Menstrual health is not an easy topic to talk about. Traditionally, there is a stigma attached to it for most cultures. The taboo continues to manifest in both subtle and complex ways in modern times, as it is typically associated with filth, shame, and general disgust. The same can be said of all-female secretions, from period blood to sweat, to breast milk- it is all considered appalling, even though it is completely normal and natural.
However, despite the knowledge that menstruation is normal, the consensus isn’t easy to shift. As a result, young girls are taught early that they have to essentially keep it to themselves and manage their periods as discreetly as possible. It’s all about concealment. Many don’t realize that menstrual shame impacts the way that young girls feel about their bodies, and in turn, can impact their knowledge of their bodies and the reproductive system as a whole.
Limited Knowledge Leads To Dangerous Risks
When it comes to education on menstrual health, young boys are typically left out of the loop, while young girls are only taught the minimal basics. Girls are primarily informed of their choices in sanitary and hygiene products and how to use them- but it is all taught only at the surface level. Beyond that, menstrual health is given very little educational attention. As a result, many grow up without knowing how to properly care for their period symptoms, notice dangerous menstrual health patterns, or support their cycle health at all.
Greater Knowledge And Safer Options Make All The Difference
Period related issues can be reduced by no-nonsense products that are natural and nontoxic. According to Mimi Millard, the Founder, and CEO of natural menstrual essentials company De Lune, “Over 90% of people with periods suffer from disruptive menstrual symptoms. Menstrual symptoms cause ~9 days of lost productivity per person each year; and period pain is the leading cause of absenteeism in women under 30.” Due to the lack of quality natural products to combat period pain and PMS, Millard launched De Lune. “We mindfully analyze the leading science for the most effective herbal and nutritional ingredients for period problems to provide safe and healthy options for all, so that drugs with side effects are not the only option.”
It takes more than just natural products to lessen the burden that comes with having periods. Women must also be armed with knowledge of factors that can affect the regularity of their periods, as well as their menstrual health as a whole. These factors include:
- Stress has a way of throwing off hormonal balance, which affects period health and can lead to illnesses and sudden weight gain/loss.
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, directly change the way the body functions and stop ovulation.
- Obesity affects period health in a manner similar to eating disorders, by way of hormonal changes.
- Extreme exercise, such as marathon training and boot camps, can delay periods.
- Birth control is often used to regulate periods. On the flip side, when one gets off birth control, it can take up to six months for the cycle to become consistent again.
- Thyroid conditions, whether the gland is overactive or underactive, can be the cause of late or missed periods.
According to the scientific journal The Lancet, between the average woman’s first cycle and menopause, she has more than 400 periods in her lifetime. That’s a lot of periods to endure without being able to discuss and prevent period health issues. This stresses the importance of breaking the stigma associated with menstrual health and normalizing serious conversations about it.
How To Normalize Conversations On Menstrual Health
Considering the frequent and inevitable nature of periods, there is no reason why anyone should be ashamed or undereducated about them. There are a few ways conversations on menstruation and menstrual health can be normalized. For starters, people should feel free and welcome to talk about menstruation and symptoms they are experiencing with their friends, family, or colleagues as needed. Another way is by raising awareness, and putting an end to period-shaming practices worldwide.
In an interview about her book, “New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation” Chris Bobel talks about the need for menstrual activism, which refers to talking about periods in a positive light and taking action to build a more equitable world for those who menstruate. On that note, it’s also important to support others who are doing their best to normalize conversations on menstrual health, whether it’s in person or online. There is no time like the present for us to collectively put menstrual health in the spotlight.