Menstrual Hygiene Day: Agra House Helper Shares Her Fight Against Shame And Silence
Though Kirti knows well how to use a pad, her awareness was not sufficient when it comes to hours of usage.
Kirti (name changed) is a young woman in her mid-30s. She works as a house helper in Agra. She is a mother of two children, a girl and a boy. She often hesitates when it comes to talking about periods. While the world is talking about the importance of menstrual hygiene, Kirti doesn’t even have a name for the biological process in her vocabulary.
Menstruation has been a taboo topic across many cultures and the shame around the biological process is one of the primary reasons behind low menstrual hygiene awareness among people. Poor menstrual hygiene can pose physical health risks and has been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections. Many girls and women have limited options for affordable menstrual materials and for others, the silence around the topic is stopping them from asking questions about its healthy management in daily lives.
While girls, before they start with menstruation, must be taught about its significance at home and school, the ground reality is different for many women and girls who receive no guidance or education from their homes. Many learn from outside how to use a sanitary napkin.
Mirroring her mother
Kirti’s daughter recently hit puberty. When asked how she prepared her daughter for the menstruation, Kirti shied away from the question and said she taught her how to use a pad. However, when asked if she understood what menstruation is all about, she said she was clueless about it and feel ashamed of even discussing it with other women.
She said: “In my childhood, only my mother knew that I bleed. We never used to speak openly about it in the family. My mother brought me a sanitary napkin when I was growing older and when the cloth wasn’t sufficient enough to stop the leakage. She taught me how to use it. I explained it to my daughter in the same manner. My daughter, unlike me, couldn’t adapt well to sanitary napkins and many times she used to throw them off when they started to soak with blood. I never told her anything about the process because I have no idea about it. I know that my daughter knows more than me. She searches it up on the phone and I think she is also being taught about it in school. Hence, she never asked me why this happens.”
Makes her husband speak to the doctor
Our source shared that to date she isn’t comfortable talking about periods with the doctors. She informed that whenever there is any change in her cycle or if she has some query around periods, she makes her husband and sometimes mother-in-law reach out to the doctor.
She said: “My husband often gets upset with me and tells me angrily how I, a mother of two cannot talk freely to the doctors about it and why I always make him the mediator. He often tells me that I must remember the time when I delivered both my children in a hospital in the presence of doctors and at the time I wasn’t scared or shy.”
Kirti also informed that she never visited a pharmacy to buy sanitary napkins for the fear that most pharmacists are men.
She said: “Usually all shopkeepers are men. I feel uncomfortable buying it from them. My husband brings it for me and now he also brings it for my daughter.”
She also informed that the only way she knows her daughter is bleeding is when she sees the stain on the bed or her clothes. It never comes through a mother-daughter conversation.
Period leave or shame leave?
Kirti shared how one of the houses she works for provides her weekly leave when she is on her period. Interestingly, this generosity is not shown for her to take rest during that time, rather it comes from the deep-rooted stigma around menstruation that labels the menstrual blood as something “impure” or “unholy”. Our source informed that no money gets deducted for this imposed leave.
She said: “We have to inform madam when we are on our periods. We are not allowed to work in that house during that time of the month. I sometimes do ironing for her, I am also barred from doing that as well during those days. The rule stands the same for all maids.”
Using pads for 24 hours
Kirti shared how she started using cloth as a menstrual product but owing to the difficulty in using the cloth well and the fear of leakage prompted her to go for sanitary napkins. Though Kirti knows well how to use a pad, her awareness was not sufficient when it comes to hours of usage.
She informed: “I use one pad a day. Sometimes I change it when I go back home from work. Sometimes I wear it for like an entire day.”
As per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), pads must be changed every 4 to 8 hours depending on bleeding. Long usage can result in infections.
Bleeds for more than a week
Kirti shared that as a teenager she used to bleed for more than 7 days which she suspects is a little more than the duration for which an average woman bleeds. As reported earlier, Kirti never converses directly with a doctor when it comes to concerns around menstruation.
She said laughingly: “I sometimes think I don’t have much blood in my body. I used to bleed for eight days.”
As per reports, heavy menstrual bleeding or menorrhagia also includes situations where a woman might bleed over 7 days.
Gynaecologist shares tips on menstrual hygiene
According to Dr Garima Sawhney, gynaecologist and co-founder, of Pristyn Care said that Ensuring proper menstrual hygiene is vital for every woman’s health and well-being. However, not maintaining proper menstrual hygiene can have several consequences, including increased risk of infections, development of rashes and skin irritation, stains or leakage. In severe cases, untreated infections can lead to more serious health complications. For example, untreated UTIs can spread to the kidneys, resulting in kidney infections. Neglecting menstrual hygiene can also increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can have long-term consequences on reproductive health.
Hence, it is crucial to emphasize the significance of maintaining proper menstrual hygiene to minimize these potential consequences and ensure women’s overall well-being during their menstrual cycles.
The expert shared guidelines for women to adopt to maintain proper menstrual hygiene including:
- Use good quality sanitary products: Choose sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups based on your comfort and preference. Ensure they are made of safe materials and change them regularly to avoid rashes, leakage and odour.
- Wash your hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling sanitary products. This helps prevent the spread of bacteria and infections.
- Maintain genital hygiene: During your period, wash your genital area with unscented/mild soap or simply water.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water during your period to stay hydrated and help flush out toxins from your body.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This helps in managing menstrual symptoms and promoting overall health.
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