Menstruation or Periods – Many of you must have awed reading the title. Not your fault though!
Someone has rightly said that no amount of cash or high-end luxuries can determine the largeness of the frame of the mind. While we continue to progress with a new technology everyday, the mentality of most of us is still limited to warding off the evil eye with brooms and flip-flops!
We all are brought up in a society where talking about one of the most natural and scientific phenomenon is a strict no-no. You might have guessed it by now. Yes, I’m talking about the Periods. You will see people staring at you in shopping malls if they see a packet of sanitary napkins uncovered in your cart. We all have witnessed that.
Menstruation is the natural part of the reproductive cycle in which blood from the uterus exits through the vagina, in a female body. It is a natural process that first occurs in girls usually between the age of 11 and 14 years and is one of the indicators of the onset of puberty among them. The menstrual cycle starts on the first day of the menstrual period (referred to as day one) and ends the day before the next period begins. While the length of the menstrual cycle is often 28 days, it can vary between women and from one cycle to the next. It is common for women to experience cycles that last anywhere from 20 to 40 days.
Menstruation – A taboo
Despite being a phenomenon unique to girls, this has always been surrounded by secrecy and myths in many societies. It has always been surrounded by taboos and myths that exclude women from many aspects of socio-cultural life. In India, the topic has been a taboo until date. Such taboos about menstruation present in many societies impact on girls’ and women’s emotional state, mentality and lifestyle and most importantly, health.
In addition to the many superstitions, India is also a rich source of many taboos. And one of the most rampant taboos in India is the notion of impurity attached with the natural female body process of menstruation. Eight of ten Indian girls are not allowed to enter religious shrines when they are on their period; six of ten girls said they are not allowed to touch food in the kitchen, and 3 of 10 are asked to sleep in a separate room. Menstruation taboos still have firm roots in Indian society; this was revealed in a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
Menstruation brings isolation for many women even today. They are treated as untouchables. They cannot be their normal self. Why?
It took me several years to realize that my body runs in cycles. It is called the menstrual cycle. The length of the cycle varies from woman-to-woman, which normally is somewhere from 20-40 days. Every month, about 5-7 days prior to my cycle starting, there are a lot of physical and emotional changes that happen in my body. From being irritable to tearing up for no reason at all, from being physically weak to then again being super energetic; these are all different phases of a woman’s cycle.
What is the cause of these moods? What happens within a women’s body during PMS (Pre-menstrual Syndrome) and during menstruation that causes these mood swings?
Certainly there are hormones in play and a hormone imbalance at work. PMS occurs before the cycle begins and there are certainly changes in moods during that time. Then during the period itself there can be serious mood alterations as well as after the period is over. These feelings that a woman experiences before, during and after her period can range from depression to anger to rage. It is the hormone estrogen that causes these changes in one’s mood. Women can go from feeling very good to feeling very bad in a very short period of time prior to her actual period. Some of these swings are minor but some of them are debilitating and devastating. This is known as PMS or Pre Menstrual Syndrome.
Here’s an easy explanation of what a woman goes through in her 30 days cycle.
|Days||The Chemical locha|
Low estrogen à Leads to fatigue
Uterine contractions à Lead to cramps
It is a good time to exercise gently.
Estrogen increases à Energy rises
You feel normal and up-beat
|6-9||High estrogen à skin glows
Good time to initiate your work
You’re at your sexiest, very optimistic and social
Most fertile period
|14||Ovulation (female ovary releases an egg)
If not fertilized, it dissolves
|15-18||Sudden hormone changes
Intense emotions and fatigue
Surged testosterone and progesterone
Pamper yourself and eat healthy
|23-25||Due to imbalanced hormones – PMS|
|26-28||Stay hydrated and get ready to do it all again.|
Not every woman suffers with these moods but a large majority does. Because the woman’s body is preparing for pregnancy during the menstrual cycle these brain chemicals are increased to accommodate that. When the woman does not become pregnant these chemicals are quickly reduced and this is the cause of the moods that women experience. During the time that estrogen is being produced in a large amount by the body, the lining of the uterus is increased and a woman can suffer many other symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle such as headaches, cramps, bloating, cravings, sore breasts and overall tension. All of these symptoms can contribute to the amount and the intensity of the mood swings and sickness during the period.
So now we know that menstruation is the most natural and scientific phenomenon occurring to a woman every month. Period-shaming gives tangible form and meaning to the extreme discrimination millions of girls have experienced, and continue to experience across my country. Let us get over this discrimination and live and let live.