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Word Count: 587
Puberty - The arrival of the monthly friend The principle sign that a girl has become sexually mature and is capable of reproduction is the onset of menstruation a period of cyclic bleeding from the vagina Smith 1997 pg 217 This is one of the key physiological functions of the female body An ovarian or estrus cycle is characteristic of all female mammals but menstruation periodic uterine bleeding that accompanies the ovarian cycle occurs only in women female apes and some monkeys The average length of the menstrual cycle is twenty-eight days although somewhat shorter and longer cycles are quite common The day that bleeding starts is counted as the first day of a given cycle The menstrual cycle is controlled by mechanisms involving hormones released by the hypothalamus the pituitary and the ovaries The cycle has four stages the menstrual phase the preovulatory phase the ovulation phase and the postovulatory phase Refer to Graph One The preovulatory phase starts as soon as menstrual bleeding from the previous cycle has ended The anterior pituitary produces large amounts of follicle stimulating hormone FSH and a small amount of luteinizing hormone LH Under the influence of FSH an ovarian follicle begins to mature and produces in turn increasingly higher levels of estrogens In response to estrogen stimulation the uterine lining thickens with increased numbers of blood vessels and uterine glands In the ovulation phase at midcycle the ovum is released as LH production surges and FSH output decreases Gonadotropic hormones that control the output of ovarian hormones are in turn regulated by the level of ovarian hormones through a negative feedback mechanism Thus the increased level of estrogens depresses FSH production Following ovulation the follicle transforms into the corpus luteum yellow body which produces progesterone Around ovulation some women feel a twinge or cramp in the lower abdomen or back sometimes with vaginal discharge perhaps bloody This is called Mittelschmerz
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