She covers her head, her eyes furtively observing the scene around her and then looking down. She reached the counter. Whispers to the shopkeeper who brings it out, wrapped in newspaper and then in an ominous black bag. Hidden from view, she quickly retraces her steps, bounds up the staircase and in one swift motion, pulls the door to her room open. She carelessly discards the black bags, tears the newspaper in a hurry and there, are her sanitary napkins.
You would think talking about periods is completely fine in our country. Turns out, it’s anything but. Why women must look like they are upto some sorcery when buying sanitary napkins is baffling. Stayfree hosted a panel discussion to talk about just this. And with 5 powerful women from different walks of life giving their points of view on the topic of menstrual hygiene, nothing was taboo. From where girls get their information from about periods to getting men to buy sanitary napkins, it was all discussed here. The panel had Gul Panag, Actress, Activist & Former Beauty Queen; Dr. Anita Soni, Obstetrics & Gynecology Consultant at Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital; Sinu Joseph, Counselor & Menstrual Hygiene Educator and Lina Ashar, Founder & Chairperson of Kangaroo Kids Education.
I caught up with Dr. Anita Soni to get answers to the questions we are itching to ask (pun intended).
Many women are lead to believe that periods are dirty or polluting. Why?
Dr. Anita Soni: Let me let you in on a reality. All menstrual blood is sterile, it is not unclean. It is infected when it comes out and is exposed to the elements.
Can you exercise during periods?
Yes, you can totally exercise during your periods. Even heavy workouts are completely fine. The only thing is, don’t try something new. Like, don’t try something you have not tried earlier because then you will attribute the strain to your periods. Follow your regular routine.
Are tampons recommended?
They are recommended for people who are educated and can change it every few hours. There is something called the Toxic Shock Syndrome that can happen if you forget a tampon. And that shouldn’t happen.
Are hygiene washes good for you?
Yes, if you want to clean your intimate areas, it’s perfectly fine to use a hygiene wash. And any brand is good. We used to recommend douching earlier, but now everyone has jet sprays and water does reach the vagina and it cleans out. All those who are sexually active, sex is a great form of douching the vagina. There’s so much friction caused that there is no infection at the end.
What sort of pads should we use?
You should use cotton pads. Especially in a climate like ours, we find a lot of patients who complain about itching post period. They think its Urinary Tract Infection but they don’t realize that it’s not that, it’s because of the pads you use during your periods. Lots of brands give you pads that give you a complete dry feel. Nowadays, we all work 8-10 hours and that pad is against your skin all this time. There’s humidity and sweat and that’s what’s causing the problem. If you wear a cotton pad, you are at an advantage because you have to change it every 4-5 hours because otherwise you will find bits of cotton stuck to your panties and crumble and fall around. Fear of embarrassment causes you to change.
How long should I be wearing a napkin?
Not more than 4-6 hours. And that is irrespective of the level of saturation of the pad.
Is PMS a real thing?
PMS is something that happens because a hormonal imbalance is created in your body. The things you feel are bloating, anxiety, physical symptoms like cramping etc. Also, this depends from person to person. If you are a type a personality, you’ll have more PMS. If you’ re a chilled out, cool person, it will affect you less.
I feel like I can eat a horse a few days before my periods. Is this normal?
Yes, completely normal. You feel like you can eat a horse or anything that is put in front of you. You put on weight because of this as well. That’s because of the progesterone hormone. The same hormone that increases in pregnancy. That’s what makes you eat more. Plus, a little bit of water or fluid retention. It is also normal to have tender breasts before your periods.
What’s a good way to dispose off a sanitary napkin?
Honestly, in the earlier days, the pads were made of cotton so they would biodegrade. Then they started adding the plastic behind and that is not biodegradable, so that causes a problem. The gel technology makes the pad absolutely not degradable, that’s why now you wrap it up and dispose it off in the garbage can. All this goes to the incinerator that’s near Haji Ali. (gets burnt) . Don’t flush because they are meant to absorb fluid and will clog your drains. Tampons are dangerous in this case. If you use cloth, make sure you put it out in the sun so the bacteria is killed.
That’s all I asked her. If you have any questions that you want answered or clarified, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.