What Is Menstruation? - Definition & Cycle

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  • 0:00 What Is Menstruation?
  • 0:28 Why Is it Necessary?
  • 0:51 The Menstrual Cycle
  • 2:32 Symptoms
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Chamberlain

Katie has a PhD in Microbiology and has experience preparing online education content in Biology and Earth Science.

Menstruation is a natural process that is part of a woman's reproductive health. To learn why it happens and how it fits into the menstrual cycle, check out this lesson.

What Is Menstruation?

Menstruation, or a menstrual period, is the periodic shedding of the lining of a woman's uterus. It is one of the phases of the menstrual cycle. The uterine lining breaks down into a bloody substance. It then passes down through the cervix and exits through the vagina. The process usually lasts from three to five days. The amount of menstrual blood can vary from period to period and from woman to woman.

Why Is it Necessary?

The uterus is the womb that will cradle a fetus as it grows. A fertilized egg will implant here, and it is important for the uterus to have a nice fresh supply of nutrients and goodies to help the egg during early development. But, the uterine lining has an expiration date. If the woman does not become pregnant, then the lining is cleared out during menstruation so that a fresh one can be built.

The Menstrual Cycle

The cycle of building and shedding is called the menstrual cycle. A typical cycle is 28 days, although cycles from 21 to 45 days can often occur. Females do not have periods until puberty. The average age for a female's first period is age 12. The menstrual cycle continues regularly until menopause occurs, around age 50. The menstrual cycle also ceases during pregnancy.

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