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September 27
13:57 2019

Friday, Sept. 27th. 2019 –

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

Having your period is a “beautiful thing,” according to your mother when she is sitting you down to explain to you that the sight of your first period is a sign that you are now a “woman.” Most young girls have the opportunity to learn from an older sibling what that first bloodstain means and they are guided as to how to use a tampon or a feminine napkin. Most are not at all thrilled at the concept of bleeding monthly, some twice a month! The constant shifting of your body, the fear of ‘messing” your uniform at school, the quiet attempts to open your sanitary napkin in the female restroom so other girls don’t know you’re on your period, the belly cramps, the fainting, the headaches, the horrible feeling of thick clots passing and just the closeness of a “wet” pad on your body are all part of a painted visual in portion of what young girls go through monthly. As you grow up, some women adapt to understanding their bodies and what to do and what not to do during their menstruation to help them pass the phase as normal as possible. BUT, having your menstruation is normal. Some may be grossed out by the fact that you bleed monthly but it’s actually a natural and normal process.

During my rotation in OB-GYN (Obstetrics and Gynecology) in Cuba, our attending called having a menstruation “lágrimas de un utero decepcionado” – “tears of a disappointed uterus.” It is a fancy way to state that your body prepares for pregnancy each month and when fertilization does not occur, the tearing down of the “blood cushions” is a symbol of its absence. Hence the bloody tears or bleeding. Despite the fact that most of us in class considered menstruation to be a nuisance, his introduction and explanation was quiet poetic. “Tears of a disappointed uterus” had a nice ring to it.

But apart from the womb being disappointed, did you know that there are things as women that we do as “comfort” that are actually considered unhealthy practices when experiencing this each month?

MONITOR SALT INTAKE – I know I said monitor, but in truth I mean avoid salt. It just sounds so much better to say monitor it. DON’T EAT SALTY FOODS. I know that as women the binge eating happens around this time of month and our partners usually allow us to indulge, because let’s face it, no one wants to deal with the monsters we can become! Consumption of salt causes water retention. During your period it is best to avoid sodium as you may already be experiencing bloating as a symptom. So, you may want to ease up on the chips.

AVOID CAFFIENE – say what now?! Coffee is life! And for most of us, male and female, coffee is the crutch that keeps us afloat through this thing we call life! Studies show that consuming caffeine during your period increases breast tenderness. It also blocks GABA in the brain (downer neurotransmitter), that results in anxiety, increased heart rate and may exacerbate symptoms of PMS – Premenstrual Syndrome. Come on ladies, it’s not forever – it is only to assist you for the 3-5 days of turmoil. You may consider decaffeinated green tea, good for soothing cramps.

UNPROTECTED SEXCAPADES – having sex while on your period is not something that young people invented. Many of the older generation raise their eyebrows at the thought but in reality have dabbled and are now too old to remember. For years, it has been considered a safe sex practice – because people believe that it is the ONLY time a woman can’t get pregnant. Unfortunately, this is not true. (there are women with shorter cycles that allows a sperm to meet ovulation days, there are super-sperms that survive many days, and there are also women who have two uteruses and do not know, just to name a few reasons. But pregnancy is not the only reason to avoid unprotected sex during your period. The fact that there is contact with blood gives rise to the increased risk of contracting a blood borne disease, such as HIV and other sexually transmitted disease.

DON’T BE A COUCH POTATO – It’s easy to want to stay rolled up in the fetal position, walk around in pajamas all day with a bag of chips and just remain unkempt until the phase passes, especially if it’s the weekend! But getting up and moving around is very important. In fact women will tell you that sticking to a routine and exercise allows your cycle to have less cramps, bloating and some women even mention shorter bleeding days. Of course heavy lifting is to be avoided but moving around is important.

CHANGE ON TIME – This is the final, but I think the most important reminder. You may not want to admit this, but you push the limits with regards to time, especially if the pad isn’t “full” or you are bleeding light. Two things to understand – blood is unsanitary. Just because you aren’t bleeding constantly does not mean you shouldn’t change on time. Keeping a wet napkin longer that the allotted time makes it easy for bacteria and fungus to spread and is one of the easiest ways to contract a vaginal infection or Urinary Tract Infection. Using the wrong absorbent tampon and keeping it in longer than 4-6 hours increases your risk of TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME. Tampons come in different color packs to indicate which absorption to use on different days. Most women grab super or regular and use those throughout the period. This is mainly because they don’t want to be changing often or have a blood stain accident, not knowing that at the same time they are placing their health at risk.

Menstruating has been considered an unsanitary part of life. In many religions back in the day women were shunned and considered unclean. In today’s reality, we find that the ones who have been treating it as such are ourselves. We are so desperate to get it over with and continue with our “normal” lives, we fail to acknowledge that having your period IS NORMAL.

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