What is the purpose of the menstrual period?

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These are excellent answers, but I will add that many modern women take some kind of birth control, and much of this birth control involves hormonal ways to eliminate menstruation, and pregnancy, but this can be used to prevent heavy periods in women who suffer from them.
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Approximately every twenty eight days women of child bearing age drop an egg in the hopes that it will be fertilized by the male spermatozoa. This process is under hormonal control. If the egg is fertilized by the male, she becomes pregnant. If the egg is not fertilized, her menstrual period begins.

When a female has her menstrual cycle, her body is ridding itself of the shed uterine lining. The uterus in the female prepares itself for implantation of the fertilized egg. When this doesn't occur, the uterine  lining is shed as the menstrual cycle. Contained in the discharge of the menstrual cycle are blood cells, and the remnants of the uterine lining.

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Beginning at puberty and continuing until menopause, the menstrual cycle occurs each month. This cycle is approximately 28 days, although it may be slightly longer or shorter in some women. During this monthly cycle, the uterine lining, under the influence of hormones thickens. In the event an ovum(egg cell) is fertilized in the oviduct, this egg will eventually travel to the uterus and implant in the uterine lining and continue to develop until birth. However, if the egg that month is not fertilized, it will disintegrate. The uterine lining which is no longer needed, will break down and be shed. This is called menstruation. After menstruation, the cycle will repeat the following month and every month thereafter during a woman's reproductive years. The only time the  menstrual cycle ceases during this time frame, would be when a woman is pregnant.

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When a woman menstruates, the lining of the uterus is being shed and this is why there is bleeding. The reason that this happens is because she did not become pregnant during the menstrual cycle. In other words, a fertilized egg was not implanted in the uterus.

Certain hormones that are responsible for keeping women healthy are regulated during the menstrual cycle as well. An example is estrogen, which helps bones to be strong and healthy.

The cycle starts on day 1 of the first period and starts over again on day 1 of the next period. An average menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days, although this varies.

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The purpose of the menstrual period (if you mean just the part when a woman is actually menstruating) is to get rid of the lining of the uterus in the event that no child is conceived during that particular cycle.

Each month, a woman's body prepares her uterus to receive a fertilized egg.  The uterus must build up a lining in which the embryo would rest and from which it would get its first nutrition if it were to be fertilized.  If no egg is fertilized (if the woman does not become pregnant) there is no need for the lining of the uterus and it must be expelled.

Please follow the link for a more detailed discussion of this topic.  The discussion includes a more detailed description of what happens during the rest of the menstrual cycle.

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