Girls and women should not be ashamed of period. They should help each other cope with problems they face during the bleeding days
The world marked Menstruation Hygiene Day on May 28. Nepal has also begun to celebrate this day from this year. In this context, it is relevant to share some experiences of psychological changes one undergoes during period. Abdominal pain or pelvic cramping, lower back pain, sore breasts, food cravings, mood swing, irritability, headache, fatigue are the general symptoms of menstruation though not every single girl might suffer from all of these.
Many say period is bliss or that it is a natural process of reproductive health. Yes, it is bliss for it is a key to continuation of human progeny. But no girls enjoy period for it is never a pleasant experience.
I had a notion that period is only vaginal bleeding. I literally was unaware of any physical and psychological changes because nobody had shared this knowledge with me before I myself experienced it. I had seen my sister and mother washing bloody napkins and drying them under the sun covering them with thin cotton shawl. But I never dared to ask them what actually happens during period. I simply helped them by serving hot water, food, and medicine if needed. They didn’t share with me how exactly they were feeling.
When mother and sister had period at the same time it would be unlucky for me. I couldn’t cook and serve them food. “How lucky it would be to have a period,” I would think and longed for one.
And there it came one day. I saw red spots in my panty, brownish gray, dry blood spot. I ran to my mother and told her. I was feeling like I had fever. My mother checked my panty and confirmed. She was worried. I did not know why. She took me to an auntie’s home from where the roof of my home would not be seen.
I was taken there with my belongings. My mother and auntie whispered with each other. I was kept in auntie’s home for seven days. When a girl has her first period, she is normally not allowed to see the male members of her blood relation as well as the roof of her house.
I needed somebody to accompany me but I was left alone. I was given a dark room with a small window not big enough to pass sunlight in. I was alone, helpless and friendless.
I had no friend to share how I was feeling. I was uncomfortable with the blood in my panty. I suffered with pelvic cramping and lower back pain. I used to change 11 pads a day. On the seventh day, she came and took me back home and offered me tika and gifted me new piece of clothes. I felt some relief.
I was 13 when I had my first period. During the period I was forbidden to go to kitchen and share the same dining table with family members. I was not allowed to touch petals and buds in the garden. I had to use homemade sanitary pad and I was not supposed to dry it under the sun. This was disgusting.
Journey of pain
Period directly affects women’s mood. Having regular period means that our physiology is okay. But irregular period upsets me. I have irregular period. I generally have nine periods in a year. During the winter, delayed period would feel like a blessing for I would not have to wake up early in the morning and take bath in ice-cold water.
But when I have irregular questions regarding my gynecology haunt me. I had my last menstruation on 15 December. I waited for another to follow on January 15. I felt the symptoms. Every day it felt like I am going to have a period and I prepared myself accordingly. January passed and I was not bleeding.
I was stressed. I had a lot of significant things to do—working on assignments, preparing for exam and so forth. But I was worried about my psychology. “Is there anything wrong with my body?” February passed and I still had no period. This multiplied my stress. “Do I have gynecological problem? What’s wrong with my reproductive health?”
Every day I woke up counting days of missed period. Every day I prayed for period. I spent invaluable time surfing the Internet to find out the causes and cures of missed period. Most distressfully, I couldn’t share this with my friends not because they were indifferent to me, but because I was afraid they would misinterpret my case.
Then I went to the doctor. The doctor asked my menstruation history. She understood my case well and said that sometimes a period can be skipped because of weather c hange, travelling and stress. She took test of my blood and confirmed that I had no gynecological problem. I came back home with some reassurance.
Three days later, I had severe cramping and was sleeping in bed. When I woke up and went to washroom, I saw some gray blood in my inner wear. I smiled with happiness. It took me months to internalize the fact that we need to share our problems with others during the period. One needs to be listened to and counseled about psychological and physical changes during menstruation. Girls and women should not be ashamed of period. Rather they should help each other cope with problems they face during the bleeding days.
The author is pursuing Master’s degree in Global Journalism in NLA University College, Norway