I being a woman and a psychologist want to make people aware of what exactly is Menstruation or periods. Even in this 21st century people have some really bizarre ideas about it.

What is Menstruation?

Menstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.

What is menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is the recurrent approximately monthly menstruation. The menstrual cycle is the hormonal driven cycle; day 1 is the first day of your period (bleeding) while day 14 is the approximate day you ovulate and if an egg is not fertilized, hormone levels eventually drop and at about day 25; the egg begins to dissolve and the cycle begins again with the period at about day 30. Most periods vary somewhat, the flow may be light, moderate or heavy and can vary in length from about 2 to 7 days; with age, the cycle usually shortens and becomes more regular.

Problems associated with periods:

When does a girl usually get her first period?

In the United States, the average age for a girl to get her first period is 12. This does not mean that all girls start at the same age. A girl can start her period anytime between the ages of 8 and 15. Most of the time, the first period starts about 2 years after breasts first start to develop. If a girl has not had her first period by age 15, or if it has been more than 2 to 3 years since breast growth started, she should see a doctor.

How long does a woman have periods?

Women usually have periods until menopause. Menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, usually around age 50. Menopause means that a woman is no longer ovulating (producing eggs) or having periods and can no longer get pregnant. Like menstruation, menopause can vary from woman to woman and these changes may occur over several years.

The time when your body begins its move into menopause is called the menopausal transition. This can last anywhere from 2 to 8 years. Some women have early menopause because of surgery or other treatment, illness, or other reasons. If you don’t have a period for 90 days, you should see your doctor. He or she will check for pregnancy, early menopause, or other health problems that can cause periods to stop or become irregular.

Being a woman I undergo certain symptoms which occur repeatedly before the onset of menses and sometimes linger into first few days of menses like mood swings, feeling suddenly sad or tearful or increased sensitivity to rejection, irritability or anger to interpersonal conflicts, feelings of depressed mood.

Feelings of hopelessness or self depreciating thoughts and marked anxiety, tension and feelings of being on the edge. Some physical symptoms can also been seen like swelling of breasts, muscle or joint pain, sense of bloating and weight gain. Since these symptoms were regularly observed in all women from all parts of the world. So DSM-5(Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders – Fifth Edition) inculcated these symptoms and introduced a new disorder named Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

5 Top ways to beat the premenstrual syndrome

1. Exercise

Try to get 15 minutes of exercise a day, go outside and do a sport or activity that you enjoy. Exercise will relieve tensions, stretch your muscles and release feel-good hormones.

2. Sleep well

Get 8 hours of sleep a night and you will feel rested and full of energy to take on the day!

3. Diet

Eat a balanced diet. Avoid sugary, salty foods and caffeine. Fruit and vegetables will give you a good balance of vitamins and minerals. (However, we do feel that chocolate is a pre-menstrual necessity! Treat yourself!)

4. De-stress

Clearing your mind and relaxing your body will make dealing with stress and anxiety easier. Have a bath, do yoga or go for a gentle walk outdoors. Socialising is also great for treating low emotions or worry – company and conversation are great for improving your mood.

5. ‘You’ time

Make time in your day for some ‘you’ time, even if that is just reading your favourite book, enjoying a hobby or soaking in a hot bath.

Myths associated with periods
  • Women Will Contaminate Food

In parts of rural India, there is a myth that women cannot water plants or cook during their period because their “uncleanliness” will spoil the food. In a study done in a random school in rural India, 55 percent of girls surveyed believed they could not cook or enter the kitchen during and 4 days after menstruation or food would sour. While I’m all for more boys and men taking on household chores so that girls in India can get an education, this myth doesn’t help with that.

  • Showering Will Cause Infertility 

In Afghanistan, the word “gazag” means to become infertile. It’s said (in old Afghan tradition) that during the week a woman has her period she cannot wash or shower or she will gazag. You’re probably thinking this is gross. It is. And it’s more than that–it’s a major risk for infection.  In many places, including Afghanistan, it’s common for women to use cloth sanitary napkins. The benefit here is that it’s relatively inexpensive and a renewable way to manage periods. The downside is women are often ashamed to hang clean cloth used during menstruation outside with another laundry. So women hide and wear sanitary napkins for too long which cause’s infections deadly to reproductive health. This can all be fixed if social taboos over periods are eliminated.

  • Periods Are Debilitating For Women

Imagine someone telling you to miss work every month even if you don’t feel sick. Menstrual leave is a thing, and this one is more controversial than some others. Several countries in Asia, like South Korea, China, Japan, and Indonesia have laws providing women sick leave during their period. The debate here is whether menstrual leave for women is a form of discrimination or a medical necessity.

Periods taboos are more debilitating than anything menstrual cycles themselves. Lack of access to sanitary napkins, and knowledge on managing periods for girls and women is debilitating. But, periods are rarely a cause for necessary sick leave.

Yes, every woman experiences menstrual cycles differently, but only 20 percent of women report severe pain during periods. The other 80% of women reported no debilitating symptoms or pain. With the proper supplies and knowledge on how to manage periods, girls and women can be empowered to accomplish any task any time of the month.

  •  Girls Cannot Participate in Class

The chaupadi tradition is a practice in rural parts of Nepal where women are literally put in isolation during their period. Again the reason stems back to “being unclean.” Women cannot be in classrooms with other students while menstruating.

The myth goes back to the belief that a woman’s uncleanliness will anger Hindu goddesses. Dispelling myths like chaupadi where 16 percent of women in Nepal are forced from their homes into isolation is a task that will take effort, education and awareness.

  •  Women Can’t Enter Holy Temples

This myth exists in parts of the world ranging from Bali and India to Nepal. Women are believed to be “unclean” while menstruating and are thus not allowed to enter “clean” and holy places like temples. This is a form of gender inequality that limits women from the same human rights like freedom to practice religion that men have access to.

Girls and women menstruating are not unclean. They are normal, natural, and healthy. The myth that women cannot enter temples and holy ground is culturally controversial, and a sensitive issue. When women are treated differently because of a naturally occurring body cycle it creates shame, taboos, and humiliation towards periods that is deeply embedded into society. And that is the only thing that’s ridiculous.

  • Women Have “Cooties” That Make Men “Sick

In India and parts of Nepal (in alignment with the chaupadi tradition in Nepal). Myth number eight says that women cannot interact with or touch men because men will become sick by touching an “unclean” woman. Some 20% of girls in rural India believe they should not talk to a male member of the family during menstruation.

And 40% of girls in India learn about menstruation from their mothers. So, if external education is not provided these traditions will persist.

  • Menstruation Is a Disease in Iran

Longstanding stigmatization in Iran has caused a staggering 48% of girls to believe that menstruation is a disease, according to a UNICEF study.

But there is hope.

A 2012 study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information revealed that when young Iranian girls were given menstrual education, more than half of them started bathing when they had their periods, while others busted the erroneous misconception.

  • Pads Need To Be Kept Unseen and Apart From Other Trash, or Could Lead To Cancer

Traditional beliefs in Bolivia misinform young women and girls that the disposal of their menstrual pads with other garbage could lead to sickness or cancer, according to UNICEF. Because there’s still so much humiliation around the topic, many are told to keep their pads far away from the rest of the trash and are often led to collecting them in their bags during the school day until they get home.

The organization investigated 10 schools in Bolivia and identified that the two main challenges menstruating girls face include feelings of shame and limited access to private bathrooms. For this reason, UNICEF has implemented a massive menstrual education program in hopes of increasing access to proper menstrual products and sanitation facilities.

The bottom line is period taboos are not only crazy and ridiculous but they are a huge obstacle holding women back in many ways. It’s hard to believe these myths still exist all over the world today. But they do, and they need to be busted.

Awareness and education, especially for people in rural and developing countries, is necessary to empower girls and women everywhere. Together we can create a better world where girls believe periods are powerful, not shameful. The good news is there are people making a difference each day when it comes to eliminating period taboos. Arunachalam Muruganantham is a man in India who’s not afraid of social taboos. His own family ostracized him when he created a sanitary pad that cost $0.04 (USD). Arunachalam is just one of plenty of other men helping end period taboos.

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