The female reproductive system is responsible for multiple functions like having monthly periods, becoming pregnant and having children, and even having those period-related chocolate cravings and mood swings. The external reproductive system (which includes all the visible aspects) includes the major labia, minor labia, vagina, and clitoris. Also remember there is a separate opening in which you urinate called the urethra; this is different from the vagina. Therefore, you can wear a tampon and also have the ability to urinate/pee because the “pee hole” and the “tampon hole” are two separate things. The internal reproductive system (which includes all the invisible aspects) includes the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. These organs are important for regulating your periods every month. In addition, when women become pregnant, the baby grows inside the uterus.
So how does a period actually work? It all has to do with our female reproductive system that works through a monthly cycle. At the beginning of the cycle, women bleed/menstruate because the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) sheds. Then, thanks to the hormone estrogen, the lining of the uterus starts to grow again over the next couple of weeks after the period. About 2 weeks after the period, there is an ovulatory phase; this essentially means the ovaries release an egg that travels to the uterus. It is at this time that there comes a crossroads. If sperm is present, the egg and sperm will fertilize to make an embryo which eventually becomes a fetus and pregnancy occurs. If there is no sperm, the body goes through a phase in which another hormone, called progesterone, takes over. This phase, the luteal phase, is where women get prementrual syndrome aka PMS aka when women can tell their period is about to happen. Symptoms like moodiness, food cravings, and breast tenderness occur; and at this point, most women know that Aunt Flow is about to make her monthly visit. The cycle then starts all over again when women have a period once again. Overall, women’s menstrual cycles last from 21-35 days, so don’t be alarmed if your periods aren’t exactly every 4 weeks. Everyone’s body is different, and if your period comes after 3.5 weeks or 5 weeks, don’t sweat it!