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Menstrual Health And Hygiene

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By Author: Rita Holland
Total Articles: 125
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The universal story of menstruation can be found in the quiet whispers of mothers and daughters, the bashful giggles of little girls, and the knowing nods of women of all ages.From my adolescent years navigating the complexities of periods till today, I've realised that, while many of us share this natural phenomena, our experiences and knowledge of it differ enormously. And it is the diversity of our tales, experiences, and emotions that makes our collective journey so lovely.
But here's another reality I've discovered: many of us have felt overwhelmed, even alienated, when attempting to put together the big puzzle of menstrual health. The route to actual insight can appear to be a maze, ranging from ancient rites that honoured this cycle to modern mythologies that sometimes denigrate or mystify it.That is why we are here today: to shed light, to share, and, most importantly, to comprehend and empower.
During college, a dear friend, Mara, confided in me about feeling completely confused amid a flurry of menstruation misconceptions. ...
... "Is it okay to work out during my period?" she'd inquire, or "Should I really avoid certain foods?" And it occurred to me: how many of us have similar questions, and how few of us find solutions that are meaningful? That's when I realised I had a strong desire to explore, learn, and share. 
The Menstrual Cycle

The delicate ebbs and flows of hormones, the intricate choreography between body and mind—welcome to the menstrual cycle, nature's amazing marvel. It's a trip that every woman goes through, but one that we don't always fully comprehend, even if it's happening within us.
An Overview of the Menstrual Phases
The menstrual cycle can be divided into four major phases:

Menstrual Phase (Day 1 to 5):This is what most people refer to as 'having our period.' It occurs when the thicker uterine lining is lost, resulting in monthly bleeding.

Follicular Phase (Day 1 to 13): Certain hormones induce the ovaries to generate five to twenty tiny sacs known as follicles. Each contains an immature egg, with one of them maturing.

Ovulation Phase (Day 14): During this phase, the developed egg is discharged from the ovary and awaits fertilisation.

Luteal Phase (15-28 days): After delivering the egg, the ruptured follicle closes and transforms into a structure known as the corpus luteum. It secretes hormones that prepare the uterine lining for a possible pregnancy.

Tuning into the Subtle Signs
While many of us are familiar with the more obvious signs of our menstrual cycle, such as pains or mood swings, our bodies also provide us with other, more subtle cues during each phase. We can better comprehend, and even enjoy, our body's unique rhythm by tuning into these.

Menstruation with Follicular Phase: Energy levels may be reduced during the first few days of menstruation, but when we enter the follicular phase, there is a comeback of vigour. Some ladies find this time to be ideal for brainstorming or beginning new tasks.

Ovulation: Many of us have had an extra bounce in our stride during ovulation. It's not just our imaginations! Physiologically, our energy levels rise, and we may become more gregarious and outgoing.

Luteal Phase: It's natural to feel contemplative when we go closer to menstruation. Some women feel more in sync with their instincts at this time. A friend once told me that she diaries more at this phase because she feels more connected to her inner self.

Each woman's reaction to these symptoms is unique. While it is critical to be knowledgeable, it is also critical to realise that every body is unique. Comparisons? Throw them out the window. Instead, I recommend that you keep a menstruation diary.This practise can be enlightening over time, exposing patterns and insights that are unique to you.

Historical Glimpse: Periods through the Ages
Have you ever sat in the privacy of your own home, unwrapping a modern sanitary pad or tampon, and contemplated the evolution of menstruation health over time? Menstruation tales have ebbed and flowed like our cycles, from veneration to taboo and all in between. 
Intriguing Rituals from Ancient Cultures
Many of us have felt that our periods connect us to something deeper, almost mystical. This is hardly a novel sentiment. Historically, different civilizations around the world had their own rituals and beliefs about menstruation.

Ancient Egypt: Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility, was said to have her own menstrual cycle. Menstruation was identified with the natural and divine by the Egyptians, demonstrating their extraordinary foresight. There is also evidence that softened papyrus was used as an absorbent material during times!

Native American Traditions: Some Native American tribes regarded a girl's first period as a significant step towards womanhood. They possessed "moon lodges" or "moon huts," which were special locations where women gathered during their cycle, away from daily tasks, to rejuvenate and spiritually connect. It was a period of reflection and community.

Ancient India: The Rigveda, one of the earliest known books, contains songs that allude to menstruation as a time of purification and rest. However, it is important to recognise the different practises and beliefs that exist across the wide subcontinent, with some places honouring the menstrual woman and others recommending isolation.

I recognise that being isolated or kept separate may raise eyebrows in our current society. But consider for a moment the gift of a few days off from daily chores, allowing your body and soul to regenerate. Isn't that a shift in perspective?
Menstrual Hygiene: Ancient Innovations

While the ceremonies and reverence are fascinating, many of us may ask, "But how did they manage the flow?"

Ancient  Greece: According to historical texts, tampons made of lint wrapped around lightweight wood were used. Certainly ahead of their time! 

Roman Empire: During their menstrual cycles, the inventive Roman ladies are said to have used wool as an absorbent medium.

Ancient China: Women from royal and aristocratic families utilised silk towels to regulate their flow, while others resorted to paper materials in ancient China.

While these methods may appear primitive or even painful in comparison to our modern options, they demonstrate human ingenuity and flexibility. Consider our foremothers managing their cycles thousands of years ago with the best of their resources, knowledge, and communal support.
Modern Menstrual Myths Debunked
At my cousin's baby shower, the room was buzzing with bustle, but a quiet talk between two younger girls drew my attention. They were talking about the 'dangers' of exercising during periods, and I couldn't help but chuckle, remembering similar talks I'd had in the past. We've all been there, right? Getting through the maze of myths about menstruation. Let's go on a journey together to refute some of these current fallacies, clearing the air with reliable, science-backed information.

 Myth: Exercising During Your Period is Harmful.

Let's begin with the big one. Many of us have been afraid to put on our jogging sneakers or roll out our yoga mat around 'that time of the month.' Contrary to popular assumption, moderate activity during menstruation might help relieve cramps and improve mood. Endorphins, which are released during physical exercise, work as natural painkillers, potentially making monthly cramps less painful.
Start slowly. If you've never exercised during your period, take a light walk or do some relaxing yoga and see how your body reacts.

Myth: You Shouldn't Do Yoga or Inversions During Menstruation.

Truth: This myth is based on the fear that certain positions would disrupt menstruation flow or possibly cause endometriosis. However, scientific evidence to back up this assertion is limited. However, each woman's body is different, and while some may find relief in particular postures, others may not. It's always important to pay attention to your body.
If you enjoy yoga, look for poses that relieve period discomfort. Child's pose, also known as Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), can be quite relaxing. Always get the advice of a certified yoga instructor regarding the ideal positions for you during menstruation.

 Myth: Menstrual Flow Can Be Controlled By Mind Power.

Truth: Isn't this one fascinating? While a cheerful attitude can help us cope with monthly discomfort, there is no scientific proof that we can influence the flow or commencement of menstruation with our thoughts. Our cycles are guided by complex hormonal balances rather than willpower alone.
To negotiate the emotional ebbs and flows of menstruation, embrace mindfulness practises rather than trying to regulate your cycle. Meditation or deep breathing exercises can be extremely beneficial.
Remember that while information is power, understanding your individual body is crucial. Some myths may have their origins in personal experiences, however remember to distinguish between personal anecdotes and scientific consensus. Above all, always listen to your body. It whispers its requirements to us, and all we have to do is listen. 
The Secrets of Menstrual Hygiene

I regularly recall my grandmother's stories about menstruation. Commercial sanitary items were a luxury at the time, not a necessity. Women, she explained, relied on a mix of conventional and innovative practises. Today, while there are numerous products accessible, it is sometimes the age-old secrets that truly make a difference. 

1. Cloth Pads (India and Various Parts of Asia): Before the invention of disposable sanitary napkins, many women relied on cloth pads. 

They are reusable, pleasant, and hygienic when properly cared for. Some recent versions even include leak-proof linings and appealing patterns!

2. Menstrual Cups (Global): These silicone or latex cups, which originated in the United States in the 1930s but are now used worldwide, collect menstrual flow rather than absorb it. One cup can live up to ten years if properly cared for! Many ladies praise its low environmental impact and low cost-effectiveness.

3. Sea Sponge Tampons (Caribbean & Mediterranean):Natural sea sponges have been used as tampons by women in coastal areas for generations. They are reusable and biodegradable, however they must be cleaned carefully.

Holistic Practices

Herbal Baths: : Post-period baths laced with herbs like rosemary, lavender, and calendula are considered to alleviate cramps and rejuvenate the spirit throughout Southeast Asia and portions of Europe. They're more than just a way to unwind; they're a nod to ancient practises that prioritised menstrual comfort.

Dietary Habits: Many of us have experienced the extreme food cravings that come with menstruation. While it's fine to indulge on occasion, certain foods might aggravate cramping. Warm herbal teas, magnesium-rich foods like bananas, and Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can all help relieve pain. And, yeah, the dark chocolate you've had your eye on? It is known to cause the release of endorphins, our bodies' natural painkillers.

Breathing Techniques: Controlled breathing, like labour, can be helpful in managing menstruation discomfort. Deep diaphragmatic breathing, which involves taking slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm rather than shallow breaths from the chest, can help relieve menstruation cramps.

Sustainability Matters
Disposable sanitary items have a massive environmental impact. It is believed that about 45 billion sanitary napkins are wasted each year, with decomposition taking millennia.

Eco-friendly Alternatives

Biodegradable Pads:Biodegradable pads are constructed of organic components and disintegrate much faster than traditional pads.

Tampons made from organic materials: Without synthetic fibres, colours, or scents, they are not only gentler on the environment, but also on our bodies.

Menstrual Cups with Reusable Cloth Pads: They can be used for years with proper care, greatly decreasing waste.

Start with one type if you're new to sustainable menstrual products. It takes time to adjust, which is OK. Remember that even the smallest move towards sustainability has a significant impact.
Emotional and Mental Wellness during Your Cycle

The effects of our menstrual cycle are felt not only in the physical domain, but also in the chambers of our mental health and heart. Many of us have experienced it: the emotional ebb and flow, the ballet of moods that seems to follow our cycle. It's a facet of our period that can be more difficult to navigate than the physical symptoms. Understanding this aspect, however, is an equally important element of achieving menstrual wellness.

Mood Shifts & Their Secrets
The changing hormonal environment during our cycle has a direct impact on our neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain. Here's an example:

Follicular Period: When our oestrogen levels rise after menstruation, most of us experience a surge of energy, optimism, and sociability. It's the body's way of preparing for a possible pregnancy.

Ovulation: A surge in oestrogen might also contribute to a peak in confidence. However, for some, this stage may cause anxiety or increased emotional sensitivity.

Luteal Phase: While progesterone is supposed to relax and soothe, its increase (and subsequent fall) can sometimes cause feelings of depression or irritation.

Strategies for Self-care and Understanding

Keep Track of Your Cycle: Keep a mood diary. Take note of the patterns, as well as the highs and lows. Understanding them might help you anticipate and manage mood swings.

Accept Self-Compassion: When you're feeling down or impatient, treat yourself as you would a close friend. Warm baths, a good book, or even a moderate walk can help.

Engage in mindful practises such as meditation, deep breathing, or even yoga. These have been shown to balance our emotional landscape, providing peace during difficult times.

Seek Assistance: Speak with intimate friends or family members. Sometimes simply expressing our emotions can be cathartic. My energetic cousin Lara once confided in me about her unexpected mood swings post-ovulation. We began recording her moods together, and trends emerged. For her, the act of observing without judgement was healing.

Menstrual-Related Mood Disorders
Menstrual-related mood disorders (MRMDs) lie beneath the more recognisable wave of mood swings. These aren't just periodic mood swings; they're persistent, often debilitating, and have a significant influence on one's quality of life.

Understanding MRMDs

PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder): It's like PMS, but worse. Severe irritation, despair, hopelessness, and even fury are all possible symptoms. It affects just a small proportion of menstrual women, yet it can be extremely distressing.

Menstrual-Exacerbated Mood Disorders: Women who already have a mood illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder, may notice that their symptoms worsen during certain parts of their menstrual cycle.

Many of us may have never heard of these conditions, let alone identified them in ourselves or others. Understanding them, on the other hand, is half the battle fought.
Steps to Healing

Recognise and Validate: If you or someone you know is struggling with mood swings associated with the menstrual cycle, take it seriously.

Seek expert Assistance: A healthcare professional can provide insights, diagnosis, and treatment interventions. The importance of early action cannot be overstated.

Create a Support System: Join or start a support group. Knowing you are not alone can be a very effective healing technique.

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