10 taboos about periods

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When I was in college, I was hanging out with some of my classmates, and I noticed that a girl was feeling uncomfortable. I asked her openly that are you on periods and everyone's face was like they have seen an alien. The girl took me aside and asked me how you can say something like this publicly. And that's when I realize that this is how we have raised our girls. We have made them so guilty about periods that they don't want to talk about it.

The period is such a taboo subject that we are even scared of saying it aloud. So we came up with code names like lady problems. It has been around since ancient times, and we can witness in our history as well as our scriptures. You will get to see mentions like-

"Go away from women during periods because they are not clean."

"Whoever will touch her during the period will be unclean, and if you touch her, then you shall wash your clothes and take a bath."

"Contact with period blood will sour the wine. The crops will become barren. The seeds will dry up." And the list goes on...

A woman has around 500 periods in her lifetime. If we put it in an average, they go on bleeding about 3000 days in their lifetime. Taboos around periods in India is way broader. They are skipping school. They are forbidden from holy rituals. They are excluded from sports. For a few days every month, their life on hold.

Around 20 millions of girls drop out of school as soon as they start menstruating in India. And only 18% of women have access to sanitary pads in India. It is shocking to see the figures, but it is the truth.

Taboos around periods-

In India, taboos around periods are like the mother of all taboos. Some are so stupid and illogical that if you think about it, you will just laugh about it. But we have failed as a society to overcome such stupidity because we have never tried. Let's talk about the 10 taboos on periods which you will usually encounter-

  1. Celebrated yet an outcast- In some parts of south India as well northeast India, when a girl gets her first period, gets presents and are celebrated for this occasion. And still, they are barred from household works for a period of 3 nights.
  2. A menstruating woman is not allowed to enter the temple- Being born in a Hindu family, I had witnessed it month after month. When my cousin sisters were on periods, they were not allowed to be a part of any holy rituals. Now you can imagine how much shame it will bring to the girl that she will think and believe that she is not even accepted in God's house. She will hate herself for it.
  3. Nobody should touch a menstruating woman- I have heard this numerous times while growing up that I should not touch a girl or woman while she is on her period. One time I touched the hand of one of my sisters, and I was asked by my grandma to take a bath. Even I felt so enraged hearing such stupidity. I refused to do so. I got some scolding, but hey this is how you all should start in your family as well.
  4. Her touch will rot the pickle- Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds that if she will touch pickle during her period, it will rot. And women follow it religiously. I still can't get my head around it and aliens must be laughing about it and what a weird mental virus we have.
  5. Don't go near the Tulsi Plant- The tulsi or basil is considered holy in Hinduism and woman cannot touch it while she is on her period. Even her shadow will kill the plant.
  6. Don't wash your hair and don't tie your hair- This is again one weird and illogical taboo that women should not wash their hair while she is on her period. She has to keep her hair open. There is no trail of this that what is the reason behind it but it is still get passed on by older women to younger girls.
  7. Living in exile- In some rural parts of India and Nepal, Girl lives in a shed outside the house while she is on her period. This practice is called "Chhaupadi". Sometimes it leads to the death of some women. In the first-ever case, there has been an arrest in Nepal for such practice in the first week of December 2019.
  8. A menstruating woman should not enter the kitchen- In Indian households, a woman cannot enter the kitchen if she is on her period. This is as stupid as it sounds. The food will become bad if she will touch them. This is so discriminatory. As she should be free to do whatever she wants while she is on her period.
  9. Virgins should not use tampons- India has so much preached about the virginity of a girl. In some rural part, there is still a virginity test before marriage to see that if a girl is a virgin or not. And that has started a taboo that if you use tampons, you will lose your virginity. Scientifically it is not true at all and tampons are not associated with virginity in any way. It is so absurd and shameful that we give so much importance to virginity.
  10. Buying Sanitary pads is embarrassing- There is so much shame associated with menstruation that women, as well as men, are embarrassed to buy sanitary pads or tampons. Even medical shops give it in wrapped paper or brown or black bags. Women never ask a male member of the family to buy them pads or tampons. This is how we have built our society.

It made no sense to me while I was processing these as a child, but Now I am an adult, and I can understand that these taboos are deeply rooted in our culture. It will not go away until we, as an individual will start opposing it. I am hopeful for the younger generations that they will not pass on these stupid taboos to the next generations. And the older women are also somewhat responsible for this and if they will start speaking up about it.

I believe these taboos will go away because it needs to go away.

Feel free to drop a comment on what type of taboo around periods you have witnessed while growing up.

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Eating disorders and mental health in teenagers

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Eating disorder and mental health are two sides of the same coin. Depression leads to eating disorders and vice versa. Eating disorders among teenagers are very common. For instance, take Rache. She is a 14 years old girl. She finished her lunch in the school cafeteria. She is so upset with sudden weight gain that she went to the bathroom and forced herself to throw up. It might seem normal for starters that sometimes we throw up after eating food, but after doing for 5 to 10 times, and now it is a daily ritual for Rachel. And in the future, it will lead to serious health concerns, even death.

Jack is 16 years boy, and he was a chubby kid growing up, so he became obsessed to have an athletic body. So he started only eating salad and started running miles every day. After some time, jack became tall and thin, but he always felt tired and exhausted. One night he became severely ill with stomach pain and cramps. He was admitted to hospital and now undergoing various tests for his mystery illness.

Nowadays, millions of teenagers are affected by eating disorders, and most of them are girls. One out of every 7 girls are or were struggling with eating disorders. Of all the eating disorders cases, 90% of them are girls. Weight obsession is the main reason for this as all teenagers these days are obsessed with the perfect body.

Eating disorders can happen in many ways; some people don’t like to eat all then some do binge eating. Mainly, There are three types of eating disorders.

  1. Anorexia Nervosa - People having anorexia nervosa avoid food or eat very less amount of food. Even if they eat, they are very restrictive and selective of their food choices. Even if they are underweight, they consider themselves overweight.

Symptoms- Here are some signs and what it will lead to over a period of time.

  • Extremely restricted eating and in some cases intensive and excessive exercise
  • Extreme thinness
  • A never-ending pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy and normal weight.
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Poor body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced and shaped by perceptions and projection of body weight and shape

And these symptoms over time can develop in worse cases like-

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Mild anaemia and muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails, dry and yellowish skin, Growth of fine hair all over the body
  • Severe constipation, Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Drop-in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Irregular periods delayed puberty and slow growth
  • Infertility, Brain damage, and multiorgan failure

Anorexia is a fatal eating disorder, and it can lead to sudden death. It has the most mortality rate among all eating disorders. People with anorexia often have a hard time remembering things. The thoughts and emotions they go through daily are- feeling alone, sad, or depressed, anxiety, fears about gaining weight and thoughts of hurting themselves.

  1. Bulimia Nervosa- People with bulimia often have a habit of overeating and then feeling guilty about it. After they go through with intense fasting or exercise or depends on pills. Their thought is that they are compensating for overeating. People with bulimia can be of normal weight or overweight.

Symptoms- Physical symptoms because of bulimia may include-

  • Low blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or faint
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Tooth erosion and cavities
  • Swollen cheeks

The person having bulimia usually have emotions as -

  • low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression
  • alcohol or drug problems
  • Thoughts of hurting themselves
  1. Binge-Eating- People having binge eating disorder have no control over their eating, and they feel guilty about it. Still, they do not do anything like exercising or fasting to compensate for it, as people with bulimia do. That is why people with bulimia are overweight.

Symptoms include-

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, like 2 to 3 hours.
  • Eating fast and eating even when full or not hungry
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about eating

These symptoms lead to physical problems such as-

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Fatty liver

People with binge eating disorder suffer from low self esteem and anxiety and depression. They have difficulties coping with strong emotions and to get away from that they just take it out by eating in bulk.

Cause of eating disorders-

There is no defined cause of eating disorders, As I would like to point out that there are many various factors which are responsible for it.

For example- The society where we grow up, from morning to evening we encounter things which flaunt perfect body image, but we don’t think for a second that it is real or not, and our kids get caught up in it. So it is influenced by the environment we live in. If we as responsible adults just pay a little attention to eat and teach our kids that they are perfect the way they are. So if you have a kid or any person who is around you and you feel that they are going through the same then don’t hesitate to talk to them.

Because if it is treated early, there are more chances to recover from it.

Diagnosis- Mental professionals first assess the problems and severity of it that how early or late it is. So they can prepare a meal plan with the help of a dietician and proper mental counseling.

So if you feel that you have any of the eating disorders discussed above then feel free to talk to elders, you trust and consult a doctor. It is not that difficult if you have a good support system, then it will be effortless for you to develop your self-confidence. Once you feel good in the state, you are and show love for the body you have. There is nothing in this universe that can pull you down.

Feel free to drop your suggestions and views in the comment section.

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Vaginal hygiene for teenagers

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The proper feminine hygiene is not that difficult. The truth is that the vagina itself does the job pretty well. The problem arises when we mess up with it. Just think about the old days when there was no internet, and you are a girl who just started her periods and sudden changes in the shape and size of her body. She had no idea what was happening to her, and she would turn up to her elders for advice and suggestions, and you know how difficult it was in the old days.

Then she would be scrapping for any information she could get, and she would get different types of opinions from different people. Then she would be so confused that she would hate herself for it.

Now we have the internet, but the problem persists. We fill our minds with all types of junk, and the innocent vagina has to suffer for it. People don’t talk about it. It is much more of a taboo than sex. And that leads to different problems like vaginal infections and various diseases.

But no need to worry I am here to break it down for you step by step and give you a very simple and clear cut guide to keep your vagina clean and if she is happy you are happy.

These are some tips you should know to keep your vagina clean and happy.

Vaginal pH

pH is how you measure the acidity level. And vaginal pH explains the acidity level of the vagina. The vagina naturally contains a balance of different bacteria, and they are the good ones, that protect the vagina from external bacteria and fungus. They provide natural disinfectants and help maintain a healthy vaginal pH of 3.5-4.5. And if your vaginal pH is in this range, then there is a perfect ratio of good bacteria (lactobacilli), and it is acting like a shield that is preventing overgrowth of harmful bacteria that can cause irritation and sometimes infection.

Smell

it is an absolute myth that all vagina smells the same, not it’s not true at all. Every vagina has a distinctive smell. If you think that your vagina should smell floral or fruity. It is just men induced agenda for their own satisfaction. You don’t need to bathe it with perfume or any fragrant oil. But if you want some fragrant, then I would suggest that use an organic fragrant oil and do not put it on the vulva or inside your vagina. Put it around your thighs.

Keeping it clean

Cleaning your vagina is very important to keep it healthy and in good function. Dead skin and germs can compile on your inner and outer labia as well as between your clitoris and clitoral hood. So it is essential to rinse your inner and outer labia with warm water. Lift your hood and rinse it with warm water too. Below I will Discuss an explained guide on how to keep it clean.

These are a few tips you can keep in check to keep your vagina clean and infection-free.

Discharge

Vaginal discharge is normal. Vagina cleans itself by this process. Discharge can vary in smell color and texture, depending on your cycle. So sometimes, when you see a thick white stain on your underpants, then do not worry. It’s perfectly normal. Sometimes where there is an overgrowth of bacteria, then the amount of discharge is more than usual. So if you feel that it is stuck in your vagina, then you can clean it by yourself in your shower. You can put your clean finger inside your vagina and move it from one side to another and scoop it out.

Washing your vagina- You do not need any special product to keep your vagina clean. Most of the product marketed towards vaginal hygiene is full of chemicals and scents not good for the vagina. It can create irritation in the vagina and disturb its pH level and can cause a fishy odor. You can use a mild soap like Dove to clean your vagina. Do not put it inside the vagina, wash the outer side(vulva). Wash it gently with your hands, do not use any loofah. It can cause rashes in the vagina.

The vagina is not supposed to smell like peaches or strawberries. You should know that there are good bacteria inside the vagina that eats old blood cells and keep it clean, so you do not need to help her in that. When you are using the bathroom, you can prevent the bacteria from entering the vagina from the rectum by wiping from front to back.

Period Hygiene

This very important part of vaginal hygiene as every girl goes through this every month. Keeping your vagina healthy during your periods is very easy. Keep these things in mind during your period.

  • Always make sure you are changing your pads or tampons every 3 to 4 hours, even if you are bleeding less. As with time, it can become infectious.
  • Start your day by washing it properly, as I instructed above. If you don’t feel fresh, then before changing the pads you can use a baby wipe clean it.
  • Talk to your parents about which products work for you best, either its pads or tampons or menstrual cups.
  • Always keep an extra pair in your backpack, so if you feel the need to change while you are outside. It will be super helpful.

Diet

A proper diet also helps with good vaginal health. You do not need to follow a strict diet, but you need to include some things I am listing below in your regular diet.

  • You can add things like strawberries, pineapples, soy, and yogurt that can influence your pH balance in positive ways.
  • Beverages like water, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice are also proven to improve vaginal health and keep it moist and hydrated.
  • Adding a probiotic supplement to any part of your diet can increase the amount of “good” bacteria in your vagina called lactobacillus. So, eat healthy, and your vagina will really appreciate you!

One important thing you should know which most people do not know. That urinating after masturbation or after having sex reduces the number of harmful bacteria in the urethra, and it reduces the chances of Urinary tract infection(UTI) or any vaginal infection. So always remember to pee.

When you should worry

The vagina gives you warning signals when something is not right, just like any part of the body. Discharge is normal because the vagina is not a dry place. When the discharge is heavier, there may be an overgrowth of bacteria.

If the odor is foul, fishy, and if you are experiencing burning, itching, or bleeding while you’re not on your period, it is time to see a doctor.

So this was my on how to keep your vagina clean, it is really sad that we get to know about sex and our organs in our textbook but never how to take care of them. I hope I was able to explain it to you. Your vagina is wonderful, and so is you, so show her some love. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions in the comment box.

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