Every girl as he leaves childhood and enters adolescence (young womanhood) at least at the age of ten begins to notice many physical and emotional changes. When you begin to menstruate, it is a sign that these changes are happening. The word menstruation comes from a Latin word ‘menses’ meaning ‘month’, it starts and lasts for about an average of five to seven days, and this cycle is repeated the next month. Though there are at times slight changes in the date of arrival.
WHY DOES A GIRL MENSTRUATE?
Every month, a girl’s body automatically prepares to have a baby. Once a month, the uterus (womb) lines itself with a special tissue and blood to make a soft, warm place for a baby to grow. When a fetus does not develop in the uterus, the tissue and the blood are discarded. They flow out of the body from the uterus through the vagina, a narrow channel leading from the uterus. This flow is liquid and red in color. For this purpose, light absorbent pads called sanitary towels are needed. Menstruation is one of the basic parts of being a girl, it is one of the most important things that could ever happen to a girl, it is natural and it is something every girl should be proud of because it means that she is achieving physical maturity and able to procreate.
WHAT ORGANS ARE INVOLVED IN THE MENSTRUATION PROCESS?
The organs involved in menstruation are called ‘the internal organs of reproduction’ and are located in the lower part of a girl’s abdomen and protected by a bony cage called the pelvis. The internal organs of reproduction are:
OVARIES: The ovary contains thousands of tiny cells called eggs cells. Each month, the egg cell grows to maturity and leaves an ovary. It then enters one of the fallopian tubes and begins travelling towards the uterus.
FALLOPIAN TUBE: These are the two narrow finger like structures that act as passage ways extending from two sides of the uterus.
UTERUS: This is a hollow pear-shaped organ sometimes called the womb. A special layer of blood and tissue have been building up in the uterus forming a soft, warm place where the egg coming if it should become fertilized (united with the male cell) could lodge itself and grow into a baby!
VAGINA: A short muscular canal leaving from the internal organs to the outside of the body. If the egg is not fertilized, it degenerates with no egg growing in the uterus, there isn’t any need for the special lining of tissue and blood, so it flows out of the body through the vagina.
QUESTIONS GIRLS ASK ABOUT MENSTRUATION
Q. When does it start?
A. It can start as early as 10 years of age and as late as 18 years. There is no rule regarding this issue
Q. How often does it happen?
A. On the average, girls menstruate about every 28 days (the menstrual cycle), there is no set rule, but it doesn’t mean that these people are abnormal. For a starter, she would probably find her period irregular for the first few months.
Q. How long does it last?
A. The menstrual period usually lasts from at least 3 – 7 days.
Q. What about amount of flow?
A. It varies with individuals, some have ‘heavy flow’ which means rush of blood while some have ‘light flow’ meaning meaning the blood comes in few drops while the others have ‘regular flow’ which is not heavy and not light. In a case where one has either heavy flow, light flow or regular flow, one has to use sanitary towels that are labeled ‘super’ (more absorbent) or regular (less absorbent) respectively. Some girls think that the blood they lose during menstruation is from their blood vessels or something, so they worry a lot when they see heavy flows and they begin to take blood tonic in their attempt to replace lost blood. Well this is not so. The blood that flows during menses is from the uterus (the lining that was rolled up when fertilization did not take place) and not the blood vessels or veins! The best you can do to stay healthy is to eat a lot of fruits, drink a lot of water and maintain personal cleanliness.
Q. When does it finally stop?
A. As a general rule, when women approach the age of 40 – 50 years, they stop menstruating. This time in a woman’s life is called ‘menopause’ or ‘change of life’.
The most important thing to learn is that you are an individual. Your menstrual cycle and your reaction to it is different from any other girl’s. Give yourself time to become accustomed to this part of life and before long, you’ll be breezing through those four or five days just like any other day of the month.
Q. What about cramps on menstrual pain?
A. Some people say that they don’t have menstrual cramps while some have such severe cramps that they can barely do anything other than just lying down rolling and crying from pain. Such people are advised to see their doctor for proper prescription of drugs.
If there’s something you don’t understand about menstruation, seek the advice of a medical doctor or an adult you can trust or confide in who knows about the way the body functions. Lastly, in other to avoid embarrassment due to unexpected menses, one should always keep dates so that when the time is drawing near, one can always have some sanitary towels at hand. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you may spot a stain in your underwear, night gown or bed linen. Wash the stains immediately, change into fresh sanitary towels frequently especially during the first two days of your period.
Follow the rule of good grooming, rest and diet.
Enjoy yourself, you’re growing up and the fun is just beginning! It’s wonderful being a girl!
Written by Miss Motunrayo Odepinde
Yaba College of Technology,