I just turned 11 and was preparing to get into High School, I was going to leave for boarding school the following day and mom had said she wanted to talk to me about something. My mind began racing, I had never had such serious conversations before. My heart was pounding, I was shy and didn’t know exactly what to expect. My mind did go to Menstruation but having such a conversation with my mom would be weird, I thought to myself.
Prior to that day, I had had a lot of discussions with my friends (females) in Primary School. We couldn’t wait to have our periods, we talked about this only behind our class during break time. We talked about all the myths we’ve heard about menstruation, the blood is bad blood, smells badly and so on.
Finally, it was time for mom and I to talk and yes I was right, it was about menstruation. She told me about how it’s an “introduction into womanhood” as I could get pregnant and have children the moment I start menstruating. Being a typical African woman, she didn’t forget to mention that I should never tell people I’m on my period. When I finally started menstruating, the cramps (dysmenorrhea) were so unbearable and I’d just lay in my bed in the hostel and groan in pain since I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone except for those who came close enough to find out what was wrong with me. Yes, I attended an all Girls Boarding Secondary School.
I had the opportunity to speak with GDSS girls, a secondary school in Kalgo LGA of Kebbi State, Nigeria & then it dawned on me how deep the culture of being “hush” with our periods had eaten deep into our consciousness. These beautiful school girls were too shy to share with me their experiences on period. A Period is NOT a taboo, EVERY woman experiences it. It’s amazing how something very normal & common is treated like a plague or curse.
Menstruation, also known as a period or monthly flow is the regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. It happens when your ovum (egg) wasn’t fertilized by sperm. Menstrual cycle ranges from 21 to 30 days with the commonest being 28 days (that’s why it’s called a cycle). The first day of your period is calculated as the first day of your menstrual cycle, the counting continues until the first day of another period, ovulation usually takes place at the middle of your cycle depending on the length of your cycle. For example, if your period two months ago came April 2, and comes May 1st, it means you have a 30-day cycle, study your period for at least 3-6 months before concluding on your cycle length.
Also, the cycle doesn’t necessarily remain the same for the rest of your life, it could change. For example, you could get started on a 28 days cycle and change to a 26 days cycle and so on. Factors that cause changes in cycles include menarche, hormonal imbalance, change of environment, anxiety, fear, medication and even infections.
Menarche is the term given to the “First ever menstrual flow”. It usually takes about 2 years from the age of menarche for the menstrual cycle to stabilize. Although it may be less or more than two years for some other individuals.
It is wrong to feel less of yourself because you’re on your “Special Day” especially for those of you who are in Mixed Secondary Schools. It isn’t wrong to take pain relievers if the pains are unbearable, use good sanitary products, bath regularly and don’t forget your deodorants. Feel comfortable and be yourself.
In the typical African especially Nigerian home, our moms tell us that once we start menstruating, if a man “touches” us, we’d get pregnant. In our young, naive minds, we ingested those counsels hook, line and sinker. I remember a friend of mine who got hugged by a male student in school, ran home crying she was pregnant. This is a myth.
Myths like a girl menstruating is unclean and should be locked out, not permitted to cook and involve in social and domestic activities are what they are, myths and myths are not true. There is no better time to advocate for the removal of tax on Sanitary wares than now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, menstruation is NATURAL and will always be with us as long as man exists. For this reason, my team and I continue to work to ensure girls have access to eco-friendly, sustainable and cost-effective Menstrual Hygiene Products and are looking forward to fruitful collaborations.
Be proud of your period, feel beautiful and be glad you’re a woman!
Written by Pharmacist Benedicta C. Apuamah (Uweru).
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