Healthy menstruation: Tips for better menstrual health, and hygiene among teenagers  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
New Delhi: As we grow up, we start to realise and understand more about our bodies, their needs and wants. We also learn to take better care of it, both in terms of hygiene, as well as what we feed it and how we keep it. However, when we are teenagers with little knowledge and guidance, we may not have the means to do so. A teenager’s body goes through several changes – and one major change in the case of young girls is that of menstruation. Adolescent girls usually begin their monthly periods by age 11-13, and all of this is too new for them to process. At the same time, given the taboo about the subject in society, they may find it difficult to access knowledge about menstruation, or ask their elders about the biological process and seek more answers.
How these biological processes are used to make you feel can also affect your outlook towards your body, and change the way you look at it, especially at a young age. If little girls are made to feel ‘dirty’, ‘unacceptable’, and ‘sick’ when they are menstruating, it can affect the way they see the very natural biological process and shy away from it all their lives. ” If at menarche (first menstruation) you are left feeling scared, anxious, confused, angry and even dirty, there is a good chance that these feelings will continue through subsequent cycles. This is why some cultures, especially in South India for example, celebrate menarche as a young girl’s rite of passage and entry into womanhood. These customs can help shape a positive outlook around menstruation,” said Purnima Khandelwal, Sr. Program Officer) and Riya Thakur, Sr. Program Manager with Population Foundation of India.
Tips for better menstrual hygiene, and health among young teenage girls
For many adolescent girls, one’s first period can be a confusing time. Underscored by feelings of not belonging, neither identifying as a child nor as an adult. This is also a transitional phase where we experience physical-emotional-psychological transformations and it can be scary and overwhelming for many, especially when we lack a social support system.
But are we doomed to misery because nobody threw us a party when we bled? Not quite. The key is recognizing that at whatever stage you are in life, you have the power to change your menstrual experience and set a positive tone, and the earlier in life, the better, say Ms Khandelwal and Ms Thakur, even as they share some tips that can help teenage girls with an easier, safer menstrual cycle.
- Listen to your body – The way we bleed- colour, texture, flow, odour, pain – is an indication of whether we reside in a healthy or an unhealthy body. Menstruation is natural cleansing or detoxification, which in turn helps girls and women with their overall wellbeing.
- Feed your body- Understanding the significance of what we eat is a big part of our transformation. Acne, bloating, cramps, loose bowels during menstruation can be an indication of a distressed digestive system. Consuming easily digestible foods such as fruits and a balanced diet ensures that your body receives the nutrition and nourishment it needs before and during your cycle.
- Move your body – Exercising helps in releasing happy hormones, it helps with mood swings, pain and bloating. Exercise is also known to counter some of the effects of advance hormonal disorders such as Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Which exercise to choose varies from person to person, depending on what your body is used to.
- Know your body – World-over women, especially adolescent girls, have a very poor understanding of their bodies. Understanding and appreciating your body and her particular quirks and characteristics are critical milestones on the road to self-love.
- Love your body – Maintaining hygiene and using menstrual products which meet our requirements are crucial. Every girl should be free to decide and have access to the product of her choice – be it biodegradable sanitary napkins, reusable cloth, menstrual cups, tampons, menstrual discs, so on. Knowing how to use the menstrual products of one’s choice along with the basic understanding of keeping one’s genitals clean and dry will help maintain a healthy and happy body.
- This also includes being conscious of what we consume – Do you know what your menstrual products are made of? Are they biodegradable or non-biodegradable? Do you know where they go when they are discarded? Menstruation is a continual process of learning, questioning, experimenting and identifying your needs at different stages of your cycle.
It is okay to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to seek information regarding your menstrual health and hygiene, normalize conversations, be it with parents, teachers, doctors, internet – trust the intent but always verify the facts. And know, what works for other menstruators, may not work with you and that is okay.
Taking care of our body and mind is the biggest gift we can give to ourselves. And by becoming Period Positive, we have a chance to re-write our stories. Make a conscious effort for your next 3 menstrual cycles and follow the aforementioned tips and see if you feel a positive difference.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.