Menstrual Health

Menstrual Health

Menstrual Health

I have a day job and this past weekend I was elbow deep in it. My partner and I went to rural KZN to do a handover and education to girls aged 11 to 17 on menstrual health and hygiene.

The reason I’m sharing this is because for some of these lovely girls and women this was the first time they had ever been spoken to about these issues. I had the use of a wonderful translator who looked at me blankly when I used the word fallopian tubes! There just is no word in the vernacular.

There was a difficult shifting of chairs and quick looks at the elders when I spoke about sex and being fertile once she’s had her first period but as you know I am the fearless teller of necessary truths, so I pushed on unabated.

I love the taboo topics and menstruation remains one of them. I can never understand why this perfectly natural biological function has had such a bad rap. Not only is menstruation perfectly normal but it is the most important one for reproduction and the continuation of the human species.

I know that the Bible says women are unclean when they are having their period but that was written in a time when they didn’t know the purpose it served. Think about it – in those times blood meant harm and potentially death. We have only known why we menstruate for about 150 years!

That particular section has done women more harm than any good. I do not believe that I am unclean in any way. I believe that menstrual blood means I am healthy and fertile. It is my superpower because without it there will be no next generation.

Next month we celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Management Day. It is a global initiative that is celebrated on 28 May –

Here’s why. It’s based on the natural menstrual cycle – May, the fifth month symbolizes the 5 days women bleed every month and 28 symbolizes the 28 days the average cycle takes.

It is estimated that without interference a woman will bleed for approximately 8 years of her adult life! That is a long time to hate something so best you start celebrating it.

We’re talking averages so don’t freak out if your period lasts 3 or 8 days. If however you bleed for weeks at a time – consistently please see a medical professional.

This is what is happening in a woman’s body when she has her period. It will start once she reaches puberty. We are finding it happening earlier and earlier because of the environmental impact especially estrogen in food especially chicken. We are finding young girls as early as nine starting their menses.

Once puberty arrives the pituitary gland sends a message to the ovaries to release and egg. Every woman is born with as many eggs as she is going to have. They are in a different form but essentially, they chill there until they get the order. The body should release one egg at a time.

Once the egg is released from the ovary it travels down the fallopian tube (she has two tubes) towards the uterus. The uterus meanwhile has been preparing itself for a fertilized egg. Once the egg is released the uterus ups production of making sure its lining is perfect for an embryo to attach itself and start feeding a baby. This happens every month.

If the egg has not been fertilized – and for those of you who don’t know – the sperm from a man has to enter the vagina, it will travel past the cervix, into the uterus and up the fallopian tubes looking for the egg to fertilize. Sperm can stay viable for days! They are tricky and determined little buggers so you can fall pregnant even when you think you’re in the safe zone.

In my opinion there are no safe days! If you don’t want to have a baby don’t have sex without contraception! Just don’t. Your 11 minutes of fun can make a baby that will affect your life for as long as you live.

We also know that a baby borne in poverty will most likely stay there.

Many girls don’t know that they are fertile from the first time they have a period. They think that they cannot fall pregnant the first time they have sex. I cannot stress enough how much we have to change the conversation and our education around these matters.

Back to our very clever bodies. Once there is no fertilized egg and subsequently no baby, the uterus has to recalculate and sheds the layer it has grown. This layer is then sent packing. It moves through the cervix and through the vagina. For this she needs menstrual products, which I’ll deal with below.

It’s a monthly miracle.

Save this article if you have young daughters. It is not dirty. It is not a curse, and it is vital to the human race.

So now you understand the process, you need to give thought to how the period is managed. She will need some form of product, be that pads, tampons or cups.

I’d like to make a case for washable, eco friendly pads. At this very moment 50 million women are bleeding on the African Continent. If she is using 4 pads per day as is recommended – that is 200 million pads going into landfill every day! We have to do this better.

Washable pads are a sustainable solution for everyone. They will last the user approximately 48 months before they are torn up and biodegrade in less than a year. Washables are becoming an increasingly big player in the Green Economy.

Yes, you can give a girl a pack of disposable pads this month but what does she do next month?

We also know that when a family has to decide between food or pads, food wins hands down but periods do not stop during a pandemic. It’s time to educate and help our girls.

At Dignity Dreams (my day job) we manufacture washable pads. The manufacturing process employs 20 women who we know feed about 10 people per household. The packs, which include 6 pads, panties washing instruction and storage bags can be purchased for your use or to be donated to someone who needs help.

You can donate, organise a fundraiser, sign a monthly debit order, or make us a beneficiary on your My School Card (it requires a bit of admin but once its done it costs you absolutely nothing) We will receive a percentage of your purchases at Woolworths and Builders. It makes a huge difference to us on a monthly basis. You can find out more on https://www.dignitydreams.com/how-to-help/

You can also email me sharon@dignitydreams.com and whatever you do don’t forget to follow us on our social media platforms all available on our website www.dignitydreams.com  Like, share and comment every 28 days if you don’t mind!

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