The Menstrual Cycle

It has been said that the human female reproductive cycle is one of the most elegant examples of endocrinology in the animal kingdom. We do not have a breeding season and, with some other higher-order primates, are the only animals that menstruate.

Historically, and for women as hunter-gathers, menarche occurred later and menopause earlier. It was also normal for lactation to continue for three to four years. As a result, women would have five to six children. Consequently, because of protracted amenorrhagia, women would experience only thirty menstruations in their lifetimes.

This is a very different picture to that of the woman of today, who will experience 450 menstruations in a lifetime. Thus in evolutionary terms repeated

Advanced Clinical Skills for GU Nurses. Edited by Matthew Grundy-Bowers and Jonathan Davies © 2007 John Wiley & Sons Ltd exposure to menstruation is relatively recent. With this new-found biological state, however, come new health problems.



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