What is a Menstrual Cycle?
By Tracee Cornforth, About.com
Updated: July 17, 2009
About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board
The menstrual cycle is how a woman's body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy each month. Your menstrual period is just one part of this cycle. A cycle's length is determined by counting from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. However, a cycle can range anywhere from 23 days to 35 days.
What Happens During the Menstrual Cycle?
During the menstrual cycle, an egg is released from the ovaries. While the egg is traveling down the fallopian tubes and towards the uterus, the uterus is building up a lining that consists of extra blood and tissue. The lining of the uterus will thicken and, if pregnancy occurs, blood vessels in the lining will enlarge to nourish the growing fetus. If the egg becomes fertilized by a sperm cell, the egg will attach itself to the uterine wall and a fetus will begin to develop. If the egg goes unfertilized, the thick lining that builds up during the menstrual cycle is not needed and is shed during your period. The unfertilized egg either dissolves or is absorbed into the body. After the period ends, a new menstrual cycle begins.
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