We call it a period now, earlier it used to be called the monthly flow and there are various words used to describe what is the menstrual cycle – the curse, that time of month and many other terms.
Whatever we call it, it refers to those few days each month when a woman bleeds from the vagina as part of the reproductive process.
Cultural and historical understandings of what is the menstrual cycle and menarche (the first menstrual cycle experienced by a female), vary all over the world and different rites mark this significant phase of a female’s life. Many cultures celebrate with feasting and different forms of celebration, in some others; specific rituals mark the arrival of fertility.
What is the menstrual cycle and what affects menarche?
Menarche is the first ever period experienced by a girl and the age of this occurrence could be anything between 8 and 16 years of age depending upon several different factors, though the average age is thought to be 12 or 13 years of age.
Other factors such as the development of breasts, growth of underarm and pubic hair etc. also occur along with menarche to indicate puberty in girls.
What is the menstrual cycle and its first symptoms?
The symptoms that precede a first period are much the same as the symptoms that occur before any period – there may be some amount of bloating due to water retention, some leg or backache and most commonly cramping in the abdomen that could occur towards the front or the back of the lower abdomen or both.
There could also be emotional changes where girl feels out of sorts, sad or angry or agitated as the hormonal changes start to take place within her body.
What factors affect age of menarche?
Though the normal age of menarche may be anything between 8 and 16 years of age, there are many factors that affect the age at which a girl gets her first period –
This is one of the most important factors that determine when a female will get her period. If close female blood relatives got their period at a particular age, then it is likely that a female will get her period at about the same age.
Women belonging to certain ethnic groups are seen to have earlier or later menarche so there is certainly this element that influences menstruation.
Changes in nutrition and higher standard of living is seen to be associated with earlier menarche since a higher body mass index or body fat percentage is seen to lower the age of first menstruation.
Exposure to environmental chemicals are thought to mimic function of estrogen in the body and may contribute to early menstruation it is thought. Media exposure and other forms of early sexualization among developed and urban communities are also seen to increase chances of premature menarche.
What is the menstrual cycle age is also determined by certain conditions – for instance anemia could delay menses. Low birth weight or the habits of a mother when pregnant could affect how and when her daughter menstruates. Eating disorders also impact menarche.