Girls in rural areas, in particular, miss school during the period days and subjected to stigma
AMN / New Delhi
A Recent research has revealed that about 71% of girls in India do not know anything about menstruation before their first period. The lack of awareness around her first period can put a young girl, sometimes as young as 10, through mental trauma and fear over what is happening to her. This when combined with a sense of shame that is instilled by the age-old stigma around a menstruating woman, can prove debilitating.
Approximately 80% of girls in rural India miss school for three to four days a month, coinciding with the start of menstruation. This is given the lack of awareness about usage of sanitary pads. A cloth is prone to leakage and staining and does not keep a girl comfortable or safe from infection during those days. The reasons for lack of sanitary napkins are many, affordability just being one of them.
“The myths and associated stigma surrounding menstruation are one of the many issues that girls and women face in India. In the rural areas, women and girls are still not allowed to discuss pain or other issues related to menstruation openly. They thus tend to suffer in isolation and skip school, college, and work”, said Padma Shri, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI and Dr Anita Kant Sr. Gynaecologist, adding that menstrual hygiene must be inculcated in them as early as possible.
“Lack of hygienic methods can lead to infections and even cervical cancer going forward. Apart from this, it is imperative to normalize periods as something as regular and common as any other bodily process,” they said.
Studies indicate that even mothers (about 70% of them!) consider menstruation as ‘dirty’ and ‘polluting’. They do not speak to their daughters about the subject or address their concerns.
Adding further, Dr Maj Prachi Garg Secretary IMA New Delhi Branch said, “The subject of menstruation, hygiene, etc. should not just be restricted to the female members of a household. There is a need to create awareness among the men in the family as well. It is also imperative to create an enabling environment in schools to educate girls and boys alike on this topic, especially in the rural areas.”
Some basic menstrual hygiene tips –
• Be it sanitary napkins, tampons, or menstrual cups, choose what you are comfortable in. Stick to one brand for one type of protection and understand if it suits you. Frequently switching brands can make you uncomfortable particularly because they address different kinds of flow and frequency.
• It is imperative to change the sanitary pad every 3 to 4 hours at least in the first two days. When blood stays for a long time in contact with air, it produces an unpleasant odour. Apart from this, it can also harbour microorganisms and cause infections of the urinary tract and vagina, apart from skin rashes.
• Avoid leaving tampons on for a long time as they can lead to what is called the toxic shock syndrome (TSS). It is a condition where bacteria infiltrate the body and cause severe infection that can send the body into shock.
• Clean yourself to keep away from infections and avoid bad odor. It is important to wash the vagina and labia well before you change into a new pad. If you cannot wash yourself before you change make sure to wipe off the areas using toilet paper or tissue.
• Do not use soaps or vaginal hygiene products. Soap can kill the good bacteria and make way for infections.
• Discard the used sanitary product properly. Used products can spread infections and can smell foul.