Tag Archives: stigma

Let Us Talk About Our Periods

In light of the World Menstrual Health and Hygiene Day observed recently (28th May), I won’t pad how I feel about the stigma and taboo around periods.

We all came into this world from the same place – the uterus. A concept that apparently requires reminding. The same process that is essential for bringing life on earth is associated with shame, humiliation, and even disgust in many parts of the world. 

My father is a doctor, so menstrual health was treated as just another health issue in my household. Despite growing up in a small non-city (district) in the state of Bihar in India, I was fortunate enough that my home was a safe space where there was no disgust associated with this topic. I was allowed to sit in all poojas and welcome to whine about my horrible cramps. But, outside the house, things were different. Friends and even aunties had strange names for the monthly cycle – from “Aunty flow” to “being down”. 

Fifteen years later, telling the same people that I am writing an article on menstrual health and hygiene was in itself a great litmus test for the taboo and stigma around this topic even now. No one said that they were disgusted by the notion to my face but I got a lot of uncomfortable nods and grunts.

This is a matter of health

People need to understand that menstrual pain is a medical condition (and unbearable one at that) and we need to talk about it – create awareness and bust myths.

According to a study, at least one in four women experiences distressing menstrual pain characterized by a need for medication and absenteeism from study or social activities. Period cramps (also known as dysmenorrhea), are mostly caused by a hormonal imbalance, which can start before the period commences and last for several days.

And right now, amidst lockdowns and increased isolation due to COVID-19 all over the world, there have been reports of increasing “period stress” that is affecting women’s cycles and overall menstrual health. According to a study by Mayo Clinic, stress can not only cause increased menstrual pain but it can also delay the periods or cause Amenorrhea or the absence of menstruation. 

So, instead of disguising this very natural and normal occurrence as a matter of shame, disgust, and humiliation, we need to de-stigmatize it and create conversations around this topic.

Some natural remedies that have worked wonders for me

Period cramps can be horrible and many women go through this pain every month. To mitigate it, here are a few easy, reliable, tested, and tried natural remedies for better menstrual health.

When it comes to cramps, I try not to pop painkillers (anymore). Full disclosure: I used to pop 3-4 Ibuprofen tablets during one cycle when I was younger but now that I am 30 and probably a bit wiser, I find myself more inclined towards natural remedies. 

Herbs like chasteberry and wild yam have been used for thousands of years for treating menstrual pain and boosting women’s health.

I recently discovered and subscribed to The Scarlet Company’s Scarlet – a natural tonic that contains both these super herbs and more, and it has helped me a lot with my cramps and flow.

Another thing that never fails to work, is a hot water bag. I swear by hot water bags and cannot go without them during my periods. They not only help with cramps but also ease the flow.

Yoga also helps a lot. Just 20 minutes of sun salutation every day can make those horrible back pains go away.

This is 2020

The world is getting crazier, stranger, and scarier every day. When one girl comes out of the “period-shaming” closet, she voices the pain and struggles of many others who might be still stuck inside. As a society, we need to do better. And, creating unnecessary sensationalism, stigma or taboo around serious health concerns and issues is not doing anyone any good. Can I get an Amen?

Surabhi Pandey, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to more than 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. 

Could You be Suffering from Anxiety?

Over the last two weeks, how often have you felt nervous, anxious or on edge? How often have you felt that you weren’t able to stop or control worrying?

If your answer to these questions is half or more than half the days, it’s possible that you may be troubled by, or contending with, some anxiety. These simple questions, as benign as they sound, are adapted from an anxiety screen (GAD-2) that should be administered to patients at each primary care physician visit. The purpose of this screen, far from labeling someone as mentally unwell or ascribing a diagnosis, is to identify patients who are possibly having trouble dealing with day-to-day stressors, life events, or are suffering from a mental illness and could be helped in feeling and functioning better through therapy.

As a nurse, and now a medical student, I have often encountered patients who are extremely apprehensive about labels: depressed, anxious, obsessive, manic. The stigma around these labels and fear of being labelled as someone who has mental illness limits patients’ answers to clinician questions. “No! I am not depressed”, “I don’t have those problems” or “I can deal with it”. This patient perspective often leads to the patient continuing to silently suffer with symptoms of anxiety: constant worry about work, poor sleep, irritability, difficulty focusing or concentrating or feeling fatigued. 

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) more than 1/5th (19.1%) of the American population above the age of 18 has had some form of anxiety disorder in the past year. While research on the South Asian community is limited, the prevalence of anxiety in the South Asian community mirrors that of the general American population, 20.8% of South Asians meet criteria for having an incident of anxiety, substance abuse, or affective disorder in their lifetime. Importantly research specific to South Asians has identified that, as a group, they are less likely to seek and utilize mental health services and that stigma around mental illness in the community may be a reason for this phenomenon.

    Admitting to anxiety, worry, or feelings of dread is not a sign of weakness. Similar to having a fever, pain in your knee from arthritis, or trouble swallowing, anxiety is a real medical condition for which you should be able to seek and receive care and help. Treatment for anxiety starts with a visit to your doctor. In collaboration with your doctor, and based on screening questionnaires and conversations with him/her, you can chart a plan for yourself. Anxiety comes in many forms; Social anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. However, a plan of care for all of them can begin simply: a referral to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a qualified healthcare professional and/or picking from possible drugs that modulate the amount of neurotransmitters in your brain (aka SSRIs or SNRIs).

Kultaj Kaleka is a third-year medical student at Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine, and a student delegate to the AMA. He aspires to pursue Psychiatry. Prior to medical school, Mr. Kaleka worked as a registered nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital.