Girl flu- That time of the month (#PeriodAtWork)

For many cultures across the globe , the onset of puberty in a girl is an occasion to celebrate her inclusion in the fraternity of fertile females. The relative knowledge that she gets is often limited to the do’s and don’ts to be followed “during those days” associated to customs and traditions (don’t go near the puja room, don’t touch the pickle jar etc.) and related etiquettes. In earlier times, this inadequate information often kept the girls in the dark about crucial things like self care and hygiene practices . It also left out discussions about the associated health issues and corresponding preventive measures to be taken. Although the first period was a reason for celebration , menarche and sex were topics that were seldom talked about with young girls and always in hushed tones. The associated embarrassment and shame made it a taboo subject in the household for men and women. However, changing times have brought in a refreshing outlook in the way menstruation is addressed across age and gender demographics.

Girls experience various problems in the various phases of their life when they get their periods. My first encounter with the period problem was in school ,when I always dreaded it starting a day or two prior to Wednesday ,which is when we had our physical education period. I used to get jitters thinking about the white uniform ( the logic behind choosing white as the uniform color still has me perplexed!!!), the exercises and the male PE instructor. Friends played a pivotal role as spotters looking out for any spots after rigorous or basic movements. My experience of red on white came after a sneeze caused a blood rush which my pad was not able to contain ,and it swiftly announced to the entire class of sneering boys and girls that it was that time of the month for me. As a quick fix, a friend of mine loaned the cotton cloth that she had brought as a precautionary measure and I was sent home immediately. Being used to pads, the choice of the cloth proved to be a horrible decision as I soon got a vaginal infection. The next period problem that I faced was during the time where I was focusing on building my career. The late nights , the erratic work and meal schedules threw my endocrine system out of track and brought with it issues of irregular and painful periods, PCOS and menorrhagia (excessive bleeding). Remedial measures of painkillers and doctor prescribed hormonal pills to regularize the periods were adopted , but this did not help me foresee the problems I would have to face during conception. There was also the intangible effect of dealing with these issues at the workplace where the colleagues and bosses were not always empathetic and considerate . There was a constant pressure to perform even during painful days of my period which clashed with important scheduled meetings or events . The fear of being sidelined in an already gender prejudiced society made it even more stressful ,which threw my entire reproductive and endocrine system in a vicious cycle of menstrual disorders .

Looking back at my experiences makes me appreciate the current times where there is more directness in talks about menstruation. Proper education and the awareness created through print and social media have ensured more and more girls being empowered ,which in turn have increased their confidence levels to tackle period problems. Although the wheels have been set in motion ,there is still a long way to go before the socio-cultural stigma around menstruation can be totally removed and the effects it has on women and girls both tangible and intangible (girls dropping out of school on attaining puberty) can be reduced. A two pronged approach would have to be strategized ,wherein the first plan would be to address the physical angle related to menstruation. Bad hygiene practices during menstruation can sometimes cause major health complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and toxic shock syndrome. Not to mention the effect it has on women’s emotional state, mentality and lifestyle. Governments and local regulatory authorities must emphasize on ensuring easy availability of feminine hygiene products in urban and rural areas as well as spreading awareness on proper handling and disposal of these products. Provision of proper water, sanitation and hygiene facilities should also be given preference.

The second plan would be about dealing with menstruation from a psychological angle. This would involve introducing sessions in schools and offices to evaluate knowledge levels and understandings of puberty, menstruation, and reproductive health. Men and boys can also be roped in such awareness programs so they can support their female counterparts. Awareness generation can also be undertaken by various NGO’s or any informed member in family or friends circle so that the final result of information transference and implementation is attained. Such a multi-dimensional approach can further disseminate this knowledge in the community and mobilize social support against busting menstruation related myths and accentuating the challenges and struggles girls face and the need for normalizing period talk.

 

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