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Menstrual Hygiene Day 2024: India’s top gynaecologists on how to create a period friendly world

Menstruation has been often associated with stigma and taboo. On Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is on May 28, gynaecologists share how to create a #PeriodFriendlyWorld.
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Together, let's create a period-friendly world! Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Updated: 28 May 2024, 11:19 am IST
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Menstruation is a healthy and normal process that involves vaginal bleeding every month. Billions of women in the world menstruate every month, so talking about periods should be a normal part of life. But it is surrounded by taboos and stigma. There is a need to create a “period-friendly world,” which is the theme of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed on May 28. On this occasion, Health Shots reached out to some of India’s top gynaecologists to share their idea of a #PeriodFriendlyWorld, and how it can be achieved.

Provide free or low-cost menstrual products: Dr Shobha Gupta

Creating a period-friendly environment involves several key elements, says Dr Shobha Gupta.

  • Doctors should actively engage in educating patients about menstrual health. This includes discussing what constitutes a normal menstrual cycle, recognising symptoms of common menstrual disorders like dysmenorrhea or menorrhagia, and addressing misconceptions.
  • Education should extend to all healthcare staff to ensure a knowledgeable and supportive environment.
  • Healthcare facilities should provide free or low-cost menstrual products. This can be achieved by installing dispensers for pads and tampons in clinic bathrooms. Ensuring availability reduces stress for patients who may start their periods unexpectedly.
  • Create welcoming and private spaces for menstruating women. This includes clean, well-stocked restrooms and designated areas where women can rest if they experience discomfort.
A woman holding a period calendar for period-friendly world
Education is a must to create a period-friendly world. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Encourage open discussions about menstruation within family: Dr Vaishali Joshi

  • Menstruation or monthly periods has been associated with a lot of social, cultural taboos all over the world. It’s important to create awareness about all the aspects of menstruation by openly discussing it in your own family. This will help to sensitise the young generation irrespective of their sex. It will also allow the older generation to acknowledge it and facilitate period management in individual households, says Dr Vaishali Joshi.
  • Workshops and awareness on menstruation management in the schools, workplaces, public forum, social media events with the support from local authorities and government, can ensure period-friendly society and culture.
  • Various menstrual management products like sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cup and period panties should be made available and accessible to rural and low socio-economic sections of the society at subsidised rate to improve affordability and usage.
  • The social awakening to wipe off the stigma around menstruation needs to be commenced in every household involving male-members of the family, stressing open acceptance and endorsing it as a natural growing up phase.

Educate both girls and boys about menstrual health: Dr Pratibha Singhal

  • Creating a #PeriodFriendlyWorld involves a holistic approach that addresses menstrual health and hygiene needs while promoting education, accessibility, affordability, and destigmatisation, says Dr Pratibha Singhal.
  • Mothers should educate their daughters about menstrual hygiene, and use of various available menstrual products.
  • Promote comprehensive menstrual health education in schools, communities, and workplaces to break taboos and dispel myths surrounding menstruation. Educating both girls and boys about menstrual health fosters understanding, empathy, and respect.
  • Advocate for policies that ensure access to affordable menstrual products, including pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and reusable cloth pads. Governments and organisations can provide subsidies, distribute free products, or exempt menstrual products from taxes to make them more accessible.
  • Ensure access to clean and private toilets with proper disposal facilities in schools, public spaces, workplaces, and communities. Safe and hygienic facilities are essential for managing menstruation with dignity and comfort.
  • Encourage community-driven initiatives to produce and distribute low-cost, eco-friendly menstrual products. Supporting local production not only creates economic opportunities but also ensures availability of culturally appropriate products.
  • Challenge menstrual stigma through open conversations and media campaigns. Highlight positive narratives about menstruation to empower individuals and normalise discussions around menstrual health.
  • Advocate for policy changes that prioritise menstrual health and hygiene, including comprehensive sex education, workplace accommodations, and integration of menstrual hygiene management into healthcare services.
  • Address the unique needs of marginalised and vulnerable populations, including homeless individuals, refugees, and incarcerated women, by providing tailored menstrual health resources and support.
  • Advocate for menstrual leave policies and workplace accommodations, such as flexible work hours and access to menstrual products and facilities, to support individuals experiencing menstrual discomfort.

Share positive and empowering narratives about menstruation: Dr Bandana Sodhi

  • Integrate comprehensive menstrual health education into school curriculum to normalise conversations about periods from an early age, says Dr Bandana Sodhi.
  • Conduct public awareness campaigns to bust myths and reduce stigma surrounding periods.
  • Provide training for teachers, healthcare providers, and community leaders on menstrual health.
  • Implement policies that support menstrual health in the workplace, such as providing free menstrual products in restrooms and allowing flexible break times.
  • Ensure schools have adequate facilities for managing menstruation, including clean and private restrooms, and provide free menstrual products to students.
  • Use media and social platforms to share positive and empowering narratives about menstruation.
  • Celebrate menstrual health milestones, like Menstrual Hygiene Day, to raise awareness and normalise menstruation.

Bridge the urban-rural divide in menstrual health and hygiene: Dr Vaishali Sharma

Menstrual hygiene is an important part of women’s overall health. “It is very disturbing to see the level of menstrual hygiene practiced in many rural parts of India. Women continue to use old, torn and discarded cloth as menstrual napkins,” says Dr Vaishali Sharma. While the scenario is much better in urban areas, there is a dire need to bridge the urban-rural gap in terms of awareness, accessibility and in breaking the shame around periods.

Introduce period-friendly policies in schools and workplaces: Dr Rashmi Shriya

With girls experiencing menstruation at increasingly younger ages, there is a growing need for open dialogue and support, says Dr Rashmi Shriya.

  • Schools, workplaces, and communities must foster an environment where menstruation is not a taboo topic, but a natural part of life.
  • Initiatives like period-friendly policies in workplaces, menstrual hygiene education in schools, and accessibility to menstrual products are steps towards inclusivity and empowerment.

Make period products affordable and accessible: Dr Sharvari Mundhe

People who menstruate know how difficult it can sometimes be to perform daily tasks when you are on your periods. The stigma and hush-hush around periods only adds to people feeling embarrassed, says Dr Sharvari Mundhe.

  • Many people lack basic knowledge about menstruation. Educational programmes can empower individuals to manage their periods confidently and bust myths.
    Make period products affordable and accessible. It is important to advocate for tax exemptions and wider availability in public spaces like schools and workplaces.
  • Public restrooms need well-maintained disposal units and accessible changing areas.
  • Open conversations about periods challenge the taboos. So, talk to friends, family, and colleagues, and normalise period talk as much as you can.
period shaming
Stop period shaming right away. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Stop period shaming: Dr Shweta Mendiratta

  • Spread the word! Talk to your friends, family, and classmates about periods. It’s a normal body function, just like going to the bathroom. The more we talk openly, the less shame there will be, says Dr Shweta Mendiratta.
  • Educate yourself and others! Learn about the menstrual cycle and different period products.
  • Fight for affordability. Period products can be expensive, and some people can’t afford them. Support organisations that donate pads and tampons, or talk to your local representative about making these products more accessible.
  • Be a champion for change. Does your school or workplace have bathrooms with bins for period products? If not, ask for them. Small changes like these can make a big difference for people who menstruate.
  • End period shaming. If you hear someone making fun of someone for having a period, speak up. Periods are natural, and nobody should be embarrassed about them.

Education is the cornerstone of menstrual health: Dr Bindhu KS

Fostering a #PeriodFriendlyWorld is not solely about managing the biological processes of menstruation, says Dr Bindhu KS. It entails a deep understanding of how cultural beliefs, social norms, and economic factors intersect with menstrual health.

  • Education serves as the cornerstone of menstrual health. From understanding menstrual cycles to learning about hygiene practices and recognising menstrual disorders, knowledge empowers individuals to take charge of their reproductive health. Gynaecologists play a pivotal role in providing accurate information and debunking myths surrounding menstruation.
  • Access to menstrual products should not be a luxury, but a necessity. From pads and tampons to menstrual cups and period underwear, there is a wide range of options available. However, affordability remains a barrier for many.
  • Gynaecologists can advocate for policies that make menstrual products more accessible, such as subsidisation programmes or the integration of menstrual product distribution in healthcare settings. By collaborating with policymakers and NGOs, they can work towards ensuring that no one has to compromise their health due to financial constraints.
  • Stigma surrounding menstruation manifests in various forms, including cultural taboos, discriminatory practices, and social exclusion. Gynaecologists witness firsthand the impact of stigma on their patients’ mental and emotional well-being. By fostering open and non-judgmental communication in clinical settings, they create a safe space where individuals can discuss their menstrual concerns without fear of ridicule or shame.
  • Additionally, gynaecologists can advocate for comprehensive menstrual health education in schools and workplaces, challenging misconceptions and promoting acceptance and understanding.
  • It is crucial to provide families with accurate information to challenge and overcome the myths surrounding menstruation.

Advocate for policies that promote menstrual equity: Dr Aruna Kalra

  • Providing comprehensive education about menstruation, including its biological processes, hygiene practices, and debunking myths and taboos, can help normalise discussions around periods and reduce stigma, says Dr Aruna Kalra.
  • Ensuring affordable and accessible menstrual products such as pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and reusable cloth pads is crucial. Governments, NGOs, and businesses can work together to subsidise or provide free menstrual products, especially in low-income communities.
  • Establishing and maintaining clean and safe restroom facilities with proper disposal mechanisms for menstrual products in schools, workplaces, public spaces, and communities is essential for menstrual hygiene management.
  • Advocating for policies that promote menstrual equity, including tax exemptions on menstrual products, paid menstrual leave, and inclusion of menstrual health education in school curriculum, can help create a supportive environment for menstruating girls.
  • Recognising and respecting diverse cultural beliefs and practices surrounding menstruation while challenging harmful norms and practices that perpetuate stigma and discrimination.
  • Ensuring access to quality healthcare services, including menstrual health consultations, screenings, and treatment for menstrual disorders, can improve overall menstrual health and well-being.
Menstrual cup and disc for period-friendly world
Period products should be easily available. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Women deserve to experience their periods with dignity and confidence: Dr Apurva Gupta

To create a #PeriodFriendlyWorld, implement comprehensive menstrual health education to break taboos, promote easy access to affordable and sustainable period products, provide safe and hygienic menstrual facilities, and ensure a supportive environment free from stigma and discrimination, says Dr Apurva Gupta. By actively advocating for policy changes that prioritise menstrual health, fostering open conversations about periods, supporting innovative solutions, and empowering women to manage their periods safely and with dignity, we can collectively work towards a world where menstruation is seen as a natural and respected aspect of life and not a taboo. Through collaborative efforts across communities, governments, organisations, and people, we can address the systemic barriers that hinder menstrual health, promote gender equality, and create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all women to experience their periods with dignity and confidence.

Debunk myths that isolate women during periods: Dr Gandhali Deorukhkar

Creating a period-friendly world involves several crucial steps, notes
Dr Gandhali Deorukhkar.

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  • It is important to encourage open discussions about period issues in society, allowing girls and women to speak freely about their experiences.
  • Providing support during cramps, such as heating pads or massages, can also be very comforting.
  • Ensuring the easy availability of sanitary pads, even in rural areas of India, is essential.
  • Proper disposal of sanitary products, rather than flushing or hiding them, should be taught.
  • We need to debunk myths that isolate women during their periods, such as prohibiting them from touching plants, entering kitchens, or interacting with certain foods.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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