What is menstruation?

Menstruation (men-STRAY-shuhn) is a woman's monthly bleeding. When you menstruate, your body sheds the lining of the uterus (womb). Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina (see how the menstrual cycle works below). Most menstrual periods last from 3 to 5 days.

What is the menstrual cycle?

When periods (menstruations) come regularly, this is called the menstrual cycle. Having regular menstrual cycles is a sign that important parts of your body are working normally. The menstrual cycle provides important body chemicals, called hormones, to keep you healthy. It also prepares your body for pregnancy each month. A cycle is counted from the first day of 1 period to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. Cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days in adults and from 21 to 45 days in young teens.

The rise and fall of levels of hormones during the month control the menstrual cycle.

Cramps and Other Sensations?

Women can experience a variety of sensations before, during or after their menses. Common complaints include backache, pain in the inner thighs, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, breast tenderness, irritability, and other mood changes. Women also experience positive sensations such as relief, release, euphoria, new beginning, invigoration, connection with nature, creative energy, exhilaration, increased sex drive and more intense orgasms.

Uterine cramping is one of the most common uncomfortable sensations women may have during menstruation. There are two kinds of cramping. Spasmodic cramping is probably caused by prostaglandins, chemicals that affect muscle tension. Some prostaglandins cause relaxation, and some cause constriction. A diet high in linoleic and liblenic acids, found in vegetables and fish, increases the prostaglandins for aiding muscle relaxation.

Congestive cramping causes the body to retain fluids and salt. To counter congestive cramping, avoid wheat and dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugar.

Natural options to alleviate cramping

• Increase exercise. This will improve blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body, including the pelvis.

• Try not using tampons. Many women find tampons increase cramping. Don't select an IUD (intrauterine device) as your birth control method.

• Avoid red meat, refined sugars, milk, and fatty foods.

• Eat lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains (especially if you experience constipation or indigestion), nuts, seeds and fruit.

• Avoid caffeine. It constricts blood vessels and increases tension.

• Meditate, get a massage.

• Have an orgasm (alone or with a partner).

• Drink ginger root tea (especially if you experience fatigue).

• Put cayenne pepper on food. It is a vasodilator and improves circulation.

• Breathe deeply, relax, notice where you hold tension in your body and let it go.

• Ovarian Kung Fu alleviates or even eliminates menstrual cramps and PMS, it also ensures smooth transition through menopause.

• Take time for yourself!


The hormones in our bodies are especially sensitive to diet and nutrition. PMS and menstrual cramping are not diseases, but rather, symptoms of poor nutrition.

Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS

PMS has been known by women for many years. However, within the past 30 or so years, pharmaceutical companies have targeted and created a market to treat this normal part of a woman's cycle as a disease. These companies then benefit from the sale of drugs and treatments.

Premenstrual syndrome refers to the collection of symptoms or sensations women experience as a result of high hormone levels before, and sometimes during, their periods.

One type of PMS is characterized by anxiety, irritability and mood swings. These feelings are usually relieved with the onset of bleeding. Most likely, this type relates to the balance between estrogen and progesterone. If estrogen predominates, anxiety occurs. If there's more progesterone, depression may be a complaint.

Sugar craving, fatigue and headaches signify a different type of PMS. In addition to sugar, women may crave chocolate, white bread, white rice, pastries, and noodles. These food cravings may be caused by the increased responsiveness to insulin related to increased hormone levels before menstruation. In this circumstance, women may experience symptoms of low blood sugar; their brains are signaling a need for fuel. A consistent diet that includes complex carbohydrates will provide a steady flow of energy to the brain and counter the ups and downs of blood sugar variations.

Menstrual Myths

• Every woman's cycle is or should be 28 days long.

• Every woman will or should bleed every month.

• Every woman will or should ovulate every cycle.

• If a woman bleeds, she is not pregnant.

• A woman cannot ovulate or get pregnant while she is menstruating.

The above statements are myths. Every woman is different.

It's true that most women will have cycles that are around 28 days. But, a woman can be healthy and normal and have just 3 or 4 cycles a year. [However, while variations might be healthy and normal, they could also be a sign of a serious underlying problem. For example, a recent news article suggested that irregular menstrual cycles may predict Type 2 Diabetes.]

Ovulation occurs about 14-16 days before women have their period (not 14 days after the start of their period). The second half of the cycle, ovulation to menstruation, is fairly consistently the same length, but the first part changes from person to person and from cycle to cycle. In rare cases, a woman may ovulate twice in a month, once from each ovary.

Conception/Fertilization of an egg can only occur after ovulation. The egg stays alive for about 24 hours once released from the ovary. Sperm can stay alive inside a woman's body for 3-4 days, but possibly as long as 6-7 days. If a couple has intercourse before or after ovulation occurs, they can get pregnant, since the live sperm are already inside the woman's body when ovulation occurs. Thus a woman can become pregnant from intercourse for about 7-10 days in the middle of her cycle. (See Fertility Awareness for a complete description of visible signs of ovulation.)

Fertility Awareness is a birth control method where women monitor their cycles daily to identify ovulation. They are learning to predict ovulation to prevent or encourage pregnancy. It requires training and diligent record keeping.

From our work providing abortion services, we know that some women can be pregnant and continue to have periods at the same time. We also know of cases where women have gotten pregnant during their menstrual period.

Did You Know?

• Women lose between 20 and 80 cc's (1-2 ounces) of blood during a normal period.

• One in six fertilized eggs naturally results in miscarriage, some of which are reabsorbed by the body and the woman is not aware she's been pregnant.

• The length of a woman's menstrual cycle (the number of days from the first day of one period to the first day of the next) is determined by the number of days it takes her ovary to release an egg. Once an egg is released, it is about 14 days until menstruation, for nearly all women.

Alternatives for Handling Menstrual Flow

1. Chlorine-free biodegradable 100% cotton tampons recently hit the market in response to environmentally conscious feminists. Studies have shown that organochlorines can be linked to cancer. Women using chlorine-free tampons are not putting chlorine into their bodies, nor are they supporting an industry which produces enormous volumes of industrial waste containing chlorine. If your regular pad or tampon isn't chlorine-free, write and urge them to make 100% cotton pads and tampons without chlorine.

2. Natural sponges from the ocean (not cellulose) are used by some women. They are dampened then inserted directly into the vagina. When full, they are removed, washed with water, and reused. Washable reusable cloth pads are also available.

3. The menstrual cap is another reusable alternative. It is similar to the cervical cap, but worn near the vaginal opening in the same place as a tampon. When full, it is simply removed, washed and reinserted. A cervical cap has also been used successfully in this manner.

4. The Keeper - a specially made reusable device for catching monthly flow.

5. Cloth (washable) pads - this is what most women around the word have always used.

How often should I change my pad and/or tampon?

You should change a pad before it becomes soaked with blood. Each woman decides for herself what works best. You should change a tampon at least every 4 to 8 hours. Make sure to use the lowest absorbency tampon needed for your flow. For example, use junior or regular tampons on the lightest day of your period. Using a super absorbency tampon on your lightest days increases your risk for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but sometimes deadly disease. TSS is caused by bacteria that can produce toxins. If your body can't fight the toxins, your immune (body defence) system reacts and causes the symptoms of TSS (see below).

Young women may be more likely to get TSS. Using any kind of tampon puts you at greater risk for TSS than using pads. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following tips to help avoid tampon problems:

• Follow package directions for insertion.

• Choose the lowest absorbency for your flow.

• Change your tampon at least every 4 to 8 hours.

• Consider switching between pads and tampons.

• Know the warning signs of TSS (see below).

•Don't use tampons between periods.

If you have any of these symptoms of TSS while using tampons, take the tampon out, and contact your doctor right away:

•Sudden high fever (over 102 degrees).

• Sudden high fever (over 102 degrees)


• Vomiting

• Dizziness and/or fainting

•Sunburn-like rash

•Sore throat

•Bloodshot eyes

Facts about commercial Sanitary napkins you cannot afford to ignore

1. Commercial sanitary pads and panty liners contain a high degree of synthetic materials that impact our health directly.

2. They are made up of ingredients that include polypropylene, polyacrylates, surfactants, plastic and chlorine-bleached wood pulp or even recycled paper which has to go through a lot of chemical processes. With so many synthetic materials, there is a lot of scope for allergic reactions.

3. The synthetics and plastics create a humid microclimate in this warm damp area not allowing aeration hence leading to germs and fungal infections.

4. Women suffering from skin allergies, irritation, and soreness and itching find their symptoms are worse during their menstrual cycle due to contact with synthetic and plastic ingredients in most sanitary products.

5. Considering that they aren't made of cotton they need to be chlorine bleached to make them appear extremely white. This releases toxic dioxins, it is linked with various disorders and complications such as cancer, endometriosis, immune system suppression amongst others.

6. Lastly the adhesive used is industrial qualities which leave stains on the underwear this passing over. Our vision and goal is to find an alternative to these chemical laden products that cause more harm to us. We were thrilled when one of our customers introduced us to this marvellous product "Femi Fresh".

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