Menstrual Cycle Changes: Menstruation Changes To Expect

Menstrual Cycle Changes You May Experience

Menstrual cycle changes are body changes that accompany the changes in
the circulating levels of female hormones in the blood during the
menstrual cycle.

The single most remarkable change is the flow of menstrual blood, but that is just one of the many changes taking place.

In
this article, I will review the different categories of changes that
occur during the cycle and a brief discussion of the specific changes
under each category.

Categories Of Changes

The menstrual cycle changes you experience are the direct effects of the hormonal changes in your body. These changes are

  1. Physical changes occurring in the body
  2. Psychological changes in the mind

Physical Changes

These are the trigger changes. They cause the physical and
psychological menstrual cycle changes. The two major hormones involved
are estrogen and progesterone. The levels of these hormones change
during the different phases of the cycle as shown in the diagram

Genital organs

  • Ovaries.The follicles in the ovaries grow, rupture and then shrink. This occurs every month and is sometimes called the ovarian cycle
  • Fallopian tubes.
    The tubes also change every month but these are minor changes. An
    example of the minor change is the development of long cilia( “legs” of
    the cells) in the lining of the tubes during the ovulation period to
    propel the egg.
  • Uterus. The lining of the uterus called the endometrium
    undergoes major changes called the uterine cycle. It grows during the
    first phase, become swollen during the luteal phase and then breaks down
    as menstrual flow if pregnancy does not occur. This is the change that
    is the easiest to identify.
  • Cervix. The secretion of the cervix changes as the
    hormones change and becomes the typical “egg-white” during ovulation
    period each month
  • Vagina. The lining of the vagina also changes each month, becoming thickened during the luteal phase.

Morphological changes

Morphological refers to the outward changes in a woman’s body
and overall physical outlook. These are very important menstrual cycle
changes because they may affect a sensitive aspect of a woman’s life,
her outlook. They are also part of the secondary sexual changes that
occur as a girl enters puberty because they are all due to the action of
female hormones. The most noticeable outlook changes are those of the
skin, breast and body weight.

Skin changes

The skin is the largest organ of the body
and is sensitive to estrogen and to some degree progesterone. The
cyclical changes in these female hormones cause changes in the skin
affecting many skin properties as outlined below

  • Hydration ( moistness).
    This is the amount of water in the skin that keeps it from getting dry.
    Estrogen increases the degree of hydration of the skin. The skin is
    therefore dry during the menstrual phase of the cycle and becomes moist
    as the amount of estrogen increases in the follicular phase.
  • Lipid secretion. Estrogen increases the amount of lipids on the skin which helps with
    barrier function. It prevents water from evaporating from the skin and
    helps in maintaining skin moisture. It is maximum in Day 16-Day 20 of
    the cycle when there are high levels of circulating estrogens.
  • Skin thickness, elasticity and resistance to wrinkling. As
    the follicular phase starts, the increased levels of estrogen cause the
    skin to be slightly thickened with increased elasticity. The skin takes
    on the typical tender and succulent feminine character,
    especially around the 14th day. This might contribute to the increased
    attractiveness of some women noted during the ovulation period.
  • Sebum secretion and Acne breakouts.
    Sebum is the oily substance produced by the skin. Its secretion is
    reduced by estrogen and increased by male sex hormones. During the
    luteal phase, higher levels of male hormones and low levels of estrogen
    increase sebum production and makes your skin more vulnerable to acne
    breakouts.
  • Skin pigmentation.Estrogen
    increases pigmentation of the skin. The levels during the menstrual
    cycle produce only mild changes like darkening under the eye. It may
    also be noted around the areolae of the breasts and face. During
    pregnancy, the higher levels of estrogen levels may produce a more
    noticeable change in the pigmentation of the face, areolae and mid line
    of the wall of the abdomen.
  • Barrier function. During
    the luteal phase, especially Day 22-26, the barrier function of the
    skin is reduced, partly due to the reduction in the skin thickness. This
    might cause your skin to be very sensitive to irritants in contact with
    it. There is also a slight increase in the amount of bacteria in the
    skin during these days.
  • Susceptibility to Ultraviolet light rays. The skin is most susceptible to UV light damage on Days 20 through 28.
  • Hair growth. During
    pregnancy, high estrogen levels cause increases in the amount of hair
    (hair density). This effect might not be pronounced during the monthly
    cycle because of the lower hormonal levels and the rapidity of the
    changes occurring in days.
  • Body temperature regulation. The
    skin plays an important role in the regulation of body temperature
    through the blood vessels that it contains. During the luteal phase,
    there is a slight increase in the body temperature of about 0.5 degrees
    Celsius. Some women also tend have increased sweating during exercise
    when they are in the luteal phase of their cycle.

In
summary, the luteal and menstrual phases are the phases during which
the amount of estrogen is lowest and the skin is most susceptible to
spots, acne, dryness and damage.


Breast changes

The
breasts also undergo changes as part of the overall menstrual cycle
changes occurring. During the follicular phase, estrogen causes the
breast tissue to grow.

During the luteal phase,
progesterone causes the breast tissue to swell as the milk glands
increase in size within the breasts. Some women also experience slight
pain in the breasts especially with touch


Weight Gain

Mild fluctuations in body weight may occur
as one of the menstrual cycle changes. It is mainly due to water
retention. Changes in appetite and physical activity may also be
contributory factors.

Changes in the immune system

Estrogen suppresses the immune system. High levels of estrogen during
the follicular and early luteal phases may produce mild reduction in
the functioning of the immune system. These changes are very slight
however during the menstrual cycle but are pronounced during pregnancy

Studies
examining the hormonal changes did not find any conclusive pattern for
the occurrence of allergies during the different cycle phases.

Psychological Changes

The changes in hormonal levels may produce some emotional and
behavioral menstrual cycle changes in some women. Not every woman
experiences these changes.

Some women experience an increase in
their sexual desire especially during the ovulation period. Others have
also reported being “flirty” during this period.Other women experience
mild mood swings and irritability during the luteal phase.

Some
research has found that women who experience headaches, gastrointestinal
problems, lower abdominal bloating, skin changes, and breast changes as
part of the physical menstrual cycle changes had a higher occurrence
of psychological symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes To Consider

What should you do with the knowledge of the changes above? No major
lifestyle changes are needed. You will definitely need to make some
minor changes depending on the menstrual cycle changes you experience
the most. Not every woman will experience these changes. The type and
severity of the changes also vary widely amongst women. Some simple
lifestyle changes to consider include

    Proper nutrition

    Good
    nutrition is never a bad habit. It always fits. Be sure to get a
    regular balanced diet which will furnish both the essential nutrients
    and also help control your weight. As for everyone, including fruits
    and vegetables in the diet will go a long way to maintain good health
    and a healthy skin.Though menstruation causes iron loss from the body,
    extra iron supplements are not necessary-just eat healthy and
    include foods also rich in green leafy vegetables!

    Exercise

    Exercise may cause some relief if there are any menstrual discomfort especially menstrual cramps.

    Good skin care

    Women
    differ in the sensitivity of their skin to the different cycle changes.
    While some women notice little or no effects, others experience
    significant skin changes like severe acne breakouts or sunburns

    Proper
    skin care to avoid irritants including some skin care products and
    unprotected exposure to sunlight during those sensitive days( especially
    the luteal phase) may be beneficial to you. Find out what skin problems
    you experience the most, and whether it is related to menses or not and
    then take the appropriate precautions to maintain a healthy skin. You
    may seek medical advice from your doctor I when necessary.

References

  1. Physiological changes associated with the menstrual cycle: a review. Farage MA, Neill S, MacLean AB. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2009 Jan;64(1):58-72.Good article but written for a professional audience.

  2. Day-to-day co-variations of psychological and physical symptoms of the
    menstrual cycle: insights to individual differences in steroid
    reactivity.
    Kiesner J. Pastore M.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 35(3):350-63, 2010 Apr.



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