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Do you remember when you got your first period and how scared you were? Even in 2020, why are women still shy of talking about something so normal?
One of my friends recently asked,”When should I broach the topic of menstruation with my nine-year-old daughter?” And I told her, as soon as possible. These days, some girls as young as nine years are also starting their period.
So it is better to introduce the topic to your child as soon as possible given the chances of her getting her period at nine is highly likely. Why wait till she actually gets it and panics at the sight of her bloodstained panty?
I am the youngest of four daughters and I am well into menopause now. But I remember when my eldest sister got her first period, she was terrified. She hid her bloodstained panties but our maid found them and informed mother. My mother immediately explained in great detail and put an end to her fear.
I was only eight at that time so I didn’t know what transpired. And I learnt of this incident this much later when my sister shared her experience with me. By the time I started my period, I was already well prepared. When I saw the blood on my panty for the first time, I knew that I got it and told my mother who showed me what I had to do.
When my two daughters started growing older, I shared everything about periods with them when their underarm and pubic hair started to grow. This is the very first sign of the onset of puberty. To do that, I used a simple method.
I bought a book on body parts and let my children read it first. Then I sat down with them and told them about the changes their bodies would undergo as they started to grow older. I gently took them through the changes in their uterus and told them why periods happen.
It is vital for parents to make the whole thing a normal process instead of making their daughters feel that periods are something kind of dirty secret. Parents need to tell their children that it is okay to talk about their periods. The talk on periods is becoming more public now thanks to awareness campaigns but a lot remains to be done.
It is much easier to start the talk on periods with children these days with the easy availability of resources like the Menstrupedia video and comic book. I had in fact gone to a local school close by. It’s a Tamil medium school. And through the video, I was able to educate both the boys and girls about menstruation.
It is important to educate our boys about this too, so that the ‘mystery’ and stigma attached to periods is removed from young minds. I did the session from grades five till grade ten. After the video was done, I sent the boys out and had a question and answer session with the girls. I am glad I did that because I was able to put many of their fears to rest.
Taboos like, asking the menstruating girl to sit away from the rest of the family for the duration of her period as she’s ‘impure.’ Or touching pickles and any other food items as a touch from a menstruating girl will spoil it. The menstruating girl isn’t allowed to touch any of the other members of the family or enter the pooja room or the temple. They are also forbidden from having head baths as it is believed, it would cause problems in the uterus.
But, none of these hold ground. These are based on blind superstitions and should be disregarded. I have not followed any of the above and nothing has ever happened to me in all the forty odd years that I have menstruated.
It is really up to us women to bring about changes. We need to change the way we talk to our children to both boys and girls. Keep the conversation open so children don’t feel scared of asking questions about their bodies.
The only way society can evolve is for us to pave the way for future generations. Young girls and women are still suffering social stigma because of a very normal biological function called periods.
I remember our grandmother telling us that the reason women were asked to stay away from the kitchen for three days. According to her, it was to ensure that they got a good rest from all the household chores. Those three days were meant to help them get rejuvenated before they took up their duties again. In those days most people lived in joint families and there was always someone else to take up the work when one of the women was menstruating.
Today there are better menstrual products in the market. Washable cloth napkins and the menstrual cup. Cloth napkins work exactly like the disposable ones. The only difference is that these pads have to be washed thoroughly and then dried in direct sunlight.
But the best product I would personally recommend would be the menstrual cup. It’s made of flexible medical grade silicone rubber, perfectly safe to use. I used it for 6 years and faced no problem whatsoever.
Gynaecologists have also given the thumbs up to it. These cups if maintained properly will last up to 10-12 years. It has to be sterilised the first time before use. Then, it has to be sterilised in hot water after every use, packed away in a clean cloth bag and put away till the next period. It is simple to use. There are many instructional videos online to help get started.
I hope you found this post useful.
Picture credits: Still from Whisper’s BreakTheSilence Campaign
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