and vagina of the debris and bacteria that has built up over the month.

Each menstrual cycle begins with the shedding of this lining (called menstruation) and lasts from Day 1 to anywhere between Days 4 through 7. The whole 28-day(usually) cycle is dependant on the rise and fall of two important hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Think
of estrogen as the preparation hormone- it's released by the developing "follicle" or egg in the ovary. Estrogen works on many parts of the body, but it especially affects the uterus, causing the new lining to form. About halfway through the menstrual cycle, somewhere around Day 13, the ovarian follicle will break open and send its egg spiraling down through the fallopian tube toward the uterus. This part is called ovulation.

If you have regular periods, remind yourself to watch for signs of this
about 2 weeks before your next period is due--you may feel a slight cramping or twinge inside when you ovulate. Beginning a day before ovulation but increasing during the 2 weeks after it that lead up to your period, progesterone takes over and causes a lot of noticeable changes. Your breasts tend to get more swollen and tender. You may gain a small amount of weight or feel bloated.

The cycle is brought to a dramatic end when the egg fails to get fertilized. The progesterone in your body drops and your period begins, in order to flush out the old egg and lining and prepare your body for a new egg.

It is the couple days before and the first couple days of the period that are the worst in the way of symptoms- most women have cramps and some have headaches and occasionally diarrhea or vomiting during this time. As horrible as these symptoms can be, they happen as a "side effect" of a very important way that the body functions to make menstruation happen. Chemicals called prostaglandins are released by the uterine lining that cause the uterus to contract to expel the lining and also cause the blood vessels supplying the lining to get smaller and block off.

So, while these prostaglandins are important for allowing the body to
change the uterine lining without bleeding too much, they're also what may cause you to feel crummy in the first days of your period. You can block the "side effects" like cramps from these substances (without blocking their good effects) with medicines like ibuprofen that can be bought over-the-counter at most grocery stores. You should start out with a low dose at first to see if that works- like 400mg every 6-8 hours; if that doesn't work you can take up to 800mg every 8 hours. If you are a person who has a lot of pain with your period each month, you might try taking ibuprofen beginning 1 or 2 days before your period even starts.

As you get more experience with your period, and talk with your friends and family about their experiences, you'll come to find ways
to make the tough parts of your period easier to manage. It helps to note on your calendar each month the day your period starts and ends, in order to learn how many days your particular cycle lasts and when to expect the next one. Try to keep a pad or tampon in each purse or bag you may use, and even in your locker at school, just in case it comes at an unexpected time. You don't need to be embarrassed by carrying them around - after all, it's the most natural thing in the world.

Pamper yourself in the days before and first day of your period: eat healthy, low-salt foods to decrease bloating; avoid chocolate or coffee if these seem like they make your headache or cramps worse; get someone to give you a backrub. And try to remind yourself that your period is not just something invented to aggravate you. It's not just your way to motherhood (should you decide to become a mother in the future) -- it's also a unique way to experience the cyclical process of change found in so many other parts of nature.
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