There is an increasing focus on menstruation matters and it really warms my heart to see this attention on something so important to womanhoodyet, treated as a taboo subject by many societies the world over. Menstrual blood has been called unclean and every kind of trashy name that there is, forgetting that this blood is the essence of womanhood. Also, menstrual cramps have been likened to a number of things, including heart attack. All these talks about menstruation are important today and especially so, when we get to consider just how much menstruation affects a woman’s life and over all daily performances.
A lot of women and young ladies experience painful periods during their menstrual cycle. For some, it is so painful that they may end up not going to school; work etc, for the duration of their period.As a matter of fact, as I write this, there is probably one woman somewhere going through excruciating pain due to menstrual cramps. And yet, they are expected to just smile it away and go about as if nothing is happening. Many school going girls lack basic hygienic and sanitary education during menstruation which forces them to miss school a lot during their menstrual period. The taboos and other snide remarks which usually follow once people discover a young girl is menstruating don’t help much. So it is endearing to see so many champion menstruation matters, breaking the silence, taboos and ensuring girls have access to a menstrual kit and adequate education to manage their menstrual cycle. That notwithstanding, I feel there is also a group of people often over looked when talking menstrual issues… people living with disabilities and other chronic health conditions.
As someone who lives with sickle cell anemia, menstrual cramps is not an easy ride and the pains can sometimes be fatal. As a matter of fact, this pain may well lead to a full blown sickle cell crisis which lands me (us) in the hospital fighting for our lives.
As a young girl, I used to experience crisis almost every month and I did not always understand why. It was not until I started paying attention to my body, to understand possible pain trigger factors and devise ways to avoid or minimize them before I was able to connect the dots that my menstrual moments were also agent provocateurs of my frequent pain crises.
Even after this discovery, I was still not comfortable discussing the fact that this was making me have frequent crisis episodes.Who gave me the courage to talk about something that was highly taboo and was only spoken of in whispered language and coded words?
And because I was silent about my menstrual experience due largely to feeling uncomfortable talking about something everyone was hush, hush on, my mother got worried; thinking my health situation is affecting my growth and hormonal developments in more ways than one. It took a while for me to explain that though a late bloomer, my organ faculties were very much intact and functioning just great! I learnt to manage the menstrual cramps for instance, by paying attention to my body and taking mild pain killers during onset of menstruation which served as brakes for a full blown crisis. I also learnt just eating healthy, drinking natural blood builders such as that one the cover picture to prevent severe anemia and staying hydrated helps. But not after I have landed several times in the hospital for days due to a crisis provoked by menstrual cramps. Nowadays, unless I have had a very stressful time, I can enjoy this unique period of womanhood without fear of landing in the hospital. Just taking little precautions have been helpful.
So while talks about menstruation and menstrual hygiene gather momentum worldwide this period, let’s remember sickle cell warriors and other people with disabilities who may be having it tough during menstruation. Women living with sickle cell who also experience menstrual cramps are in for a long haul. There have even been instances where some have opted for induced menopause just to reduce the frequencies of hospital stays due to menstrual induced crisis. Let us keep the talks on menstrual matters going but while at it, let us remember persons with disabilities and other chronic health conditions which make those undergoing menstruation challenges a tough moment. It is great to feel like a beautifully made woman, but it is not so great to enjoy this experience in constant pain.