As a usual habit, the nurse started sending Medical Representatives inside my cabin once the patients were done. The afternoon was about to get over. With mobile & Facebook, I was trying my best to ignore all the things they were saying. Anyway, they don’t have anything new to talk. But that day, one of his sentences grabbed my attention. He said. “Now the festive season is about to start, so women will rush to get their periods postponed. Don’t forget to give them our medicines. Please sir, the company has set higher targets for the festive season. Without your help, it won’t be possible for me.” He kept one pack of his medicines on the table while leaving. I was stunned.
It was convenient for him to convince a small town doctor, so this business of altering period is very profitable you see! I knew that pharmaceutical companies can go to any levels to increase their sales, but I never knew they would go so low on this. Understanding the nerve of Indians, they had brought the product up right in time. I just admired the company for that.
Actually this is usual habit followed during Pooja, festivals and pilgrimage. Sometimes travel or exams might be the reason but not usually. This is so simple, women come to us, answer 2-3 questions and get the medicines to postpone their periods. I just think how silly these women are. They are still clinging to primitive concepts.
When time comes, the hypocrite inside me starts talking. Usually I give out prescriptions whenever someone asks for it, but whenever a lady comes upfront I ask her ‘What about your education?’
The value of X can be anything, from an illiterate to a doctorate.
‘If the period comes, you should not participate in the function, you know that right?’
They have typical answer like ‘We have a function at home…’.’My family doesn’t allow this…’. Whatever be the ‘X’, in my entire career of 20 years I never got the answer ’I do not believe this. I have to do it against my will’.
I visit schools a few times to deliver lecture on puberty. Girls always regard period as a “problem”. On a funny note I always say, ‘Having Period is not a problem, Missing it is the real problem’. I tell girls not to refer period as a problem, just say you got your period. If you are ashamed to speak in Marathi, then use M.C. or if you just want to show off your English use Chums, but don’t refer it as a problem. Referring it as a problem, the natural body process seems so negative, doesn’t it? The use of problem doesn’t make it negative, but the negativity inside you makes you use the word problem. Anyhow I feel this word should not be used. This makes the negativity inside you grow further. On top of that people agree with it also.
This leads to further misunderstanding. If any trouble occurrs due to the periods, doctors wash/clean the uterus. However, the scientific meaning is the layer inside the uterus is scraped out to stop the bleeding, get a part of the layer for inspection and to make the newly forming layer uniform. Curetin is a English word used generally, but no one knows this process behind it. They use uterus washing/cleaning without any concerns.
Once period is a problem is decided then the rest comes eventually. Then we quickly understand that, period is a process to throw out all the waste that’s accumulated in the body. There’s no surprise that people have correlated period and impurity. Sewage is a regular excretion process. A process to regularly throw waste out of the body. Due to unawareness people have labeled period in the same way. In reality, body cells keep on dying and reforming regularly. Our skin sheds and new one grows, hair sheds and new one grows, the lifespan of red cells is 120 days; in the same way period also works. The layer of uterus can support pregnancy only for a specific time, after that it becomes useless. So the body throws it out, this is how period comes. The new layer starts developing again (Monthly routine). The main point is period is not an excretion process. But many people think that all the waste in the body, accumulates in the uterus and is thrown out of the body at month end.
For ladies, secluded place, different food, staying away from others, refraining from pooja & avoiding temples, having a bath on fifth day are all the products of these thoughts. Whichever be the cast, whatever be the religion, they all have same set of rules for these things. There is a part of society which says, a woman should get rest during periods, etc. That means, generally they should be so occupied with the work that they don’t get time for themselves. This one has come out to cover up old thoughts and not as a sympathy. It isn’t because of the respect or because of the empathy. It is apathy. Say NO to such rest. It bleeds monthly like the moon rises. It’s nothing like a scar. When you get puberty, it starts bleeding. It stops when you get old.It stops when you are pregnant. This is so simple. But it is wrong to follow what our elders taught.
The Science behind menstrual cycle is now understood. Even the pills to alter them have been invented. We will use this technology just to cover for the old school rituals. But, Why!?
Is it necessary that if people call it desecrated, we shall still continue it? Who has decided that the periods started naturally are not okay and it is okay to alter them with medicines? Should not we say NO to these things?
The defense has two answers for this. First is, in the men dominated society, women have to follow what men say. The other is, What’s wrong in it? The answer for the first question is that we should look at it as a stand against the old school mediocre rituals. The thing is pretty simple. It is agreeable if told authoritatively. If you agree it, you can tell it. If you don’t, there is no question.
‘What’s wrong in it?’ comes with the answer that mom does so does the daughter. Elder sister does so does the younger. No one uses their own brain and it goes on.
This must be stopped somewhere. Men and women should be able to differentiate each other infallibly. Someone should start it now. Will YOU?
Dr. Shantanu Abhyankar
MD Obstetrics and Gynecology
Chairperson Sexual Medicine Committee 2011-2013
Was awarded Dr. Anandibai Joshi Gaurav Puraskar by Government of Maharashtra
Secretary Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology Society of India