By Yetunde Arebi
The female reproductive organs cannot be said to perform at full peak without the menstrual period or menstruation. This is the monthly flow of blood by women which signifies the end of a cycle. Without this, a girl cannot be said to have attained womanhood even though she has all other features of a woman.
Though it usually starts during adolescent years, some women have been known to start their menstrual cycle long before their teens. The youngest mother according to world record is nine years old.
Depending on culture and traditional belief and practice, the menstrual period has different meaning and method of observation. Ancient Indians used to isolate their women in a special room where they are not only confined for the period the bleeding might last, but also to undergo a special spiritual cleansing before they can rejoin their family and the community.
Though a lot of things have changed today, it seems the basic rules are still pretty much the same for most people.
Onozure Dania sampled the opinion of respondents and filed in the stories you will be reading from this edition. Please do note that your contributions, observations, personal experiences and opinions on this issue are highly welcomed. Our address is: The Human Angle, Vanguard, P.M.B. 1007, Apapa, Lagos. Or e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The account of Ade which you will be reading below is a bit different from others. For her, menstruation remains a painful ordeal she would rather do without. Happy reading!!
Cynthia, 23, student:
I remember it happened in JSS 2. My best friend, Helen and I ran into the bathroom to check things out.
We both looked at each other in sheer glee. Yes, I was finally a woman. I was not at all alarmed, per se, but felt like I had been catapulted into some mystical right of passage.
When I went home, I remember my mother was folding laundry and when I told her, she threw one of the towels up in the air in celebration. Then she went into another session of bleak lessons. Donâ€™t allow boys to touch you or else you will get pregnant.
The word â€œtouchâ€ did not paint the right picture and if I had not known better with the help of my friends of course, I would have thought that just a touch from a boy could really make you pregnant.
Ade, (29), Accountant: â€œI canâ€™t remember clearly if the pains started immediately after I began menstruating or not. But if it didnâ€™t, it couldnâ€™t have been much longer. I began menstruating at the age of 14 years, a bit late because many of my age mates had started before then. Whenever the thing came, I would be so ill that going to school used to be a great problem.
Itâ€™s either I go to school and get sent back home, or I donâ€™t even bother going at all.
As I grew older and was able to study the pattern of the whole thing, I became more prepared butÂ my mother did not make things easier for me concerning menstruating. She would discuss stories about my pains saying that she has never experienced nor seen my type of menstrual period before.
She would ask all sorts of questions like; if I have been associating with the opposite sex. It has nothing to do with illiteracy, she is very educated. Itâ€™s just that itâ€™s the only way she knew to get across without having to embarrass herself, while trying to explain to you.
To make the matters worse, my younger sister didnâ€™t have it, so they found it more difficult to understand my situation. Then, all she used to give me was any brand of pain reliever and plenty of hot tea or beverages, which used to have very little or no effect.
By the time I got to SSS2 in Secondary School, I had started reading widely about growing up and menstruation via books from friends. I have also met others with similar problems and weâ€™d shared our experiences.
Then, I learn about other medications used for the treatment of painful periods. It was all a trial and error thing you know, so you really canâ€™t say that itâ€™s this medicine that did the magic or not.
But one thing I noticed is that when you use medicine, you may get some temporary relief, but after some time it ceases to work anymore and you are back to searching for another medication.
People told me all sorts of funny stories associated with my pains and I began to get jittery that those things may happen to me. For example, I was made to believe that anybody with painful periods would have difficulties conceiving and even giving birth. Some say they would have to be operated because the pains would be too much for them to bear.
I have since found out that all these are just stories, no bases for them at all. I have just had my second child and thank God, I know I couldnâ€™t have had it easier.
Itâ€™s a bit difficult to explain the kind of pains one feels. You know, not until you experience it yourself, you may not fully understand what we (women) go through with this thing called menstruation. It is something many women would rather do without. However, this is impossible.
Once you donâ€™t see it in a month, you have to be worried. It is a sign that something is wrong with you as a woman. If you areÂ married or desiring a pregnancy, then you might be happy if you donâ€™t see it at the end of a cycle because it means you are probably pregnant. If you are not ready for conception on the other hand and you are pregnant, itâ€™s a different ball game entirely.
Let us not even discuss the options of that one. Not seeing it could also be as a result of a disease or that you have reached menopause, which is also another trying period for women.
In totality, this menstrual thing is the whole essence of womanhood if I may say that. But it is the discomfort and pain that I donâ€™t like one bit. For those who have given birth, Iâ€™d just say it like going into a mild labour for two, three days. Itâ€™s a crippling kind of pain, like cramps.
It grips at intervals like contractions, like someone squeezing your abdomen. The most horrible part of it is that my own pains start even about two days before I actually start menstruating.