Period peace

You’ll either dismiss the idea completely or go all out to celebrate it. Because it’s difficult to be non-committal. With media giant Mathrubhumi introducing a menstrual leave policy last week, menstruation has made its way from social media campaigns and poetry writing to HR policies. “Though we have named it First day Of Period, or FOP leave, it isn’t restricted to the first day. It is 12 days’ optional paid leave in addition to a woman employee’s usual entitlements. You can take it any day of your period, or not take it at all,” says Devleena S Majumder, who heads human resources at Culture Machine, the Mumbai-based online content company that was one of the first to introduce the policy. Triggered by a conversation among some employees about menstrual pain and discomfort, the company felt they could go the extra mile. “All our policies are equal, but we felt this reason for taking leave was legitimate enough to be recognised. We are lucky to have male employees who are all vocally supportive of it,” says Majumder. So before we jump to any conclusions about this policy — which Japan has been fine with since 1947, but Italy still seems to be struggling with — let’s look at what we really know.

Period peace

From the doc’s desk

Dr Gita Arjun, Chennai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist, walks us through the possible period problems many women face

Painful periods

More than half the population of women experiences some pain, at least for 1-2 days each month. Painful periods are the leading cause of women missing work and school. The pain is usually in the lower abdomen or lower back. Severe pain may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Painful periods usually respond to a heating pad or hot water bottle on the abdomen. The common painkillers that help period pain are ibuprofen, mefenamic acid or ketorolac. They work best when taken at the first sign of the period or pain, and are usually advised for 1 to 3 days. Do check with your doctor about use. Sometimes, menstrual pain has another cause in addition to menstruation. Endometriosis is a condition in which the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is found outside the uterus, especially in the ovaries. This tissue outside the uterus swells and bleeds during the period and can cause intense pain.

Heavy bleeding

Women who have to deal with heavy periods may be more prone to take time off from work. The best medications to control uncomplicated heavy bleeding are tranexamic acid and mefenamic acid. These medications reduce the flow by as much as 50-80% when taken every month during the menstrual period. Do consult a doctor before you take them.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

PMS is the combination of physical and emotional symptoms (irritability, anger, depression, anxiety, tension, fatigue, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, crying spells, feeling overwhelmed or out of control) that some women have before their period begins. At least 75% of all menstruating women have some symptoms of PMS. It usually starts worsening in the 30s and can continue unabated till menopause is reached.

Speaking out

Padma Lakshmi, actor, model, author, and co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, shares her journey with period pain, endometriosis

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 36 years old. Endometriosis forms during a girl’s reproductive development, part and parcel with her womanhood. My mother told me growing up that some women experience more pain than others, and that this was just our lot in life. But I felt something was different about my period when I first went off to college and saw the difference in time taken by my roommates and friends to recover after getting their periods. The pain from my own period took much longer to get over — I was out for a week each month, while they seemed to bounce back in just a few days. After my diagnosis, I worked with my surgeon, Dr Tamer Seckin, to co-found the Endometriosis Foundation of America. I didn’t want others to suffer in silence unnecessarily. It’s a very isolating disease that has a lot of emotional ramifications as well. Together, we’ve helped educate over 16,000 young people about this devastating disease in NYC area schools. We also helped launch a research centre at MIT in 2009.

We all have mothers, sisters and friends, and it’s been so inspiring to have children come up to us at our educational seminars and say that they recognise the symptoms in someone they know, and encourage them to help others to get a proper diagnosis. But some of the symptoms could also be PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. In short, never take your health for granted. It’s no fun at all to go to the gynaecologist, and no one wants to talk about their periods. It is uncomfortable at best, but we need to start sharing the information in a candid and thoughtful way to prevent the next generation of women and young girls from going through what I went through. We owe it to them.

I tried it…

These women used products other than traditional sanitary pads, and share their experiences

Banana-fibre pads

Supriya R, lawyer, Chennai

I read about the Saathi banana-fibre pad a while ago, and because I believe that we can’t create landfills loaded with sanitary napkins, I was eager to try it. Once they launched, I bought several boxes and gave them to family and friends to use! These 100% biodegradable pads are comfortable, can be used on the heaviest days and last upto 6 hours for me. I would recommend though that the company consider making one variant a little longer. Otherwise, I have permanently switched to this.

Saathi, ₹178 for a pack

of 8 XL with wings.

Cloth pads

Sruti Harihara Subramanian, filmmaker and entrepreneur

About 4 years ago, when I was consciously shifting to a sustainable lifestyle, I felt the need to change what I used for my period. I tried Eco Femme and liked the fact that I felt more connected to my period. Synthetic pads felt plastic-ey and would start to itch, especially in hot summer months. It’s easy to travel with and never leaks. Since it comes in variations, you can use it from your spotting days to days with heavy flow. The best part: I am still using what I did, from 4 years ago.

Eco Femme, ₹245 upwards

per piece.


Sonal Jain, Director, Boondh

As a person with PCOS who bleeds a lot, I love the cup for three reasons. One, I have to remove and reinsert it much fewer times than changing pads, as the capacity of a cup is much larger (it can easily hold 12-15 ml). Two, my cramps reduce because of the suction created by the seal of the cup. Three, I forget I am on a period because there is no dryness, itchiness or rashes as caused by pads. Neither any smell or doubt of leakage. The best part: when I sneeze, there is no tsunami in my panties.

What’s your attitude?

Sinu Joseph, a Bengaluru-based menstrual hygiene educator and counsellor talks about our attitude towards menstruation.

Last year, we interviewed 1,058 adolescent girls and women from 37 villages and 3 urban wards in Bengaluru. When we studied the data, we understood some important facts about the attitude towards menstruation.

The good news is that we had around 57.78% women who expressed positive feelings towards menstruation, while 18.84% felt negatively, and 23.38% felt indifferent. We also found that women who expressed a positive attitude towards menstruation had fewer menstrual disorders.

The sad part was that adolescent girls and women, who were more educated, used sanitary napkins and belonged to middle- and high-income households, had a more negative attitude, compared to less-educated, married women, who use cloth, follow traditional practices of resting and come from low-income households.

Traditionally, menarche was celebrated even among the poorest families. This leaves a deep impression in the mind of the adolescent that menstruation is a positive event in her life. As we move away from these culturally ingrained positive ideas of menstruation, and promote menstruation as an inconvenience that can be “overcome” by certain products, we unknowingly create negative attitudes and stress around menstruation, which in turn impacts menstrual health.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:13:22 AM |

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