Contributed by – Dr. Snehal Singh
Menstruation or more commonly known as periods is a natural phenomenon but is still considered a taboo. A lot of people are ashamed of even saying the word out loud, thus the word periods ends up in hush hush whispers and so does various issues related with.
What we don’t realise is that we are actually encouraging a lot hurdles for women. Talks about periods and sanitary pads do not see the light of the day, they are pushed over in the dark corners of stigma and shame. The very society that all women are very much a part of treats them so differently.
Every girl bleeds it is only natural and very part of puberty. It is time for some introspection and to answer questions together as a society. Let us together embark on the journey of debunking some common myths related with menstruation.
Menstruation – A Taboo
Myth – Menstruation is considered as a social taboo. It is not considered okay to talk or discuss about it with males or rather speak about it in the male company .
Fact – Menstruation is very much a natural process and we all know that. It actually signifies healthy reproductive health and any delay in menstruation after 15 years of age needs doctor consultation.
There is no harm in discussing about it, in fact it is very much necessary to create awareness about menstruation and talk about it freely. The risk of infections, improper protection during periods and reproductive ill-health in women increases due to unawareness, lack of proper knowledge and the reluctance to talk about it. Many women face menstrual problems which needs medical help and investigations, which is only possible with correct knowledge and giving the attention to menstruation that it deserves.
Menstruation – A Curse And Menstruating Women Are Impure
Myth – Although hard to believe it is the reality of our society, menstruating women are considered impure. A lot women have to face this humiliation every month, they are restricted from socializing or participating in common activities, entering places of worship and are not even allowed to enter in their own kitchens.
Fact – This myth is complete nonsense. How can someone who gives birth to new life be impure?
Menstrual blood flows due to shredding of the endometrium, which is the inner lining of the uterus. As a part of monthly cycle, ovulation occurs in the middle of the month. But when the egg is not fertilized, the uterus lining, which was prepared for the possible pregnancy, gets destroyed, which results in bleeding. So, in fact, the blood that flows out, is actually rich in nutrition and capable of giving life to the baby (had the egg been fertilized).
With this scientific base, menstruation is nowhere dirty and as a naturally occurring phenomenon the women aren’t impure either. Menstruating women are in fact, no different from others. However, certain cultural beliefs have prevailed in our society which restricts girls and women during periods.
Menstruation – Means No Bath Or Cooking
Myth – Menstruating women are impure and they are capable of contaminating water, food or pickles. Hence, women are not allowed to enter kitchen, handle or cook food or even bathe during periods.
Fact – Instead of living in the 21st century women have to face such discrimination. Women actually maintain high standards of personal hygiene during periods days but are still considered unfit to touch food in the fear that they might contaminate it. This is absolutely untrue, menstruating women are just like everyone else and do not carry any evil magical powers of contaminating food and water.
Proper cleanliness is required which makes bathing as it helps to stay clean and prevent infections. Using proper and clean menstrual protection is more important to reduce risk of infections and stay healthy. Also, these days swimming enthusiasts have various options like tampons, which reduces the risk of contamination.
Menstruation – Do not Participate In Physical Activities Or Sports
Myth – Menstruating girls or women are debilitated and cannot perform or participate in sports. They are often advised to avoid exercise and physical activities during periods.
Fact – Menstruating women are simply undergoing a normal process and it is practically impossible for women to miss schools, offices or stay away from their routine during periods every month. Participating in sports is completely an individual’s choice and women who can manage, need not restrict themselves just because of such myths. Little exercise can actually do good.
While it is true that some women may feel tired and have lower abdominal pain or cramps during periods, it is not necessary for all to experience the same. If you feel tired and have problems related with periods it is better to seek medical advice and do the necessary medical investigations to plan treatment options. Know your risk of anaemia and other menstrual problems with relevant tests.
Missing Periods Mean pregnancy
Myth – Missing periods mean that you are pregnant.
Fact – While it is true that women do not have periods once they get pregnant, it is not necessary everytime. Many young girls may have irregular periods during the initial years. It is also normal for some women to miss periods which can be related to hormonal imbalances, illnesses, stress or nutrition issues.
Missed or irregular periods can also be due to underlying medical problems which needs medical advice. Medical tests that determine hormone levels, risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, thyroid problems or other hormonal problems may be needed.
Do Not Eat Sour, Spicy Foods During Periods
Myth – Spicy, sour food must be avoided during periods, such foods can cause health problems and hamper with the periods flow.
Fact – Have all foods as per your preference, making sure you drink plenty of water and eat the right foods to meet your nutritional requirements. Some women experience nausea, vomiting during periods in which case an appropriate diet can be planned. While it is best to avoid processed, refined, sugary and fatty foods, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, whole grains, good fats and proteins is good for health.
To conclude, myths and unawareness can cause several social and health related problems for women. Times are changing and opportunities are open for both men and women. It’s about time that we free ourselves from the shackles of unreasonable social stigmas.
Let’s not feel shy instead make others realise that all women deserve a healthy environment to grow in. Spread the word of healthy and happy periods.