menstrual cycleMenstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus. It passes out of the body through the vagina.

Periods usually start between age 11 and 14 and continue until menopause at about age 51. They usually last from three to five days. Besides bleeding from the vagina, you may have:

1. Abdominal or pelvic cramping pain
2. Lower back pain
3. Bloating and sore breasts
4. Food cravings
5. Mood swings and irritability
6. Headache and fatigue

The first day of your menstrual cycle is the first day of your period (day 1). The period usually then lasts anything from 3 to 7 days. You’ll probably find that if you get any period pains, they’ll be at their worst in the first few days of your period. This is because the hormones in your body are causing your womb to actively shed the lining that was built up in the previous menstrual cycle.

Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is a group of symptoms that start before the period. It can include emotional and physical symptoms.

Consult your health care provider if you have big changes in your cycle. They may be signs of other problems that should be treated.