Counties Manukau Health Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Menstruation is the medical name for your monthly period. This is when blood and tissue from the lining of the uterus (womb) is shed through the vagina and out of the body.
Menstruation starts at puberty and it is stimulated by hormones that make a girl’s body able to become pregnant. This usually happens anytime between the ages of 9 and 16 years. Menstruation will recur about every 28 days (the menstrual cycle), unless interrupted by pregnancy, and will stop at menopause, which occurs at about 50 years of age.
There are a number of problems that can occur with menstruation ranging from mild to severe. More than half of all women will have cramps (dysmenorrhoea) during the first day or two of their period. Other problems include very heavy or long periods (menorrhagia) or no periods (amenorrhoea).
Heavy regular periods can be treated with simple pain killers which will reduce the amount of bleeding experienced and also treat any pain. Your GP will also be able to use other medications to reduce the bleeding. Younger women requiring contraception may benefit from the oral contraceptive pill which will reduce bleeding and enable control of when the periods occur. The Mirena Intrauterine device is used for some women to control heavy bleeding and will in many cases eventually abolish menstrual bleeding (which is reversed upon removal).
If you have bleeding after sexual intercourse or between your scheduled periods you will possibly need to be seen by a specialist. If treatments given to you by your GP have failed (each requires a few months before this can be confirmed) then a specialist review is ideal. If you have become anaemic due to heavy bleeding then you will need to be seen by a specialist. If you are bleeding heavily it is important to have some iron supplements either from the chemist or the GP.