-Frequently asked questions-
Menstruation is the normal, healthy shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus that exits the body through the vagina. The vagina is the small opening that girls have between their legs. Menstruation is also called a girls/woman’s “period.” It usually lasts between three and seven days. Menstruation happens for most girls about once a month. It is a sign that a girl can now become pregnant. Women stop menstruating during pregnancy but then start again after delivery.
Just as some girls begin puberty earlier or later than others, the same applies to periods. Some girls may begin to menstruate as early as age nine or 10, and some may not get their first period until a few years later. Menstruation usually stops in the 40’s and this is known as menopause.
No one can be sure exactly when this will happen. Most girls begin menstruating between the ages of 11 and 14. The best way a girl can know is to look for signs. Underarm hair and a whitish discharge from the vagina are signs that the menarche probably is not too far away.
The process of menstruation itself is painless. Some girls experience cramps or other symptoms before or at the start of their period. There is no need to be scared about getting the periods. It is a completely normal process.
If you know about menstruation before it happens for the first time, you will be better prepared to handle this situation without fear or embarrassment. If it does come unexpectedly, do not panic. Your teachers, family members, and close relatives are there to support you and to provide directions on what products to use to absorb the menstrual flow.
Girls have thousands of tiny eggs in their ovaries even at the time of birth. Each month, or approximately every 21 – 35 days, on average, one of the eggs leaves an ovary and travels through a fallopian tube. When the egg leaves the ovary, this is called ovulation. Normally, the ovaries alternate each month, releasing an egg from the left ovary one month and then releasing an egg from the right ovary the next month. As the egg travels in the fallopian tube, a soft spongy lining forms in the uterus. This lining is mostly made of tiny blood vessels and is called the endometrium.
Because all girls are different, menstrual periods can vary from girl to girl. One girl might have a 3-day period and another girl might have a 7-day period. It might take several months/years for a girl’s period to become regular. One month the period might last 4 days, whereas the next month it might be 6 days. Number of days that normally a girl’s period should last is anything from 3 to 7 days.
Periods will start sooner or later. However, if a girl reaches age 16 and has not yet had her first period, she should visit a health provider/doctor.
Girls can sometimes see secretions on their underpants or experience a feeling of wetness. These secretions are a whitish liquid which occur around the time of ovulation, when the body is ready to receive a fertilized egg. Secretions help sperm travel through the uterus to meet the egg for fertilization, so when a girl has secretions, she knows that this is the time when she is fertile. Paying attention to vaginal secretions helps girls understand their bodies. For example, yellow or strong-smelling secretions are not normal. These kinds of secretions are often a sign of infection, it is better to consult a doctor.
No. The idea that certain foods should not be eaten at this time is a myth. However, lower intake of sodium salts helps in reducing the bloated feeling associated during periods.
Pads or sanitary napkins: These are designed to fit the panty area close to the body. Strips of tape keep them attached to the panties, and the panties help to hold the pads close to the opening of the vagina. Sanitary napkins are available in the market. In the recent times, SHGs have also started manufacturing sterile, low cost sanitary napkins which can be purchased locally even at the village level. Women SHG members themselves sell these products and so adolescents and rural girls may feel comfortable purchasing them. Pads have a plastic lining to minimize the spill of blood. If a girl uses pads, she needs to throw them down a pit latrine, bury them, or burn them after use. They should not be left in the garbage pile or flushed down the toilet, as they will cause blockage.
Whatever a girl uses (cloth, toilet tissue, or pads), she should change it frequently to avoid staining and odor. When menstrual blood comes in contact with air, it can develop a stale odor. Pads cost more than toilet paper and cloth pads, but all work equally well. A girl can usually ask her sister, mother, or other close female relative what she uses. A girl might be worried that her friends might see her carrying such products with her. She should know that placing these in a simple plastic bag in her purse, school bag, or backpack usually prevents any embarrassment. If a girl’s panties or clothes get stained with blood, she can soak them in cool, mildly salty water before washing. Hot water will cause the blood to set and remain as a permanent stain.
Sanitary napkins come in different shapes, styles, absorbencies for light and heavy days of menstrual bleeding. Some sanitary napkins, pads are made with removable strips of paper that reveal adhesive tape that is made to stick to your panties. Other pads have wrap-around “wings” that wrap under your panties to keep it from moving or “bunching.” Some may prefer the belt model where the napkin is held using the belt.
Well, it happens to almost all of us at one time or another. Just tie a sweater or jacket around your waist to cover any possible stain. (If you don’t have a sweater on you, ask a friend to borrow hers. This is what sisterhood is all about!) Then get yourself a napkin/pad, head to the bathroom, do what you have to do and scrub out any noticeable spot. For future reference, you might want to take an extra pair of underwear and pad in your bag and wear dark clothes on days when you’re expecting your period or when your flow is at its heaviest.
Menstruation as a regular process needs hygienic management. Girls need to change their napkins regularly during the period of menstruation especially in the first three days. This can help prevent infections. During the heaviest days of your period, you may need to change them every 3-4 hours. Given below is a pictorial representation of the normal timings to change pads.
Just before and during your period, your body may tend to retain water. This added fluid might make you feel fat or make your breasts feel tender. Actually, it’s normal to gain a couple of pounds during this time of the month — and lose them right after your period. If you feel bloated, you may feel better wearing loose, comfortable clothing. Consume less salt immediately before and during your period because salt increases water retention.
Napkins should not be thrown into the toilets particularly the water closet. It is better to keep a dust bin in the corner of the toilet. Wash the soiled napkins and squeeze dry. Keep old newspapers/waste paper ready to wrap the washed napkin. Drop it in the bin. You can dispose the contents of the bin after your cycle bleed is over or daily. This can be given away as waste to garbage collectors in areas where they come to collect them. In case there is no disposal mechanism prevalent in your locality, see about disposing it within your backyard itself either by sanitary pit or incineration.
Napkins have biodegradable and non-biodegradable products. The sewerage system is not capable of handling this garbage and will lead to clogging of the drains leading to overflow of fecal matter which is not desirable. If they are left in the open, they are a sore sight and so the need to dispose them properly.
In the house also, an old drum can be converted into a similar incinerator with a smoke vent and periodically it can be incinerated.
The other method of sanitary napkin disposal is creating a sanitary pit. If you have a large backyard, then this is possible. Dig a pit in the backyard, keep dropping the newspaper wrapped used napkins in the pit. Cover the pit to stop animals from pulling it outside. Keep dropping ash after use. Once the pit is filled up, close the pit completely and use another pit.