It is the year 2020 and honestly, I been done subscribing to the narrative that having discussions on menstrual health anywhere other than behind closed doors is a taboo. It is okay to talk about it, as a matter of fact, it is detrimental to women and girls health that more conversations, awareness and educational programmes are provided so as to prevent unforeseen & preventable menstrual health-related problems.
When it comes to menstrual health what is normal is what’s “normal” to you. Even though most women and girls experience menstruation they don’t all go through it the same exact way.Nandeekwa Tjiurutue
Menstruation is a process that helps prepare the body for pregnancy every month. Women and girls of reproductive age experience menstruation (or periods) usually monthly when the uterus lining sheds and vaginal bleeding follows.
Common Menstrual related Challenges
1. Heavy Flow
Ever needed to change your sanitary products every 2 hours or so, or used 2 sanitary products at once, example; a pad and a tampon just to feel secure so you don’t bleed through your clothes or on your bedding and have you been passing blood clots larger than about 2.5cm? Well if you answered yes to any of these then you probably experience heavy periods, or you are just extra cautious. What is normal for one might be heavy for another. Heavy periods don’t necessarily symbolise that there’s anything wrong but it can interfere with your daily life. Read on the possible causes and treatments for heavy periods.
2. Irregular Period
The average length of the menstrual cycle for all women is to have periods every 28 days. However regular cycles that are longer or shorter than this are normal, from 21 to 40 days. Changes in hormones can cause periods to become irregular. Irregular periods can be common during puberty and close to menopause. Your period may be irregular if it’s too late or too early if the amount of blood you lose varies ( heavy or light flow) and the number of days your period lasts varies too. The most annoying thing about having an irregular period is probably not knowing when it’ll pop up. Getting a surprise visit when you’re not ready is the worst!
3. Painful Period
You honestly have an unfair advantage if you do not experience any pains during your period. The rest of us experience mini deaths every month! Pain during periods is common and its usually caused by the womb contracting to push the blood out. Exercise and over-the-counter painkillers and some contraceptives can assist with the pain but do make sure to consult a health practitioner before taking anything, especially if you have any underlying health conditions such as allergies, asthma or more. Read more on painful periods.
4. Missed or Stopped Period
You can experience a stopped or missed period for a number of reasons. Taking contraceptives can cause your period to stop, pregnancy too and even stress caused by you worrying about a possible pregnancy can cause you to miss your period. Excessive exercise and sudden weight loss or being overweight may cause a stopped or missed period too. Your period can also stop because of other medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or premature menopause. If you are concerned about why your period may have stopped do visit a health care practitioner.
5. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Have you ever been overly moody, irritable, upset, felt anxious or tired for no particular reason and when people ask you what the matter is you can’t even begin to explain yourself? Then within a week or two your period shows up and you’re like “oh! that’s what that episode was about”. PMS is essentially the symptoms women experience the weeks before their period. This is my biggest menstrual challenge but being aware of my cycle and symptoms has helped me to better manage my premenstrual syndrome. Other common symptoms are bloating, breast tenderness, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite and sex drive or headaches and more. Find out more on PMS.
Period Health Don’ts
- Foods to avoid; caffeine, fatty, salty, processed foods, refined sugar, dairy, alcohol and carbonated drinks.
- Avoid smoking as this may cause period pains to become severe.
- Do not have unprotected sex, ever! Period.
- Don’t wear a pad or tampon for more than 4 hours to avoid unpleasant odour and bacterial build-up.
- Do not drink cold water this only makes things worse.
- Do not skip meals.
Period Health Do’s
- Do make it a point to exercise or you could simply just take walks.
- Rather opt for hot baths to help relieve cramps.
- Do pamper yourself, make rest and stress-relief a priority.
- If you can do take pain killers for pain relieve
- Do eat a diet rich in B vitamins and high in complex carbs
- Heat is your friend for cramps. My boyfriend gave me this hack (Yay to involved boyfriends!); fill a sock with rice and heat it up in a microwave and there you go, your own heat pad.
- The big O. yes orgasms help with cramps. I am only mentioning this tip because way too many people vouched for this one. You could do it solo or with a partner. (let me know how it goes?)
A rule of thump to always remember. What you put into your body and how you treat your body will reveal itself through your health, even through your menstrual health.
Check out Youth Friendly Clinics Around Namibia. These clinics assist the youth on any sexual health related concerns.
Follow Nandi on Instagram @ms.tjiurutue