Growing up, when we learned that women can provide life to a new human being, a new entity through their bodies, we believed that there was nothing in the world they couldn’t do. We looked up to them as the messiahs of life, the angels of God, the messenger of angels, the bearer of life and the provider of existence.
However, not all superpowers are free of cost. Behind every cape lies the struggle of primitive living, behind every jewelry lies the toil of a goldsmith, behind every successful academician lies the perseverance of a teacher.
Similarly, behind the miraculous beauty of birth, there exists a 28-day long cycle to enable that process. The process of menstruation or monthly bleeding is a part of that cycle. It occurs when the eggs released from the fallopian tube break, instead of fertilizing and produce the blood which is gradually eliminated from the body, through the vagina.
This process of approximately 3-6 days is experienced differently by different women. For some women it’s mildly uncomfortable, for some it’s moderately painful while for others it may be unbearably distressful. Irrespective of that, this cycle impacts all women mentally equally.
It has a large impact on the psychological state of being and the mental health of women of all ages. 60% of females have accompanying symptoms and muscular cramps or irregular patterns of living as a result, but all of them face a massive shift in their psyche, as a result of the change in their hormone levels.
Hence, the menstrual cycle and its development is closely associated with our mental wellness and thus it is of utmost importance to take immense care of the physical as well as psychological aspects of a woman during her period.
Menstruation and Disorders :
There are certain physiological disorders that are heavily experienced by women during menstruation. They have a psychological, physical as well as behavioral impacts on the person. Some of them are Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Moreover, some women with hormonal disorders like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or Thyroid have additional distress during their monthly bleeding.
- Mood swings
- Heavy pain in the breast, lower abdomen, joints, back
- Sudden food cravings
- Fatigue and irritability
- Headache, followed by insomnia
- Development of acne and rashes on the face.
- Nausea and change in eating patterns
- Intense mood episodes
- Feeling of sadness, anxiety and anger that lasts for a long time
- Bloating, weight gain
- Depressive episodes
- Lack of concentration and attention
- Pain in pelvis, body muscles and heavy cramps
- Headache and sleepiness
- Nausea, diarrhea and breathing troubles
She is Power.
There are certain disorders developed by women based on their bleeding conditions :
- Abnormal uterine bleeding or profuse and prolonged bleeding for days
- Amenorrhea or complete absence of menstrual bleeding for months
- Oligomenorrhea or light and irregular bleeding
Some women can further develop Fibroids or clotting disorders, along with hormonal imbalances and cancer depending on their lifestyle and medication patterns.
Impact on Mental Health :
The continuous cycle of ovulation and menstruation that begin with adolescence and end with menopause almost seems like a lifetime process for womenkind. Hence its effect of their mental health is undeniable. Some major areas that this condition impacts are:
- Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms. The anxiety about the flow pattern, spillage in public, restriction of activities, monitoring frequent changes of products, constant fatigue reflected in all daily activities, irritability due to use of certain products etc. causes distress to a variety of women and young adults. Presence of a condition which disrupts the cycle can also cause immense anxiety about the apprehension of a forthcoming period among most women.
- Stress is also a commonly observed phenomena among females. They feel a constant fear and worry about handling their entire period of menstruation with care, tending to the physical as well as emotional discomforts.
- Bipolarity is observed extensively among women while they are bleeding. The mood swings ranging from euphoria to anger to sadness to excitement is quite strong and observable. The contrast from high energy to low energy, sleepiness to sleeplessness, loss of appetite to binge eating is very severe and affects their mental state unarguably.
- Depression or feeling low is often frequently observed among women on their period. They have a feeling of disillusionment and hopelessness, which might escalate to strains of depression. The persistent feeling of sadness, anguish and a loss in interest can also affect the mental health of women severely.
- Lastly, a heavy change in the life patterns like eating or sleeping or mood fluctuations, lack of energy, loss or gain of body weight, anemia are most likely to cause distress in one’s life.
Menstruation conditions in Rural areas:
The natural and biological process of menstruation is still considered a stigma among rural people. It is perceived as shameful, impure and dirty by men and women alike. It is an area of silence, where it is not to be discussed with family, code words or symbols are used to communicate about it, the young girls don’t get enough education about the process, it is rarely discussed in the schools.
Moreover, women are restricted to their homes, they are provided with a separate area for sleeping or changing, they are secluded from joining their family at the dinner table or during prayers. They are distanced from the kitchen and the guest rooms.
They are not allowed to attend school or meet friends. They are further trained to be ashamed of their body during menstruation and embarrassed of this process. They are diabolically asked to stay away from God or their fathers and perceive themselves to be filthy and impure.
This is further based on the medieval thoughts when women were kept away from household chores only to grant them ample care and rest during those days. The interpretation has now been twisted by men to serve their own fleeting superego.
This is utterly unfair and frowned upon. Shockingly, only 12% of the Indian population have access to hygienic sanitary products like pads or tampons. Most people in rural areas are unaware of safe and hygienic female products. They are forced to use cloth, cotton, rags, ash and even leaves to prohibit leakage.
They commonly use old rags ties with strings to soak the blood, and later rinse the stained cloth with soap to reuse it. This causes uterine infections and serious diseases even among young adults for the lack of sanitary menstrual habits. Most women cannot afford clean products, while others are completely unaware of its existence. This is not only a threat to their physical well-being but also dangerous to their mental health.
Bane of Inequality:
History is witness to the cases of the Sabarimala Temple riots and the Haji Ali protests, where women of menstruating age were not allowed to enter the premises of holy places. They were barred from entry based on their menstrual processes. Conservatives were of the opinion, that women unlike men do not posses the strength and will to worship the pious deity. Although the ban has been removed by the supreme court of India, it has not removed the shadow of superstitions and vile beliefs prevailing the country.
The lack of education and encouragement of narrow-minded thinking has led to these baseless beliefs. Medical experts, scholars and scientists from all over the country and the world have constantly provided records with respect to the natural and biological causes of menstruation and its role in childbirth, and yet instead of hailing women for enduring the pain and carrying the burden of childbirth, people reduce to levels of inequality and body shaming.
It is a shame to be born in a country where menstruation is deemed dirty, unhealthy and disgraceful. It is going to take the country decades to understand this beautiful, empowering process makes women superior, and not inferior to the other sexes. The impurity thus, only lie in the minds of those who call menstruation dishonorable.
Hence, this process shall be perceived as completely normal and beautiful, and women accepting it as a part of their lives should be respected and placed on a pedestal in the society.