“Is it only one time or forever Maa? Does this happen to every woman on earth? Does this happen to the prime ministers and presidents of nations? Why this does not happen to men?” at the outset of menstruation cycle I had made my mother’s life hell with my never-ending questions. The nausea with cramping pain was immense and the discomfort unspeakable. First few days I loathed every living being on earth as my heart cried against this natural injustice.
“Why you analyze so much? Why don’t you accept it like your docile cousins or friends or such and such people?” used to be my mother’s regular answer.
Two decades later though I met a doctor who won my heart with reasonable answers to each and every question that had lingered at the back of my mind since ages. No need to guess I married him on the next available date on Hindu calendar.
“Who told you Madame, that menstruation is a curse to womanhood? On the contrary it’s your natural guard against many biological evils that men have to deal with being defenseless. Your bodies are blessed as Almighty has given higher-order unique ability to women to ovulate (release of eggs from ovary), lactate (production of milk) and reproduce; at the same time you are shielded with this inherent protection mechanism”. He explained.
Science behind Menstruation
Menstruation or period or menses, is the shedding of the endometrium, the innermost-lining of the uterus. Females, humans, or a number of other female mammals, have regular periods during their reproductive age by bleeding from the womb (uterus) that is released through the vagina. Among human females a period is often observed in about every 28 days that begins in most women between 10 and 16 years of age. Some women may have a 24-day cycle while other may have a 35-day one. This behavior continues until the menopause, when woman is 45 to 55 years old. Sometimes human body takes up to two years to occur in a regular cycle. After puberty, be it 24 day or 35 day the majority of females have a regular menstrual cycle. Menstrual bleeding usually lasts for about five days, but can vary from two to seven days.
In India as well as certain Southern Asian countries discussing periods has remained a taboo since ages due to which young women suffer for years before periods get stabilized and monthly pain reduces. In many cultures, a menstruating woman is considered unclean, unhygienic, her menstrual blood considered toxic; and hence is strictly prohibited entering the kitchen or places of worship. People must accept the fact that menstruation is just blood and tissue a woman ended up not using. When we come to benefits of menstruation cycles, they are immense.
Benefits of Menstruation
a) Natural Guard against Ovarian, Uterine Cancer. Study finds Women who had unpredictable cycles in their teens and twenties were more likely to develop ovarian cancer decades later. However it’s a statistical study and does not mean that every patient who has irregular bleeding has an elevated risk of ovarian cancer.
b) Natural cleansers that releases bacteria from inside the reproductive system and assist the body to discharge excess iron, which can help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
c) Protection from high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Obesity is seen four times more frequently in women with menstrual disturbances than with those with regular cycles. Menopause does not cause cardiovascular diseases. However, a decline in the natural hormones (estrogen and progesterone) leads to a decreased protection against heart diseases among post-menopausal women.
d) Prevents mood swings, frustration, anger, insomnia as hormones keep in balance
e) A family planning mechanism used by people in pre-contraceptive days and till date
f) These menstruation cycle related problems could be well-understood by ladies who develop hormonal imbalance and have to bear many consequences as stated above. Perhaps the only devastating illness striking women in the prime of life (i.e. during regular menstruation cycle) is breast and cervical cancer.
Preparing Your Body for Menopause
Finally, menopause though ends the natural defense for a woman, does not necessarily mean end of everything. If a woman follows a healthy lifestyle and continues doing so at menopause, her risk for certain diseases and stroke is lower. Family history also contributes to the risk.
Women should eliminate unhealthy habits like smoking, which may contribute to early menopause, increase the risk of blood clots, decrease the flexibility of arteries and lower the levels of HDL (healthy cholesterol) and take care of their heart through regular exercise and good nutrition.
A healthy diet as below:
i) Citrus and non-sugary fruits, vegetables
ii) Whole grains
iii) Low-fat dairy products
iv) Poultry (excluding egg yolk), fish and nuts,
While limiting red meat and sugary foods and beverages. Regular physical activity (i.e. 150 minutes per week or an hour daily for a weight loss program) helps preventing heart disease, obesity. Depending on individual needs, one may choose from good aerobic exercises as brisk-walking, cycling, light-dancing or swimming whatever works for her.
P.S. I am thankful to Dr Rajul Rastogi, my gold-medalist doctor husband in providing enough information to write this article. Dr Rastogi is a radiologist by profession.
Article written by Debajani Mohanty. She is renowned Author and Columnist