New Delhi: Undoubtedly, period awareness has increased in urban areas, with more women opting for sanitary pads rather than cloth, and not only women; people, in general, have developed a better understanding of menstruation in metro areas. Innovations in products are happening, like menstrual cups, menstrual discs, and much more. Filmmakers like R. Balki (who made 'Padman') have also shifted the set paradigm to a great extent. However, there is still a considerable segment of the female population who is subjected to menstrual prejudice.
Unfortunately, society identifies women as the other half, but only for specific, indoor-bound duties, highlighting the biological difference as a mark of inferiority. Menstruation and its debilitating nature, though a reality, are often hushed. To commemorate Menstrual Hygiene Day, one must acknowledge that menstruation is a natural part of life and that the taboos around it must be eliminated.
Thousands of women and girls are stigmatized, alienated, and discriminated against simply because they menstruate. According to a survey, taboos such as not being allowed to touch pickles, not working, exercising, not allowed to enter the kitchen or touch common food items or utensils, not washing hair, not having sex during menstruation, not being allowed to touch plants, and others are still prevalent.
Even now, in the year 2022, women are still instructed to isolate themselves during their periods rather than treat them as a normal thing. Moreover, when most girls get their first periods, they are left hanging out to dry, although they have no idea what their bodies are going through. This is especially true in rural and remote areas. In many parts of India, girls are barred from receiving an education, making a living, and fully and equally participating in everyday life just because they have begun menstruation.
Raising awareness for proper period hygiene is the need
It is critical to raise awareness about menstruation and associated subjects so that it is seen as 'normal' rather than something to be ashamed of or hidden. When a girl begins menstruation, she is still quite young. Menstruation is difficult to deal with anywhere, but it is especially difficult in India. The majority of young girls in the country are not taught why they bleed for nearly a week every month or how to handle periods safely and hygienically when they are young.
To overcome these problems, girls should be provided with proper education and awareness to help them become emotionally and physically ready. The current scenario necessitates a more rapid approach to information dissemination and societal evolution.
Using a dirty or used cloth for periods regularly can cause reproductive system infections such as bacterial vaginosis or urinary tract infections (UTI), which can progress to pelvic infections.
Because these infections can spread to the pelvis, they might make it difficult to conceive or cause pregnancy issues such as preterm labour (leading to an early birth).
Poor local hygiene is one of the risk factors for cervical cancer, poor hygiene can increase cervical cancer risks in the long run.
It is critical that the usage of sanitary pads over cloth begins in elementary school. Girls in rural places should be given sanitary pads to encourage them to use them instead of cloth.
Girls should be educated in maintaining the highest level of hygiene during periods. It is because the pad absorbs more blood, sweat, and sebum as the menstrual flow is stronger during the day while you're active.
This creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, which is why wearing one pad for more than four hours every day is not suggested.
Because blood offers a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive during your monthly cycle, washing the vaginal area at least twice a day is recommended.
The vaginal organ is self-cleaning. It's crucial to protect the environment's natural flora, and using conventional soap or even specific cosmetic items for intimate hygiene can harm it. Ideally, the vaginal area should be washed with warm water and no soap.
Lack of access to high-quality hygiene products is a major impediment to reaching 100 per cent menstrual hygiene coverage in India.
In India, a major impediment to achieving 100 percent menstrual hygiene coverage is a lack of access to high-quality hygiene products. According to research, the majority of girls lack consistent access to high-quality menstrual hygiene products, with 88 percent of women and girls in India relying on improvised alternatives such as old clothes, rags, hay, sand, or ash.Furthermore, women and girls do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.
According to research, approximately 40 per cent of girls miss school during their periods. The type of absorbent used, lack of privacy at school, restrictions imposed on girls during menstruation, the mother's education, and the source of menstrual information were all found to be important factors in school absenteeism. Nearly 65 percent said it had an impact on their daily activities at school and that they had to skip class tests and lessons as a consequence of discomfort, anxiety, shame, and concerns about leakage and uniform discolouration. While access to menstrual products is critical, equal attention should be paid to the mental trauma that girls experience during their periods. Girls should receive comprehensive counselling on menstruation and other associated issues. Efforts should be made to eradicate period-related myths and shame.
(Dr. Shilpa Ghosh is Director & Senior Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynaecology)