Cycles of change: Menstruation to menopause

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If the title of this article makes you uncomfortable, then this is exactly why we need to talk about this. Even today, in the 21st century, many still consider talking about menstruation and menopause a taboo- so buckle up, lets get real and break the silence.
The journey from menstruation to menopause encapsulates significant phases in a woman’s life. From physiological to emotional and hormonal changes, a woman goes through a rollercoaster of adjustments that happen throughout her life. Despite the universal nature of the topic, discussing these biologically occurring stages often remains a taboo in almost every society.
There are few things in human history that have been constant. Among them are: birth & deaths, wars & revolutions, wealth & famine, and off course… periods. In the ancient times, menstruation was considered to be a punishment from God, a curse on Eve for succumbing to temptation in the garden of Eden.
Menstruation marks the onset of puberty for girls, typically occurring between the ages of 11 and 14. This is a natural process that involves the shedding of the uterine lining, resulting in monthly bleeding. Physically, other than bleeding, women endure intense abdominal cramps, bloating, fatigue, and headaches; while emotionally, women go through severe mood swings, anxiety, mood sensitivities, and often depression due to intense hormonal changes. This cycle is life changing for every woman as it can be overwhelming to cope up with and to understand because of closed societal culture where such topics are rarely discussed. Inadequate knowledge often leaves our young girls in confusion and misconceptions; thus, they shroud the shame and embarrassment in the cloak of silence.
The access to healthcare, sanitation, and sanitary products still remains a massive challenge for almost 500 million women around the world. This staggering number is due to the economic status, cultural barriers and regional disparities around the globe.
Like any third-world country, majority of Pakistani women – especially those living in the rural areas – continue to suffer the most during their menstrual cycles. Due to economic constraints, many young girls and women resort to using rags or other improvised old clothes which often lead to severe health issues including diseases and infections which affects their reproductive health. Many young girls miss their schools during their menstrual periods due to lack of understanding and managing their sanitization. This stigma contributes to their mental health along with limiting their educational opportunities.
Just like menstruation, transition into menopause is also emotionally and physically taxing for a woman. Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. This phase is marked by the cessation of menstrual periods which often leads to a significant decline in estrogen levels. Common symptoms include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, night sweats, and changes in libido. If not managed appropriately, menopause can also lead to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis.
Menopause is often associated with the end of youth and fertility of a woman, contributing to ageism and sexism. This leads to a diminished sense of femininity and self-worth. Women going through menopause often grapple with emotional anxiety, depression, and a sense of loss. The shame and stigma surrounding menopause often prevents open discussions, leaving women to navigate this transition in isolation.
The roots of the taboo surrounding menstruation and menopause can be traced back to ancient times but unfortunately some of these stigmas are very much alive even today and many women suffer the same in this modern era. Even today, menstruation is often discussed in euphemisms while menopause is conveniently avoided or trivialized. This culture of silence perpetuates ignorance and shame that adds to the challenge of accessing proper information and support during these phases of life.
To address the challenges associated with menstruation and menopause, open discussions and access to comprehensive education is essential. Public health awareness campaigns can also aid and assist in understanding the cycles and dispelling the myths surrounding them. Governments must play their crucial role in ensuring healthcare services and subsidizing sanitary products for women to ensure their physical and emotional well-being.
The cycle from menstruation to menopause encompasses significant changes that profoundly impacts a woman’s life. Breaking the taboo surrounding these natural processes can only be possible with collective efforts in strong support systems, access to education and equal right to healthcare products and facilities. A strong and healthy woman can lay the foundation of a healthy society and nurture the generations to come.