Period 101: Essential information for your monthly cycle

Your period, also known as menstruation, is a fascinating and natural process in your body and a central part of the female menstrual cycle. It offers significant insights into your overall health and well-being. Often referred to as the fifth vital sign, it provides crucial information about your general health. 

Menstruation is your monthly health check!

This complex process can be quite stressful for you. Many of us struggle with a variety of emotional and physical symptoms, such as cramps, mood swings or headaches.

We understand how stressful and frustrating this can be.

Our aim is to help you understand the reasons behind your period and provide you with valuable tips to alleviate your symptoms. A period should be pain-free and not cause severe discomfort.

Together, we want to break the taboos around periods and encourage you to recognise them not as a burden, but as a natural part of your cycle and even as a kind of superpower.

Why do you get your menstruation?

Your period is a complex process, controlled by an interplay of your hormones. During your menstrual cycle, eggs mature in your ovaries each month, ready for potential fertilisation.

Before ovulation, estrogen builds up the lining of the uterus. You ovulate around 14 days before your next period. A mature egg travels down the fallopian tube towards your uterus. At the same time, your body prepares for possible implantation by building up the mucosal layer in your uterus, whether or not pregnancy occurs. (1)

If fertilisation of the egg does not take place, your oestrogen and progesterone levels fall (2). This drop signals the start of menstruation to your body.

Your uterine muscles contract and relax, causing the lining of your uterus to be shed and leave your body along with some blood through the vagina. 

To ensure that you always feel safe and protected during your menstrual bleeding, various products, such as the menstrual cup, tampons, or pads are available to meet your individual needs.

Read on to see how your period provides a fascinating insight into your body's processes during the menstrual cycle.

When do you get your menstrual period?

The length of the menstrual cycle is individual and can vary each cycle. The cycle lasts on average 29 days (13), while the menstrual period itself usually lasts between 2 and 7 days (4).

To determine the time of your period, simply count the days from the first day of your period to the day before the start of your next. By tracking your period regularly over several months, you can recognise personal patterns and develop an understanding of when your next period is likely to start.

It is even easier to build up comprehensive cycle knowledge through targeted menstrual cycle tracking. With the help of a menstrual cycle computer such as Daysy, you can conveniently measure your basal body temperature in the morning, which changes over the course of a cycle. 

Based on your individual temperature curve, Daysy precisely recognises the different phases of your cycle and indicates when you will get your period with a purple flashing light. Daysy always informs you 3 days before the start of your next period. 

You can also use the accompanying DaysyDay cycle app to automatically and reliably read the start of your next period.

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How much blood do you lose during your period?

You lose less blood during your period than is often assumed. On average, you lose around 30 to 70 millilitres per cycle - the equivalent of only 5 to 14 teaspoons.

However, if you consider the total amount of menstrual blood that a woman loses over the course of her life, it adds up significantly. With an average bleeding period of five days and around 500 menstruations in a lifetime (with a fertility phase of around 38 years), a woman can lose up to 30 litres of menstrual blood (6).

It's pretty crazy what our bodies do while we go about our daily lives as normal.

What Period Symptoms can you experience?

Symptoms during your period can vary greatly from woman to woman and differ in intensity. For many of us, periods can be a considerable burden every month.

The most common symptoms include

  • Cramps and pain in the lower abdomen

  • Mood swings

  • Bloated abdomen

  • Headaches

  • Breast tenderness

  • Acne (7)

This list is not complete, as the individual effects are just as varied as our cycles themselves.

How can you notice the premenstrual syndrome?

The first symptoms can appear around four to fourteen days before your period starts. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is often the first sign of an impending period for many women. 

The symptoms are particularly severe for women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDS). They experience significant depressive and physical symptoms during the second half of their cycle.

Restrictive PMS symptoms are not normal. They are a sign that something is not right in our bodies. Typically, you shouldn't experience pain or other physical or psychological discomfort during your period that interferes with daily life.

It's normal to have less energy, feel less social, and be pensive during this time. However, if you experience severe pain or pronounced depressive moods, it is advisable to seek medical help.

Tracking your basal body temperature can help you to better understand your body's signals. This allows you to categorise symptoms such as mood swings and assign them to your upcoming period. 

This method provides valuable insights into your cycle and allows you to take targeted measures to alleviate symptoms and give yourself extra rest during these days.

a red background with white text: Daysy - Track your Basal Body Temperature, find your Balance. On the right side there is a woman laying in bed with a menstrual cycle tracker.

What is the cause of PMS symptoms?

The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is still unknown. Due to the variety of symptoms, it is assumed that several factors contribute to the symptoms.

PMS symptoms occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle after ovulation. During this phase, the body increases the production of progesterone, while the female hormone oestrogen decreases.

With the start of menstruation and the onset of a new cycle, the PMS symptoms subside. They disappear completely by the end of menstruation at the latest and may only reappear after the next ovulation.

Researchers suspect that fluctuating hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone play a significant role (8). These hormones influence the production and activity of other hormones and neurotransmitters. In particular, the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin fluctuates with the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle (16).

Serotonin levels fall steadily after ovulation and drop rapidly shortly before the start of menstruation (16).

Hormonal fluctuations can also lead to changes in the electrolyte and fluid balance. Additionally, low melatonin levels and an underactive thyroid gland are considered possible causes of PMS. Lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise also have a significant influence on the occurrence and severity of PMS (16).

Much research is still needed to better understand the exact mechanisms behind PMS and develop targeted treatment options. Although progress has been made, the precise interaction of various hormones and neurotransmitters and their effects on the body and psyche remain largely unexplored.

Further studies are required to decipher the complex relationships between hormonal fluctuations, genetic factors, and lifestyle habits to find effective therapies for affected women.

How can you minimise menstrual cycle discomfort?

As we have to live with our periods for up to seven days every month, we would like to give you some tips to make this time as pleasant as possible.

Apply heat to relax: 

Heat can help to relax your body. On days when you don't feel well, treat yourself to a warm bath or use a hot water bottle to relieve cramps. Take a hot water bottle with you to work or school to make your everyday life easier during your period.

Give yourself an extra break:

During PMS and your period, your body needs more energy. Listen to your body and treat yourself to an extra dose of sleep or use relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or yoga.

Engage in moderate physical activity:

Gentle exercise such as cycling, gymnastics or jogging can loosen your muscles and relieve cramps.

In principle, listen to your body and see what works best for you during these phases.

How do you notice when you get your first period?

On average, your first period, also known as menarche, starts between the ages of 11 and 12. However, your body develops at an individual pace, so your period may start earlier or later (10).

These two signs can be the first signs of your period:

  • White Discharge: Whitish to yellowish patches in your underwear can appear around 12 months before your first period.

  • Physical Changes: A growth spurt, wider hips, or breast growth can also be signs.

However, it is important that you don't let these physical changes stress you out. 

Your first period is a natural process for a healthy body and nothing to be ashamed of. If you have any questions, feel free to talk to your parents, your friends or a gynaecologist.

What does it mean if you have fluctuations in the intervals between your periods?

Any changes to your normal routine can affect your cycle and therefore also your period. If you are not pregnant, typical influencing factors such as stress, jet lag, diet or even taking the morning-after pill can cause cycle fluctuations (11). Excessive exercise or unbalanced hormone levels can also impact your period (3).

If these fluctuations and delays occur occasionally or if you are still in your teens, this is usually nothing to worry about. However, if they persist for several months, it is advisable to discuss the problems with a doctor.

What does it mean if you have menstrual problems such as pain before and during your period?

If you experience severe pain every month during your period and feel restricted in your everyday life as a result, you should definitely see a gynaecologist, as period pain should never be normalised.

Severe pain can be caused by diseases such as endometriosis or inflammation of the uterus or ovaries (9).

What does it mean if you lose a lot of blood during your period?

If you have to change your pads or tampons every one to two hours, your period lasts longer than 7 days or if it restricts your daily life, you may be experiencing heavier blood loss than other women (15). Around 10 in 100 women struggle with this issue (14).

Heavy periods can be caused by conditions affecting the uterus, ovaries or hormones, such as PCOS or endometriosis. However, medication, stress and depression can also be possible triggers (15).

Due to the high blood loss, you may feel weak, tired and drained during your period (12).

If you notice these signs, it is important to discuss your problems with a doctor.

Redefining the period: For a world without shame and prejudice

Menstruation is a remarkable process of the female body; a natural reminder each month of how unique and powerful our bodies are. Despite this, it is often surrounded by shame and stigma.

We should celebrate menstruation for what it really is: a sign of our fertility and health.

It's normal that we don't always feel 100 percent comfortable during our period. Cramps, mood swings and other complaints are challenging. This is exactly why we should be kind to ourselves, support each other and talk openly about our experiences.

By better understanding our menstrual cycle and being mindful of our body's signals, we can take better care of our well-being and needs. This form of self-care and self-acceptance helps to improve our overall health and well-being.

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Learn how your menstrual blood can provide important clues to hormonal changes, nutrient deficiencies, and disease. Discover what different colors and textures mean and why you should look closely.

Learn how to properly distinguish vaginal bleeding and what clues it can give you about your cycle. From ovulation bleeding to implantation bleeding, discover the different types of bleeding and how to tell them apart from your regular menstruation.

Put an end to the agony! Find out why menstrual cramps occurs and how you can relieve them. From the causes of abdominal pain to proven treatment approaches - how you can take action against period pain.