Menstruation or period is a natural part of women's reproductive health. It prepares a woman's body for motherhood. Regular menstruation means good reproductive health.
Although menstruation is a common part of our lives, it is shrouded in misconceptions which only makes the journey harder and can often be the reason behind premature death.
It is unfortunate that even in the 21st century, women in our country do not feel free enough to discuss menstruation.
The first phase of menstruation is called menarche. For girls in our country, menarche begins normally at the age of 12 to 15. However, menstruation begins earlier in developed countriesin contrast to developing countries.
Menstruation is a continuous process that normally takes place once a month and the process stops once menopause occurs. However,itis paused during pregnancy. The gap between the first period and the next period is 21 to 40 days for adults and bleeding continues for two to seven days.
The experience of first menstruation does not go well for most girls. As menstruation begins at the age of 12 to 15, most women experience their first period at a younger age. For some, periodsstart without any symptomsand the fear they feel when they suddenly see blood in their clothes is difficult to put into words.
In my opinion, the reason for the fear is that they are never mentally prepared for menstruation as teachers in school are not interested enough to teach them about it. Most of the time, they simply skip these chapters. Parents do not speak about it either because of internalized discomfort surrounding these topics.
But in some cases, premenstrual symptoms such as acne, abdominal bloating, clear or white vaginal discharge can be noticed. Although these symptoms help prepare a girl for her first period in some cases, it does not have the same impact as academic lessons from a textbook taught by a teacher or an informal conversation with parents.
The experience is different for every woman. The painful cramps during this time is known as dysmenorrhea. Women also suffer from pain in the pelvic or lower abdomen area. Many even experience severe back pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, fainting and fatigue.
Though these symptoms usually last no more than three menstruating days, the discomfortcan be severe enough to keep women from carrying out daily activities.
The menstrual cycle alters the production of numerous hormones in the body. As a result,different types of mental issues such as anxiety, irritability and mood swings may occur - making them unable to concentrate on work.
These mental problems, just like physical problems, can have an adverse impact on their work, study and household activities.
People in rural areas are still unaware of the importance of good menstrual hygiene despite it being critical for maintaining our health.
Menstruation was once thought to be a disease or a filthy practice. Women were barred from participating in many social programs and household activities while menstruating. They were shifted to separate rooms for those days.
Despite the fact that the situation has improved, village women continue to lack access to menstruation hygiene products such as sanitary napkins, menstruation cups, towels, sea sponges and so on. As a result, they are forced to wear unhygienic clothes for an extended period of time.
Even if they are experiencing problems such as irregular menstruation or heavy bleeding, they do not discuss these issues with anyone because they have been taught that these are private issues. This brings about complicated diseasessuch as cancer.
It is high time that awareness is raised regarding menstrual hygiene. To begin with, academic curriculums must include chapters on menstruation at the primary level so teachers can teach young pupils about it and givethem enough time to prepare mentally.
Second, many women experience difficulties when their period starts unexpectedly. Keeping a sanitary napkin dispenser in restaurants, offices and other suitable places can help to alleviate the problem to some extent.
Third, even in the city, girls get stared at whenthey go to the pharmacy to buy pads and the situation becomes uncomfortable.Mass education can play an important role in this regard which can be conveyed through several online and offline events.
As menstruation usually lasts for three to four days, granting a fixed leave per month will be very convenient for the working-class women of our country. Many countries like Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia have already offered unpaid menstrual leave to women.
Even Taiwan grants threedays of menstrual leave.Bangladesh should adopt the policy as well. If the leave is granted, the working women in Bangladesh will get enough access to handle menstrual cycle-related illnesses and go back to their workplaces with renewed vigour.
During menstruation, women experience excruciating pain and mental anguish. However, they continue to play their roles as mothers, sisters, wives and so on. Natural occurrences such as menstruation do not keep them away from household activities, social beliefsand working outside. We must all work together to provide the assistance that women require in these challenging circumstances.
The author is a student of theDepartment of English and Modern Language at North South University. She can be contacted at [email protected].