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NotBeingDown : A Little Awareness On Heat Cycles

I want to cry and shout due to these frequent cramps. I am feeling so uneasy and people keep on asking why are you sounding so irritated. I am spending half the day in the washroom. It’s making me sick. Family and friends are nagging. Didn’t they study anything about ‘PERIODS’ in school?

Do we know that in rural India, many women and girls use unsanitary materials such as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic and safe products and facilities and 41% of adolescents hide their cloth in the room(in shame), 22% in the roof and 11% share the cloth with others? (Rutgers International) Here’s another piece of information. Out of the 355 million menstruating Indian women, the access to sanitary napkins is only to 12% of them. (Huffingtonpost)

When I had my period for the first time, I knew nothing about it and informed my mother to take me to the doctor as I felt I was suffering from an unknown disease. I was never given any information about it. It was not completely my family’s fault. I belong to a very small town in Bihar, world-famous for its paintings, Madhubani. There was always a shhhh factor surrounding the whole idea of menstruation. My mother learned that from her mother, and in turn used the same way to deal with it when it was my turn. Why did that happen? Because there was no one around her to tell that menstruation should be part of our conversation, and that by not saying what was needed, I would feel a certain way about it. After my first periods, my family waited for my elder sister to come back from her hostel for vacations to explain it to me. I felt very awkward. But a few years later, I started having the conversation with my mother about it. That practice has helped my mother to be comfortable about it too.

Now, this is one part of the story I wanted to tell you. Here is the second.

How many of us know about a phenomenon called the ‘Heat Cycle‘? No, this is not about Delhi’s scorching summer? Even my friend, Khushi didn’t know about it. So she did not understand why her pet pug Pugu doesn’t need to feel down just like I don’t feel down at all. Pugu is her toy breed female pug. One day, she started having cramps and was not eating anything. Khushi decided to take her to the doctor then she came to know that Pugu started menstruating in her 6 months only which should ideally happen after the completion of 1 year. Naturally, it was scary for her. The vet explained how this is becoming common among dogs that they get their Heat Cycle early in life. But after her first Heat Cycle, she again had it back within 3 months which was not a good sign because their cycle comes once or twice a year. They don’t bleed for 4 to 7 days like us. They normally bleed for almost 2-3 weeks which is variable according to their breed. They face stomach cramp and mood swings and prefer to be in their comfort zone and don’t feel like playing at all. Things were certainly setting out to be difficult for Pugu.

Pugu also uses the sanitary napkin as it is a hygienic practice, which keeps her away from the uneasiness and diseases. It has also been called as ‘Estrus Cycle’, sometimes, a dog that’s in estrus is said to be in ‘season’ or in ‘heat’. (VCA) Sometimes, one may find swelling in their external vulva. In many cases, the first thing to be noticed is the bloody vaginal discharge but it’s not mandatory that a female dog will have it during the whole cycle and the color and appearance of the discharge may not be the same always as it changes with the progressing cycle. (VCA) Pugu also had vaginal discharge for the first few days only.

I often think about those who are not aware of the Heat Cycle and have an animal, and more than them, I think about the stray animals who gets none of these facilities – no sanitary napkins, no doctor’s assistance, and no pain killers. But, it’s quite a far-fetched dream to make people aware of the animals when 88% humans don’t have access to sanitary products and services. (Huffingtonpost)

I don’t have time to think about how societal discourses has made periods or stains, for the matter, humiliating because I feel the pain, uncomfort, irritation and mood swing but am not down. This Menstrual Hygiene Management Day on 28th May, let’s pledge we won’t feel ashamed but will get aware and make others aware about it.

Sonali Sapna

2016 fellow, placed with Child Survival India in Delhi-NCR as part of her fellowship. Working on setting up the communication cell for the organization that primarily works on mother and child issues.

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