Editor’s Note: This Menstrual Hygiene Day, it’s time for action! It is time that we deliberately bridge the research gap that ignores the health of female bodies and menstruators. Talking about your reproductive health is neither taboo nor ‘too much information’ anymore! It is, in fact, the beginning of a revolution!
Through a photograph of a hand-drawn map of scars on her abdomen, Shelley Hopper, an Instagram influencer, shares her excruciating experience of living with endometriosis, a common and prominent disease from the family of ovarian disorders, on the social media app.
Endometriosis’s little cousin, polycystic ovarian syndrome/disorder (PCOS/PCOD), is another one that has been increasingly getting detected in many young women—both disorders approximately affect 1 in 10 women globally but are still often misdiagnosed or have a delayed diagnosis.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day today, it is time to take a look at the awareness on these disorders and their symptoms—a main one being irregular and painful period—to bring down cases of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
Marked on May 28 every year since 2013, World Menstrual Hygiene Day aims to break the silence surrounding the taboo topic and promote conversation on menstrual health, hygiene, and management.
A neglectful approach
Even now, conversations about period health are in whispers or behind closed doors; as a result, the symptoms often do not get the attention they need. The environment of stigma and shame around menstruation discourages women to freely discuss these issues, even with their doctors.
Moreover, especially in cases of PCOS and endometriosis, many doctors tend to focus more on a different set of symptoms, including insulin resistance, weight gain or loss, and hair loss; this not only leads to misdiagnosis but also to the hushing down of the more important discussion about reproductive health.
Other than the stigmatisation of menstruation, cases of delayed diagnosis haven’t gone down because research on women’s health is lacking. There was no specific study on women’s health till the 1980s, and after that too, it wasn’t given priority; historically, only men were the subject of clinical trials and research on different treatments, and all results were just extrapolated for women. Including women in trials and research meant accounting for their hormonal differences and exposing them and future generations to the risk of drug trials.
It was ultimately in 1993 that all National Health Institute’s funded research was directed to include women. However, even then, the results were not being interpreted by the difference. In 2016, to include sex differences, the National Health Institutes mandated federally funded scientists to analyse results by gender as a biological factor in research.
Time to invest in women’s health
Lack of specific research for women, especially research on gynaecological problems, has ultimately led to penetration of these incurable disorders in about 10% of the population.
It’s high time to recognise and invest in the health of 51% of the world’s population for the benefit of societies.
While the policies are being implemented, it is one’s personal responsibility to support conversation regarding menstrual health and break myths and taboos. Like menstruation, both endometriosis and PCOS, too, are surrounded by various myths. It is imperative to raise awareness on these disorders and not give more fuel to ill-informed opinions.
This Menstrual Hygiene Day, #It’sTimeforAction; try to strike a conversation with your near and dear ones about menstrual health, hygiene, and management. Break myths. Break taboos.
Charvi Saraf is a Writing Analyst at Qrius.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius