Menstruation can be defined as the release of blood from uterus through vagina periodically at every month. That is why it is also known as period or monthly. It occurs due to hormonal changes in the body. Estrogen and progesterone are the hormones released by the ovaries causing the lining of uterus to build up. If no embryo implants, then the lining of uterus sheds releasing blood. During menstrual cycle, hormones make the eggs in the ovaries mature that means it is ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell. These hormones make the uterus lining thick and spongy. Average menstrual cycle is 28days.When girls get to an age of 12-15years they go through puberty and start to menstruate. Menstrual flow might last two to seven days; it is not same for every woman. The beginning of menstruation is termed as menarche. Long cycles are very common for the first few years.
The menses phase typically lasts from day one to day five when the lining of uterus is actually shed out through vagina if pregnancy has not occurred. Painful muscle cramps in the stomach, back and thighs are common and a normal part of menstruation cycle. The pain can start a day or two before period occurs. Heat therapy can be used for relief from this period pain. Change in regular period cycle indicates a medical condition. Some health conditions can also cause bleeding. High level of stress can cause frequent periods or completely missed ones. Period blood may appear pink in color at the beginning or end of the period indicating that the blood has mixed with cervical fluid, diluting its hue. Sometimes the color of the blood may appear a shade of brown to dark brown or even black that can be seen throughout your cycle it occurs when blood takes extra time to exit the uterus, it oxidizes. There are different ranges of normal bleeding- short, light and heavy periods. Diet can make periods heavier as there are some foods that can cause periods to be heavier and longer than the normal. Most women will lose less than 16 teaspoons of blood during their period, though average blood discharge is around 6 to 8 teaspoons. Periods usually start to become less frequent before they are to stop. Sometimes it can stop suddenly. When a woman stops having periods, it is termed as Menopause.
“Healthy “periods can have slight odors of blood which are not noticeable to others. Good hygiene practices can combat this smell. Because of the smell of menstrual material, sexual intercourse during menstruation can affect negatively the man’s sexual desire. While women are not able to conceive whilst on their period, sperm can survive within female reproductive system. Thus it can be said that there is a chance of becoming pregnant from unprotected sex during the period also.
There are many taboos and myths related to the menstruation that exclude women from many aspects of socio-cultural life. Such taboos have impact on girl’s emotional as well as mental state; most importantly on health and lifestyle. These are mainly compounded by lack of knowledge regarding puberty, menstruation and reproductive health among girls. A strategic approach must be followed to combat this social challenge. Culturally, menstruation is still considered as dirty and impure. In Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in normal life when she is on her period. There are a lot of superstitions regarding menstruation prevailing globally which contributes to gender-based taboos and discrimination. These myths, as a result, make harder for women to talk openly about their period leading to silence, shame and misconception among them.
In India, these are the few myths mentioned below:
· Can’t enter place of worship
· Can’t enter kitchen or cook food
· After fourth day or after washing hair, can enter place of worship
· Must wash hair on the very first day to clean yourself completely
· Washing hair while menstruating will make the flow lesser and affect fertility later.
The origin of the myths dates back to Vedic times. In Mythology, there is a story which tells why women got their period and it is linked to Lord Indra who had killed a sage and to protect himself he divided his burden of crime to the trees, earth, water and women. He had to curse them all in one go with a blessing in return. Thus, the last part of the curse had been given to women in form of menstrual cycle and in return, they got blessing of bearing a new life inside them too.
The need of the hour is to combat with these prevailing myths and removing this taboo from the society. Our PM has mentioned about the sanitary pads showing concern about the women’s health. This is a good sign that our government is also pondering on this crucial topic of menstruation. One of the leading food delivery organizations has decided to provide “period leave” of 10 days to the women. These changes need to be welcomed by the society then only we can empower women. Various awareness programs must be organized to inculcate knowledge about the menstruation among each and every individual instead of merely making it a taboo. This is the important topic of topmost concern which need to be talked openly for the betterment of women’s health.
President, WLS Club