With so many taboos around sexual and reproductive health, many Indian women are fed misinformation about their periods and menstrual cycle. It is important to know your body well so that you do not fall prey to notions or customs that act as a barrier to your good health or comfortable lifestyle.
Earlier this month, a 30-year-old security guard in Thane was arrested for allegedly killing his 12-year-old sister over suspicion of having a love affair with someone, officials said. The man had a misunderstanding that his sister, who was having her first period, had a physical relationship with someone after noticing blood stains on her clothes, the police said.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day, experts share some common myths that you as well as your family, friends and society in general should STOP following.
Dr Ritu Sethi, Director, the Aura Specialty Clinic, Gurgaon and Senior Consultant- Cloud Nine Hospital, Gurgaon, shared the following myths that experts have consistently debunked:
- Myth: Menstrual blood attracts wild animals.
Fact: There is no evidence to support the belief that menstrual blood attracts wild animals. Menstrual blood is not a unique scent that would draw animals any more than other types of blood.
- Myth: Using tampons can cause a loss of virginity.
Fact: Virginity is a social construct and is not related to the use of tampons or any other menstrual product. Using tampons does not affect a person’s virginity.
- Myth: Menstrual blood is different from regular blood.
Fact: Menstrual blood is not different from other types of blood. It contains blood cells, tissue, and fluids, just like blood from any other part of the body.
- Myth: Menstruating individuals should not wash their hair or take a bath.
Fact: There is no reason to avoid washing hair or taking a bath during menstruation. Maintaining good hygiene practices, including regular bathing, is important for overall health.
- Myth: Menstruation is a sign of weakness.
Fact: Menstruation is a natural and normal bodily function and is not a sign of weakness. It does not affect a person’s ability to perform tasks or activities.
- Myth: Menstrual blood is always bright red.
Fact: Menstrual blood can vary in color and consistency. It may be bright red, dark red, brown, or even have a slight pinkish tint. The color and consistency can vary throughout the menstrual cycle.
Dr. Garima Sawhney, Senior Gynecologist and Co-founder, Pristyn Care, adds the following common myths:
- Myth: Engaging in physical activities during periods is harmful.
Fact: Participating in physical activities, such as exercising or sports, is not harmful during menstruation. Staying physically active can alleviate menstrual symptoms and enhance overall well-being. However, one needs to listen to their body and adjust the intensity and type of activity based on personal comfort.
- Myth: Menstrual blood is
Fact: Menstruation is a natural and healthy process and menstrual blood is not impure or dirty. It is a combination of blood, tissue, and mucus that sheds from the uterus during the menstrual cycle. It is a normal and healthy process and embracing it with dignity and respect is important.
Dr. Manisha Munemane, Director Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Surya Mother and Child Super Speciality Hospital Pune, busts a widely popular myth:
Myth: PMS is just a “mood swing” and not a legitimate health concern.
Fact: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a real and common condition that affects many women. It encompasses a range of physical and emotional symptoms that can significantly impact a woman’s well-being. Recognizing and addressing PMS is essential for supporting women’s overall health.
“It is about time we dismantle such outdated beliefs and learn about the real biological process of menstruation. By doing so, we can foster a society that supports menstrual health, promotes gender equality, and empowers women to take charge of their own well-being,” Dr. Munemane adds.
Busting myths in rural India
Menstruation continues to be associated with stigma, myths, and taboos among rural and marginalized communities in the country.
“During their menstrual cycles, women frequently experience social exclusion, discrimination, and in severe instances even verbal or physical abuse. Due to ingrained cultural beliefs that view menstruation as impure or shameful, ignorance and lack of awareness are the main causes of this. It is imperative for people to comprehend that menstruation is just a normal bodily process and does not signify impurity,” says Ms. Shweta Rawat, Chairperson and Founder, The Hans Foundation.
Talking about how the present situation can be improved, Ms. Rawat says, “We need to increase access to reasonably priced menstrual products, encourage education about menstrual hygiene, invest in sanitation infrastructure, and confront societal taboos and stigmas related to menstruation. We can encourage better menstrual hygiene practices and raise the general well-being and dignity of women in rural areas by empowering women and providing them with the information, tools, and supportive environments they need.”