Most healthy, childbearing-aged women have a menstrual cycle, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Unfortunately, many don’t understand this important rhythm. Read on for a few questions and answers from the retired pharmacist, author, and women’s healthcare entrepreneur.
Q: What is the menstrual cycle?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The menstrual cycle is part of a woman’s reproductive balance. It typically is a monthly cycle but can last anywhere between three and five weeks as the body prepares for pregnancy.
Q: What are the phases of the menstrual cycle?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A woman’s menstrual cycle begins on the first day of menstrual bleeding. The first half of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase and it lasts for approximately two weeks. Ovulation occurs 10 to 14 days following day one of menstrual bleeding and signals the beginning of the luteal phase. The luteal phase or the second half of the menstrual cycle is the phase that premenstrual symptoms may occur as the body begins to prepare for pregnancy.
Q: What changes occur outside of the reproductive system during a woman’s menstrual cycle?
Marla Ahlgrimm: While many things are happening on the inside, there are a few noticeable symptoms. A woman’s temperature will rise slightly during the luteal phase, something that is only detectable using a special thermometer known as a basal thermometer. Her breasts may swell, and she may experience fluid retention, headaches or fatigue.
Q: What is PMS?
Marla Ahlgrimm: PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, occurs when the natural effects of hormones released during the second half of the cycle interfere with a woman’s day. Anxiety, irritability, depression, food cravings, and migraine headaches all fall under the scope of PMS. Fortunately, the symptoms dissipate once menstrual bleeding begins.