5 Misconceptions around menstrual health in India
Menstruation is a highly misrepresented and stigmatized subject for how normal and natural it actually is. For time immemorial, menstruators have shied away from discussing this matter. They often go to great lengths to not let anyone know that they are menstruating in the fear that they will be looked upon with contempt and repulsion. It’s high time to dispel the taboos and stigmas surrounding menstrual health in India and give the menstruators the respect and dignity that they have always deserved.
Here are some of the misconceptions surrounding Menstrual Health -
- Period Blood is Dirty Blood: Menstrual blood is not impure. Menstrual discharge is composed of blood, endometrial fluid and lining. The blood component of menstrual discharge is as pure as the arterial blood. The odor of the menstrual blood can be attributed to the fact that it is blood that has exited the body. Even the venous blood, once extracted from the body, will have a certain odor to it. There is absolutely nothing impure or shameful about this discharge.
- One should not exercise during menstruation: This is one of the most common misconceptions surrounding menstruation. There is currently no scientifically proven reason for refraining from exercising during one’s period. In fact, if at all, light exercise can be beneficial in reducing menstrual symptoms such as bloating, fatigue and cramps. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, thereby reducing the feelings of irritability, anger and sadness during menstruation. Exercise also helps improve blood flow within the body, which in turn reduces abdominal cramps and bloating. Physical activity boosts energy levels and is likely to contribute to a healthier and happier period.
- Every Menstruator experiences PMS: Premenstrual Syndrome is a combination of the physical and emotional symptoms that lead up to menstruation due to a sudden drop in hormones after ovulation. While PMS can be excruciating for some, for others it may be mild or practically non-existent. PMS affects different individuals differently, and so to think that all menstruators have to brave PMS each month is a misconception.
- Menstruators contaminate food: This is the myth that has passed on from generation to generation and is the primary reason behind menstruators not being allowed into the kitchen during menstruation. It is commonly believed that if menstruators are to cook food, then the food will turn impure. Plants will wilt upon their touch, pickles will spoil and many more such myths and baseless superstitions are being followed since centuries. There is undeniably nothing impure or undignified about menstruation, and as long as good hygiene and sanitation is maintained, there is no reason for any such discrimination against menstruators.
- A perfect menstrual cycle is a 28-day cycle: There is no such thing as a perfect cycle. Anything from a 21-35 day cycle is considered normal. Every body is different and there are several factors that contribute to the cycle length of an individual, such as their overall health that month, the foods they have consumed, their physical activity, etc. As long as an individual does not have any abnormal bleeding, no bleeding at all or any other menstrual abnormalities, any cycle ranging from 21 -35 days is considered normal.
There are typically two types of misconceptions surrounding menstruation, one stems from superstition and the other from lack of correct scientific knowledge. Both, however, can adversely impact the psyche of the menstruator, and therefore must be addressed. Going through discrimination and scorn for something that is purely biological is absurd and regressive to say the least. As we say at Ujaas, it’s time to change the ‘Psychle’ (the psyche as well as this vicious cycle of injustice and shamefulness associated with menstruation). Ujaas aims to break the misconceptions and myths surrounding menstruation and create an empathetic and kinder nation for menstruators.
How are the NGOs helping in spreading menstrual awareness in the rural areas? How is Ujaas helping in shattering stigma related to menstrual health?