Period shame and Menstrual education

Period shame and Menstrual education

Recently I saw a Ms. Universe from the Indian region of Punjab in North India, lecturing Trevor Noah on menstrual equality on his show. That was absolutely wonderful to hear this topic so freely being discussed on American mainstream shows. (So, was Trevor's Bollywood dance moves, but that is another matter).

Growing up in the seventies in conservative India, this was a "don't go there" topic, and, period shame is still a taboo topic today in many parts of the world. I was a little shocked when I found out that some immigrants to the US also found this taboo and did not discuss this openly. (I only found out during consultation with menstruating children and their parents in the same room!)

Did you know that half the world's women cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products? Basically, there are three things that make up menstrual inequality in the world. (And, many of them are not vagina literate.)

Many websites and nonprofits list affordability, accessibility, and safe products as three factors for menstrual equality. So, you would ask what has this got to do with Ayurvedic Counselors or Practitioners? Well, we have all kinds of clients who come to us for help with Ayurveda and use ancient methods for their modern or not-so-modern issues.

I would like to add menstrual education to this also. I recognize how important menstrual products are and the inability to afford them hinders people of color, schoolgirls in rural or semi-rural India, and other minor communities. What can we do to help girls and women, our community, and friends during menstruation?

It would be wonderful if Ayurveda practitioners can work with menstruating persons- whether teenage girls or LGBTQ+ and guide them in menstrual education- tampons, pads, cups--pros vs cons, menstrual hygiene, etc. Cotton natural pads, banana leaf pads, bamboo pads vs conventional pads. Do menstrual cups work for everyone? How to cleanse the area during menstruation?

First things first, the duty of an Ayurveda Practitioner is also to educate their clients. And, statistically more women will visit Ayurveda or holistic practitioners than men. Within that group, many of the women who will seek holistic or complementary medicine will choose to do so related to PMS (Premenstrual syndrome), Menstrual Imbalances ( lack of periods, low bleeding, heavy bleeding, painful periods, etc.), Perimenopause (10 years before menstrual period completely ends) and menopause (12 months after the periods have stopped completely). Women may also seek out alternative health practitioners while they are trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or postpartum.

And, talking about bleeding from our uterus once a month is taboo in so many cultures, that I think as Ayurveda Practitioners we should provide a safe space where girls and women can talk about and get some simple counsel. I had thrown this question out some months ago, during a lecture I gave and got some interesting replies.

We should have posters on our office walls talking about women's imbalances. Perhaps a simple brochure about how to wash the private areas.

Trying to give pros vs cons of tampons vs pads, and menstrual cups--keeping information will help.

Some Ayurvedic Therapies for women include vaginal washing. Isn't washing the same as douching? Now, I do not like to use the word douching because it includes washing the vagina area with water and vinegar. That is not the Ayurveda way. Ayurveda practitioners may ask a client who has heavy white discharge or yeast imbalance to use a sitz bath with clean water mixed with herbs, rose water, or turmeric sometimes. Heres a video of how to make own rose water.

Using a rose water spray each time a menstrual pad is changed can refresh the area without irritating it. Obviously, each woman is different, the vagina is different, the uterus is different, the ph balance is different, and the bleeding is different--it is as unique as the woman itself.

Monica B Groover is the author of Ayurveda and the Feminine, and Essential Guide to Ayurveda Part 1- Ayurveda Textbook for Counselors and Students