Talking to your Child about Periods: Menstruation is a normal biological process of cyclical shedding of blood and tissue cells from the vagina every month. Myths and taboos in the society have resulted in a high level of secrecy about the basic menstruation facts -leading to shame and exclusion for women and girls. A mother discussing the same with the adolescent daughter at menarche is a hush-hush topic and, in some cases, teenage girls find themselves surprised and scared by a natural event. As a community, we must collaborate to provide our girls with the right environment by imparting correct knowledge, providing a safe environment, free menstrual needs and care. Encouraging talks on sexual health, menstrual hygiene will remove social myths and taboos.
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The biological basis of the menstruation cycle
To understand what the menstruation is, we need to understand the biological basis for it. There is a small gland in the brain known as pituitary gland which secrets some chemicals called hormones. These hormones help in the body's increased height, development of breasts, axillary and pubic hair. These hormones also help in controlling the growth of the lining of the womb(uterus). The uterus is an organ in females which in later years helps to give birth to the baby. Every month body prepares the lining of the uterus for conceiving a baby.
"There are two phases in which this lining grows in a month to prepare the uterus for developing a baby, but when this does not happen, these hormones' level drops, resulting in shedding of the buildup lining in the form of blood mixed with cells called as the menstrual cycle. The first menstrual cycle generally starts at around 10-15 years, which is known as menarche. After the onset of menarche, the cyclical bleeding happens every month and stays for about 3-7 days. Initially, the flow is heavy for the first few days and then decreases" describes Dr Meenakshi Banerjee, Senior Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Delhi.
Menstruation and body pains
These cyclical bleeding or periods can be associated with mild lower tummy aches and backache, typical and can be accomplished with simple steps like hot fomentation or pain reliefs. If any pain in excess or any excessive bleeding staying for more than 3-5 days and with the passage of thick clots needs attention and evaluation by the doctor. So, the menstrual cycle is a very normal, natural and essential process of a female body. The myth of the menstrual blood being a dirty collection coming out, thus restricting the girls to do their regular school and home routines needs to be broken.
How to maintain hygiene during menstruation?
After understanding this natural process, we should also know that we need to keep good menstrual hygiene during periods as the menstrual blood can be a breeding ground for many infections. During the menstrual cycle, it is advisable to use clean, sanitary napkins, tampons etc. which helps in soakage of blood. But these sanitary napkins need to be changed every 4-5 Hours or early if soaked, to avoid any genital infections. Urine infections are also widespread infection which can result due to poor hygiene. Adequate fluid intake can help in flushing the minor ailments from the body and is advisable. The heavy menstrual cycle can make you anaemic and hence more prone to infections. Iron-rich foods like green vegetables, dates, pomegranate, beetroot should be an essential part of the diet.
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