Menarche is the beginning of the menstruation or first time vaginal bleeding for adolescent girls. It is the beginning of the fertile window in the lifecycle of females.
It is also one of the signs of puberty and an important marker of a functional HPA Axis. In Ayurveda, Menarche is termed as Rajopravatii, beginning at a usual age of 12-13 years.
Menarche age may vary in girls, sometimes being as early as 10 years and as late as 15 years depending on their Prakriti, diet, and lifestyle. Early onset and late onset of menstruation have both been stated as health concerns in Ayurveda.
Parents should be watchful of the diet and lifestyle of their young daughters as they cross this vital window of change in their Body and Mind.
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Menstruation – A Regular Menstrual Cycle is the Best
Menstruation is cyclic physiologic uterine bleeding due to the shedding of the endometrium. This is due to the interplay of hormones mainly through the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis.
Menstruation does not occur in young girls because their yoni or reproductive system is yet not developed. As the children grow older, their body organs and bodily systems such as the Immune system, the Neural system, and the reproductive systems undergo development as well.
The organs and the body systems attain maturity at adulthood, where their body has maximum strength and endurance.
In Ayurveda, the menstrual cycle is known as Rituchakra or Artavachakra. The word ‘chakra’ signifies its regular onset at regular intervals, just like a cycle or wheel. A single Rituchakra covers a period of one lunar cycle of 28 days.
What is the right age of Menarche?
An age window of Menarche has been defined between 10 and 16 years with a peak time of about 13 years. The onset of menses denotes an intact hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis, functioning ovaries, presence of responsive endometrium to the endogenous ovarian steroids, and the presence of a patent utero-vaginal canal.
The important controlling factors for onset of Menarche are below. It has been observed that a girl living in urban areas with good nutrition, adequate body weight, and whose mother and sisters have early menarche, starts puberty early.
- Nutrition – Malnourishment delays Menarche
- Body weight – Obesity promotes early Menarche and / or Menstrual Disorders
- Psychological state – Stress leads to early Menarche
- Exposure to light – Vitamin D is essential for functioning of reproductive system
Statistical data states that the age of Menarche has gradually decreased by about 4 months in every 10 – year interval.
Prakriti and Menarche
All three Dosha play a role at different stages of the menstrual cycle. Kapha Dosha sows the seeds towards the growth of the endometrial layer. Vata Dosha lets the ovum out of ovaries and moves it to Uterus.
Pitta Dosha allows the build of the uterine layer as it controls the blood tissue.Vata Dosha lets the menstrual discharge out of the reproductive system. Here is how different Prakriti females experience their menstrual cycle.
- Kapha prakriti has late Menarche. Menstrual cycle is usually accompanied by weight gain and lethargy during menstruation.
- Pitta prakriti has early Menarche.
- Vata prakriti has irregular menstrual cycle and usually painful.
Is Your Menstruation Healthy?
The normal length for menstrual cycles is between 21 and 35 days. While most periods last from 3 to 5 days, duration of menstrual flow normally ranges from 2 to 7 days. For the first few years after Menarche, irregular and longer cycles are common.
- A healthy menstrual cycle is regular with stated length and cycle duration.
- Healthy menstrual discharge is pain-free and symptom free.
- Healthy menstrual blood is bright red in colour, not scanty, and neither excessive. It does not stain clothing.
In Ayurveda, also the importance of Ahara (Diet) and Vihara (Lifestyle) for the women during menses have been stated. It is termed as Rajaswala Paricharya. These guidelines have been practiced by females for hundreds of years to prevent and manage menstrual disorders.
An early Menarcheal age is associated with increased risk for breast cancer, obesity, endometrial cancer, and uterine leiomyoma.
Late Menarche has its own complications which may range from malfunction of HPA axis, reproductive organs and systems disorders. Late Menarche also puts health of the adolescent at risk through weak bone density, osteoporosis, and related bone health complications.
Some of the common menstrual disorders are:
- Irregularity in the menstrual cycle
- Premenstrual pain and discomfort – PMS
- Pain and discomfort at the time of menstrual discharge – Dysmenorrhea
- Heavy menstrual discharge – Menorrhagia
- Absence of the menses without any reproductive organ disorder
- Long duration of menstrual discharge, which also leads to further complications as Anemia
- Consume simple, freshly prepared and hot food items. Try adding spices such as Ginger, Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander, and Cinnamon.
- Hydrate the body with warm teas such as ginger tea, lemon tea with honey, cumin, coriander, and fennel teas.
- Maintaining the balance of Doshas even at the time without menstruation is important. The better way to maintain Doshas in equilibrium is to do yearly cleanse. Seasonal cleansing is a highly effective way to balance and rejuvenate all bodily tissues so that they function optimally.
- Practicing Pranayama for balancing the mind as it helps to equalize the right and left sides of the brain and Yoga as per the constitution will keep your body strong and energetic.
Young Adolescents Education – Menarche
Mothers, media and school health programs must teach young girls, before and at the age of Menarche on various health topics as below. These discussions are aimed for girls to feel free to discuss menstrual matters without any inhibitions.
- Normal physiological aspects and its implications
- The facts of menstruation
- Development of secondary sexual characteristics
- Selection of a sanitary menstrual absorbent, and its proper disposal
- Also, the production of the sanitary napkin can be taken up by women self-help groups as women/adolescent girls should be aware of how to use old cloth hygienically.