Author: Ellie Wang
Editors: Yanxi Chen and Ivan Feng
Artist: Denise Suarez
Menstruation is the monthly discharging of blood and tissue from the vagina due to the shedding of the uterus lining in the absence of an implanted embryo. This event is typically a two to seven-day period, known as the menses phase of the menstrual cycle, which lasts for around 28 days. While menstruation is a sign of good health, some menstrual disorders disrupt the process or make it unpleasant.
The most common disorder is Premenstrual Syndrome, also known as PMS. This disorder consists of many unpleasant symptoms during the cycle, ranging from physical ones like cramping, bloating, and hot flashes to psychological ones such as depression and anxiety. Approximately 75-85% of women experience at least one of these symptoms during their reproductive years, from the age of 12 until menopause at the age of 51. About 5% of them have such severe symptoms that they are disabled by it. While this disorder is quite common, another disorder–Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)–is not. Around 3-8% of women suffer from this more severe form of PMS in their reproductive years. The causes for these conditions are unknown, but they could be attributed to abnormal responses to changes in hormone levels, which could also lead to a serotonin deficiency in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can affect mood and cause physical symptoms.
A few other disorders include amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and menorrhagia. Amenorrhea is a disorder where menstruation has been absent for over three menstrual cycles. The two types are characterized by when the condition appears. Primary amenorrhea is when menstruation fails to occur during puberty, which ends at 16 years of age for those assigned females at birth. In contrast, secondary amenorrhea is increasingly irregular or absent menstruation periods that usually happen later in life. Some causes could be pregnancy and menopause, or medical reasons such as thyroid disorder or excessive exercise. Dysmenorrhea involves severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain. Primary dysmenorrhea results from chemical imbalances in the body. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea can be caused by various factors, the most common one being endometriosis. Tissue similar to the uterine lining growing outside the uterus thickens and sheds during the menstrual cycle which builds up inside the body. Menorrhagia is prolonged and heavy bleeding during menstruation. It could result from hormonal imbalances, birth control devices, or other pre-existing medical conditions. These are only some of the menstrual disorders that people may face.
Menstrual health is just as valuable as any other aspect of physical and psychological health. Please consult a doctor if these conditions impact your health and daily life.
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“Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 7 Feb. 2020,