Pain that Needs Healing

Breaking the taboo about menstruation

“She bleeds. 
She is unsafe. 
She is untouchable. 
Her menstrual blood is impure! 
But the irony is, 
It is the same blood 
That piles-up in different body, 
To hold them for 
So long nine months!” 
Priyanka Rathi 

Is she happy to bleed? Menstruation is still a phenomenon of embarrassment for most of the girls or women, why even to men in India. A very natural physical process is taught to be unholy, impure and disrespectful from their childhood to the girls of our country. The number of girls in India who are able to get proper protection during menstruation by overcoming social, religious and cultural barriers is really alarming. According to a government survey, 70 per cent of Indian mothers teach their daughters to be silent or not to talk or ask any questions regarding menstruation. Menstruation is still unusual or abnormal for 45 per cent of girls. As a result, the issue of primary hygiene and protection in rural and urban areas of India can be said to be completely neglected even today. Educated girls in rural as well as urban areas also abide by this provision. Today girls are actively and purposefully coming out of their residence having the social security, but are still silently following the rules of social untouchability by not touching fish, eggs, not entering the kitchen, staying away from delicious dish, not having the right to enter the temple on those days. If inadvertently blood stains on cloths the issue becomes shameful and harassing. While purchasing a sanitary napkin from a store, the storekeeper wraps it in a newspaper and filled in a black packet, which is very insulting.

Period or menstruation or whatever you call it is a natural process that effects the reproductive process of girls determined by the Creator. Scientifically speaking, it has to be explained a bit. The female reproductive system consists of two main parts. First, the uterus, where the fetus develops and the male sperm is transported to the fallopian tubes. The second major part is the ovary, which produces the ovum. Hormones are secreted from different parts of the body during the menstrual cycle. These hormones contain oestrogen and progesterone which make and regulate the body for pregnancy. Normally, ovum (egg) is released from the ovaries every 28 days, which enter the uterus through the fallopian tubes on either side of the uterus. If not conceived, the unfertilised egg and the lining of the uterus (endometrium) fall out of the body together in each cycle. This is called period or menstruation. For those who are not willing to understand such difficult things, in a word, menstruation is a natural process without which you, I would not have been born. Do you know how the menstrual cycle continues? The menstrual cycle can be described by the Ovarian or Uterine cycle. The Ovarian cycle describes changes that occur in the follicles of the ovary whereas the Uterine cycle describes changes in the endometrial lining of the uterus. Both cycles can be divided into three phases. The ovarian cycle consists of the Follicular phase, Ovulation, and the Luteal phase, whereas the Uterine cycle consists of Menstruation phase, Proliferative phase, and Secretory phase.



We need to understand the Uterine cycle which is divided into three parts, the first part lasts for an average of four days (4-6 days) and has a Menstrual phase, the second part lasts for 10 days (7-10 days), the Proliferative phase and the third part lasts for 14 days (10-14 days), called Secretory phase.[1] In the Menstrual phase, the combined action of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone causes blood to come out of the vagina, which we call the period. In the Proliferative phase, the uterus prepares to receive the fertilized egg only under the influence of the hormone oestrogen. The Secretory phase is caused by a combination of both the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. During this time the uterus is most prepared for the growth of the fertilized egg and if it does not, it goes back to the menstrual phase. In this way the menstrual cycle of full-grown girls continues till a certain age. After menstruation, girls are able to have fertility. Menstruation usually starts at any time between the ages of 9-13 years and stops normally at the age of 45-49 years. Girls menstruate every 24 to 32 days, i.e. on an average every 28 days.

[1]– Period-taboo-breaking-tips published on 29th December’2019.

According to the 4th National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) published in 2015-16, 69 per cent of girls in India use cloth, 2 per cent use cotton, 6 per cent can afford high quality sanitary napkins, and even 2 per cent use some form of ash to control bleeding.[1] Only 60 per cent of those who use clothes do not get a chance to change them more than once a day. In many cases, the economy is more important than superstition. Some girls in remote villages sit on the shells made up of coconut leaves all the day at this time, or make earthen balls and put them inside, so that blood gets absorbed. After a while she comes down to the pond to wash. Even if she uses rags, she needs Soap and Dettol to clean and disinfect that, but how can she buy? Then it should be dried in the sun. That too is a matter of shame! Men will see, men pass irrelevant comments. Anyhow in the corner of the barn, the clothes have to be dried in an unhealthy environment. As a result, it is horrible to imagine the level of infection.

Now a day, vending machines are being installed in schools, colleges and various places. However, it has not yet been possible to build the awareness in the cities that needs to set up vending machines. Countryside is far from it. But can the problem be solved by installing vending machine? From all these machines, three sanitary napkins are available for 10 rupees each. A teenage girl needs more napkins in one day. As a result, she can take sanitary napkins only if she can afford to spend at least 50-60 rupees for 5 days in a row. If the girls below the poverty line have this money, they will buy rice and grains with it. You can’t even think of spending in this way. No family would agree to spend this unnecessarily on the health of their daughter. Where the whole aspect of Menstruation is like this in our society, how it will be possible to raise safety awareness?

[1] – Menstruation is still the biggest shame for Indian women dgtl. Published on 21st November’2020

Sanitary waste disposal is a huge problem that needs to be tackled on an urgent basis. Every month, around 353 million women and adolescent girls across India use sanitary products and generate menstrual waste, and this number is growing with each passing day.[1] A single woman can generate up to 125 kg of non-biodegradable waste through her menstruating years alone. In most rural areas, for women who live close to water bodies, the easy solution is to throw the pads into the water, causing massive health and environment hazards. According to Menstrual Health Alliance of India (MHAI), the number of menstruating women in India who use disposable sanitary napkins stands at a staggering 121 million. Disposable sanitary napkins are made of 90% plastic and keeping in mind the adhesives, packing, etc., each pad is equivalent to around 4 plastic bags. If we estimate the number of pads used per cycle to a modest 8, it equates to roughly 12 billion pads disposed per year. According to a report, each of these pads can take roughly 500 to 800 years to decompose due to their largely plastic ingredients.[2] Now menstrual hygiene and management is becoming an issue in India. Considering the affordability and environmental impact of sanitary pads, cloth is an effective option. The most important benefit of reusable cloth pads is that it is ‘reusable’. They are made of biodegradable and environment-friendly materials. This creates considerably less overall waste compared to disposable products. They can last for several years and are thus pocket-friendly. If used properly, they’re more comfortable, skin-friendly, and less likely to cause allergic reactions/rashes in comparison to synthetic napkins. Women can avoid exposing their intimate region to chemicals used in disposable sanitary napkins and tampons. Soft and breathable materials used to make these pads also prevent foul smell in the intimate area. Reusable cloth pads are customizable in terms of thickness and size. Hence, they can be more comfortable to wear. The need of the hour is education, awareness, and availability of the eco-friendly practices when it comes to managing menstrual waste effectively. Once that is taken care of, it will be easy for anyone to make a green switch.

Period or menstruation is not a disease. It is a part of every woman’s life cycle and it is normal. Therefore, the contribution of the family is important so that every girl learns to look at the menstruation normally and becomes conscious without looking at it with a panic. It is the responsibility of the family to create an environment in which girls can discuss various physical and mental problems with their loved ones during the period. The responsibility of mother or sister is very important in this case. Before your child asks you the questions, talk to her about what puberty is, when and why periods occur, what precautions to take, and so on. Then when she has her first period, she will not panic. Brothers, fathers, husbands need to understand from their respective places that the need of sisters, daughters and wives. It is a normal physical process but the one with whom it is happening cannot be normal. She is feeling sick (nausea) and abdominal pain. And the biggest problem is mood swings, irritable mood which is under the influence of hormones. Not going to an argument with her in those days, helping her with household chores, making her feel a little special, she needs your support very much at that moment.

[1] – An Urgent Challenge: Why India Needs to Tackle Its Menstrual Waste published on 28th February’2020


[2] – Menstrual waste: India’s silent problem published on 22th May’2020.

“Today is the day

A new energy arises within you

It is time to celebrate

It is time to menstruate.”