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Menstruation as a vital sign

W

ou realise that your menstrual cycle is not just a monthly shedding of the uterine lining, but an important indicator of your overall health? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that the menstrual cycle be considered the "fifth vital sign" alongside blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate.

Your period is trying to tell you something...

If your hormones could send you a text message, you would hear from them during your period. If your period is particularly difficult or painful, your message would be written in capital letters: SOS 🚩. When your period comes, it's like receiving a status update from your hormones with the message "All good!

Health indicators

How changes in the menstrual cycle can indicate health problems:

The menstrual cycle is influenced by various body systems, including the endocrine (hormonal) system, the reproductive system and even mental health. Changes in the menstrual cycle can therefore indicate a number of health problems.

-Hormonal balanceHormones such as oestrogen and progesterone regulate the menstrual cycle. An imbalance can lead to changes in the regularity, duration and course of the cycle.

-Reproductive health: Diseases of the reproductive organs such as the ovaries and uterus can affect the menstrual cycle.

-Early detection of faults: Monitoring the menstrual cycle can help with the early detection of health problems. A missed period or a very heavy period can, for example, indicate anaemia, blood clotting disorders or even the first signs of pregnancy complications.

-Health of young people: In adolescent girls, the regularity and nature of their menstrual cycle provides important information about their pubertal development and reproductive health. This can help to identify problems such as delayed puberty or early signs of reproductive health issues.

-Holistic approach to health: Viewing the menstrual cycle as a vital sign promotes a more holistic approach to women's health. It encourages healthcare professionals to consider the interactions between the different body systems and their impact on menstrual health, leading to more holistic and effective treatment.

-Enlightenment and awareness: By emphasising the importance of the menstrual cycle as a vital sign, awareness and education of both healthcare professionals and patients is increased. This can lead to informative conversations about menstrual health and proactive management of associated health issues.

-Quality of lifeMenstrual health is directly related to a woman's quality of life. Painful periods, excessive bleeding and other menstrual disorders can have a significant impact on daily activities and general well-being.

-General health: Other health problems such as stress, weight changes and chronic illnesses can also affect the menstrual cycle.

Examples of health problems indicated by changes in the menstrual cycle

Irregular cycles: Menstrual cycles that vary considerably in length from month to month, or cycles that are consistently shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days.

Possible health problems:

-Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A common endocrine disorder characterised by multiple small cysts on the ovaries, irregular periods and symptoms such as acne and excessive hair growth. Irregular cycles are a hallmark of PCOS.

-Disorders of the thyroid gland: Both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can cause menstrual irregularities. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating hormones that influence the menstrual cycle.

menstruation vital signs

-Heavy bleeding (menorrhagia):

Excessive menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days or in which large blood clots are excreted and the menstrual products have to be replaced disproportionately often.

Possible health problems:

-Uterine fibroids: Non-cancerous tumours in the uterus that can cause heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding.

-Blood clotting disorders:

Diseases such as von Willebrand's disease, which affect the blood's ability to clot, can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding.

-endometriosis: A condition in which tissue that resembles the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus and causes pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.

Tracking and seeking help

Cycle tracking:

Keeping an accurate record of your cycle, including the start and end of the cycle, the intensity of blood flow and any symptoms experienced, can help you and your healthcare provider to recognise irregularities or other patterns.

If you need to see a doctor:

If you notice significant changes in your menstrual cycle, e.g. sudden irregularities, excessive bleeding or the absence of your period for no known reason (e.g. pregnancy), you should definitely consult a doctor.

Summary

The menstrual cycle is a key indicator of overall health and serves as a vital sign like heart rate and blood pressure. Regular and predictable menstrual cycles are often an expression of a balanced hormonal system and good reproductive health. Conversely, cycle changes such as irregular periods or heavy bleeding can indicate potential health problems, including endocrine disorders such as PCOS or thyroid problems, as well as conditions such as uterine fibroids or clotting disorders.

Monitoring the menstrual cycle helps to recognise these problems at an early stage, enables timely medical intervention and promotes general well-being.

Call to action:

Your menstrual cycle is more than just a monthly event; it is an important sign that provides important insights into your overall health.

Start today to optimise your cycle with the help of the femSense App to record details such as the start and end of the cycle, the intensity of menstruation and any accompanying symptoms. This documentation can help you to recognise certain patterns and identify any irregularities at an early stage. If you notice significant changes, such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding or missing cycles without an obvious cause, you should not hesitate to consult a doctor. Early detection and treatment of potential health problems can make a big difference to your wellbeing.

Take charge of your health by paying attention to your menstrual cycle - it's a powerful tool for monitoring your overall health.

Last thought:

Understanding your menstrual cycle is not just about knowing when your next period is coming, but also about paying attention to your body's signals and taking responsibility for your own health.

________

Sources:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

Mayo Clinic - Menstrual Cycle: What's Normal, What's Not

World Health Organisation (WHO): Reproductive Health

ACOG Committee Opinion No. 651: Menstruation in Girls and Adolescents: Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign. Obstet Gynecol. 2015 PMID: 26595586

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Karina helps you to find balance, health and general well-being and to live your best life. Through her personal and individual integrative nutrition programme and hormone health coaching, she helps and supports women to find their personal balance, well-being and happiness from within and to implement this as a lifestyle.

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