Embracing Menstruation with Pride
by Tatenda Rukarwa
Every menstruator in the history of humanity has or had a period. Each month, the uterus sheds its lining, sending blood flowing out through the vagina (except during pregnancy, in which case there is a lengthy reprieve). This process is as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping, and it’s beautiful too: There’s no human race without it. Yet most of us loathe talking about it.
Memories of first menstruation – whether good or bad – are unforgettable. As mentioned before, if you’re prepared for your first period and have the requisite information before you have your first period, you should be able to handle it without fear or embarrassment. However, if you don’t know much about menstruation, your first step should be to not panic because menstruation is normal! When you get your first period, you should talk about it with your parents or any other adult that you can trust, such as an elder sister or a teacher. They will support you and provide you with necessary information and sanitary products to manage your periods.
It is difficult to predict when and where you will experience your first menstruation (menarche). Being in a situation in which you discover blood coming out from the vagina for the first time can be extremely confusing if you’re not prepared for it in advance. Having prior knowing about menstruation-what is menstruation and how to deal with it-can help you in dealing with such a situation in a much better way. Being well-prepared will help you prevent embarrassment that may result from this intensely private moment.
Menstrual hygiene and management can be essential in ensuring that your everyday life is not interrupted by menstruation. It ensures that you can continue with your daily routine such as going to school, going to work, or doing household chores. It can also prevent potential situations of embarrassment and in turn, make you feel confident about yourself and your body. In this sense, maintaining proper menstrual hygiene is important for your wellbeing and development.
During menstruation the menstrual fluid needs to be absorbed and disposed of in the right manner. This can be done using any of the following products:
1. Disposable sanitary pad: This is an absorbent pad worn between the vulva and the underwear.
2. Reusable cloth pad: This is a sanitary pad made of cloth that can be washed and reused.
3. Tampon: This is a mass of absorbent material that is inserted in the vagina to absorb menstrual fluid.
4. Menstrual cup: This is a bell shaped cup usually made of silicone that is inserted in the vagina to collect the menstrual fluid to dispose it later. Menstrual cups can be washed and reused.
The key to dealing with menstruation is to be prepared for it. This involves predicting when you will have your next period and then, making preparations for it in advance. Four measures that you should keep in mind to be prepared for your next period are as follows:
1. Keeping track of menstrual cycle
You can keep track of your menstrual cycle by marking the days when you’re having your period on a calendar every month. In this way you can know how many days your period lasts and stay informed on the length of your menstrual cycle.
The length of the menstrual cycle can be calculated by counting the number of days between the first day of your period and the first day of next period. If you have access to a computer or a smartphone, then you can use a variety of software and applications to keep track of your menstrual cycle. In the beginning you may experience irregular periods and it might take several months for your periods to become regular.
2. Analysing the cervical mucus
Cervical mucus is secreted by the cervix. It moistens the walls of the vagina and is expelled from it from time to time. To take a sample of the cervical mucus, you should insert clean fingers in the vagina and check the colour and texture of the mucus on them. Just before and after menstruation the cervical mucus decreases in quantity, looks white in colour and feels sticky. Around the time of ovulation the mucus increases in quantity, looks transparent and feels slippery like raw egg white. Thus before menstruation, a thick, white and sticky cervical mucus will indicate high probability of the start of your period in a few days.
3. Keeping a sanitary pad or any products
It is impossible to predict the exact time and the situation when your period may begin. Hence it is a good idea to keep a sanitary pad or a tampon handy at least when you are expecting your period in a few days. Tampons and even the slim sized napkins are small enough to easily fit in a purse.
In case you also experience abdominal cramps during menstruation, you might also like to keep a few, over the counter pain relievers handy. These measures will ensure that your period does not come in the way of your daily routine.
4. Staying healthy and confident
Staying healthy and confident is as important as any other measure that you can take to be prepared for menstruation. Leading a healthy and stress-free life can keep your menstrual cycle regular and uniform. On the other hand, a stressful and unhealthy lifestyle can disrupt your menstrual cycle and you will not be able to predict when you will have your next period. A balanced diet consisting of adequate amounts of essential nutrients and feeling confident is essential for your physical and mental well-being.
Maintaining proper menstrual hygiene is vital to the health, well-being, mobility, and productivity of all menstruators. As Talia we seek to break the silence around periods and teach our young menstruators to take care of their body, health, mind, and spirit during menstruation.
About the author: I am Tatenda Rukarwa, I studied for a BSc Hon in Sociology and Gender Development Studies At Women’s University in Africa and counselor by Profession. I am passionate about young people and women empowerment issues.