Menstruation refers to the bleeding that is part of a woman’s monthly period. During menstruation, a woman’s body sheds the lining of the uterus and passes it from the body through the vagina. Typically, menstruation lasts from three to five days each month.
Complications of Menstruation
Though menstruation is routine and uneventful for most women, it can cause unpleasant complications.
Some women experience pain and cramps, known as dysmenorrhea, during menstruation. In many cases, this occurs because the woman’s body has too much of the chemical prostaglandin. In other cases, related diseases like endometriosis and uterine fibroids can lead to the pain and cramping.
Some women also experience bleeding between periods, after sex, after menopause or with a heavier flow than normal. Other women may not experience a period when they should — and also are not pregnant. These situations are worth a trip to the doctor, as a variety of underlying causes can be related to changes to the menstrual cycle.
Menstruation is managed by most women by using a pad or tampon to soak up the menstrual blood. How often to change the pad or tampon will vary from woman to woman, but it's recommended that tampons be changed at least every four to eight hours to prevent a complication known as toxic shock syndrome.
Most cases of cramping and pain during menstruation can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen or naproxen. Stronger prescription medication is available when these medications do not provide sufficient relief.
SOURCES: Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Irregular menstrual cycles could signal an underlying medical issue.