Menstruation or period is a physiological process of the women’s body in which the uterus sheds hormones, chemicals, terminated eggs and blood with its thick lining for around seven days every month. On easy terms, it can be stated as the bleeding of our vaginas. This process occurs naturally and is a testimony of a woman’s good reproductive health. But in so many developing countries, this natural process is considered either as a taboo, a diseaseor as a situation to be ashamed of. According to Water Aid, 10% of women in India and 48% of women in Iran believe that menstruation is a disease (Water Aid, 2013, Menstrual Hygiene Matters).
I belong to a properly educated family where I was taught about menstruation, its importance and dos and don’ts during the time. This is why, when I see reports and studies about menstruation being a taboo or a disease, I feel surprised. There are significant reports that during adolescence, a significant decrease in the number of female students are observed in schools than male students. The sole reason behind this is menstruation. Most parents advise their daughters to stay back home on those particular days. Reports also indicate that, it makes the young female students grow hatred towards menstruation and consider it as an obstacle in their lives. But menstruation makes us stronger, not weaker!
I do not know how much of a help can I be off to the girls out there but I want to try at least. As a girl/lady/woman, I find it to be my duty to spread the basic knowledge about menstruation and it’s hygiene to both men and women.
The onset of menstruation is, when a girl is around 12 years old and on the verge of hitting her puberty. The first symptom is the white colored vaginal discharge. After its occurrence, the girl should speak to her parents about it and start preparing herself mentally and physically for her first period.
- She should keep sanitary pads in her school or hand bag.
- If she does not have a habit wearing underpants all the time, then she should carry underpants in her bag for any emergency situation.
- She should have a thorough understanding of the premenstrual symptoms (PMS). To be honest, most adult women should have proper knowledge on PMS to be fully prepared on that time of the month. Some of the common symptoms are- abdominal bloating, pain (headache and backache), irritability, overwhelmed with emotion, breast swelling or tenderness, insomnia and binge eating and sleeping.
- She should keep herself as clean as possible. Regular showers and comfortable clothes are a must. She should drink fluids (water, fruit juices) to keep her body hydrated.
The above mentioned are the major areas to be conscious about during or before our menstruation. But other important issues like regular and irregular menstruation and their impacts in a woman’s body need to be properly understood and if needed, need to be consulted with the gynecologists. A gynecologist is a doctor who treats all kinds of diseases and problems of women’s reproductive organs and overall reproductive health.
Regular menstruation: When the menstrual cycle of a woman is regular with a couple of days late or early, then they are considered to be regular periods. They include abdominal pains which can be minimized by having painkillers.
Irregular menstruation: Sometimes, the cycle is late for 10-15 days. This is not serious but if the period is late for a month or several months, then consultation with the gynecologist is necessary. Otherwise, simple negligence can lead to a bigger complication in life later on while conceiving a child.
Menopause: It refers to the ending of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It occurs when a woman is between 45-50 years of age. If any kind of stoppage of menstruation occurs before this age and lasts for several months, then consultation with the gynecologist is a must.
Materials to use as menstrual pads/clothes: In rural areas- leaves, cow dung and mud are used as sanitary materials. These are locally available to use but possess high risk of contamination. Clothes or reusable pads are comfortable to use but both of these need to be properly washed and dried after and before using. Tissue papers are sometimes used but for a longer duration, they tend to fall apart or loosen causing the individual to feel immensely uncomfortable. Tampons and sanitary pads in contrast to the all of the above are the best choices for managing menstrual bleeding. Starting from being hygienic to being comfortable, tampons and sanitary pads are considered to be the best. But they also need to be changed frequently so that the vaginal area does not have bad odor or does not become damp.
There are some important don’ts to follow during menstruation regarding the usage of sanitary pads/clothes/tampons etc.
- Using unclean sanitary materials- It can create contamination ultimately causing complicated diseases.
- Infrequent changing of pads- It can lead to yeast and bacterial infections due to damp environment.
- Improper disposal of sanitary materials- It can cause environmental pollution as well as bad odor to the surroundings.
- Not washing hands after changing- It can cause viral infections like- Hepatitis B because the hands are contaminated with the discharged elements and spreading of those to the other parts of the body can be deadly.
All these cautions and preparations are just to have a healthy period and healthy life. These may seem tiring and complicated to follow in our busy day to day activities but these are parts of our basic hygiene during menstruation. Men should also have the basic knowledge about menstruation so that they can be of help to their daughters, wife, sisters and friends in their emergency situations.
Lastly, as a woman, I would like to shout out to all my girls who take and understand period as their strength and do not shut themselves down during the process. And, to the girls who are confused and shy about periods, DON’T BE!
Tahiya Islam completed her graduation from the Department of Pharmacy of East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is currently living in Selangor, Malaysia. Apart from her love for writing, she has a knack for public speaking as well . Her career goal is to become a teacher and be a motivational speaker.