Tony was 23 years old when he started working as an intern in a not-for-profit organization. There he met a girl. Her name was Nancy. He was very attracted to her and she was attracted to him too. They went on dates and found that they liked almost the same things. It seemed like the blossoming of a new relationship.
Two months down the line, Tony noticed that Nancy was absent from work at some time of the month. He would call her and she would tell him that she was sick and couldn’t come to work or come out to see him. Sometime, when she came to work, she would keep to herself and prefer not to talk to anyone. Tony grew worried. He began to think that Nancy didn’t like him well enough. He confided in his friend who told him that she could be dating older guys. According to his friend, girls liked to go after older guys so that they could feel secure.
Tony’s worries increased. He didn’t know what to do. After giving it some thought, he decided to visit Nancy and speak to her. Nancy wasn’t happy that Tony thought of her in that way. She confided that at such times when she would be absent from work, she was going through her menstrual period and it was a painful experience for her. That was why she stayed at home and took pain relievers to help relieve the pain. Tony was very ashamed and apologized profoundly about the misunderstanding.
It is not uncommon to find many other guys who, like Tony, don’t know about the menstrual period. The first step is to understand that boys and girls have different body make-up. Some of them are evident such as the breasts and genitalia. Others are not. These include the internal organs such as the uterus and the different hormones which present in high levels as against the levels of these same hormones in that of a man. Chief among them are Estrogen and Progesterone, which is responsible for the development and normal functioning of the female reproductive system.
The female reproductive system is a complex one. The major phenomenon being the Menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is a group of many different phases which prepares a woman’s body to become pregnant. It makes the uterus fertile, releasing hormones and eggs for the fertilization to take place. This article shall focus on the some things about this life-giving phenomenon in girls which many men take for granted.
The Menstrual cycle
Everybody on the planet came to be as a result of the menstrual cycle. It occurs in women within their reproductive age, that is, from puberty to menopause. It is the monthly hormonal cycle that a girl’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. It is different from menstruation, which is the flow of blood from the uterus through the vagina. This is the part many people refer to when talking the menstrual cycle, but that is not true. A woman’s menstrual cycle begins on the first day of her period up to the first day of her next period. The hormone levels usually change throughout the menstrual cycle. This causes the symptoms usually associated with the menstrual cycle.
There are some women who experience tenderness on their breasts especially on the nipples. This symptom doesn’t occur every month. Bloating around the abdomen is another common but irregular symptom some women experience. Other symptoms of the menstrual cycle are
- Mood swings
- Abdominal cramps
- Food craving
- Sleep disorders
Typically, the length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days. However, this is different for each woman. Also, this length varies from month to month. A woman’s period is considered ‘regular’ if her period comes every 24 to 38 days. What this means is that the length of time from a woman’s last period to the next one should not exceed 38 days. Some women experience irregular periods. This could be caused by different reasons.
Organs involved in the menstrual cycle
The many organs involved in the menstrual cycle are the Uterus (womb) and the ovaries. These organs work together to bring about the production of eggs for fertilization and the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy.
The uterus or womb is a muscular hollow organ located in the abdominal region of the body. It is where pregnancies typically occur and it expands to support the pregnancy. The upper part of the uterus extends into a left and right portion. These extensions are called the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tube is the site where the sperm meets and fertilizes the mature egg which has been released by the ovary. Also, they provide a passage way for the eggs to travel to the uterus. The inner lining of the uterus is called the endometrium and becomes filled with blood vessels and nutrients during the menstrual cycle, expecting pregnancy to occur. When pregnancy occurs, it becomes part of the placenta. When pregnancy does not occur, the lining of the uterus breaks down and comes out as menstruation.
The ovary is a sack-like structure which contains follicles. Follicles contain immature eggs which become mature during a menstrual cycle. During this time, the follicle breaks and releases an egg.
The menstrual cycle phases
The four main phases of the menstrual cycle are:
- follicular phase
- luteal phase.
Common myths about menstruation
Around the world, several stories have been circulated about the menstrual cycle. Some of them are facts are many of them are just myths with no logic to back them. Sometimes, these stories, especially the myths, create a lot of gender bias and prevent women from gaining access to a need such as a job. You might have been guilty of spreading these myths too, perhaps, unaware that they are harmful. Let us talk about them.
Women are unclean
In some African cultures, girls and women are perceived to be unclean during their periods. Some religions even forbid a woman from coming into places of worship or doing anything for their husbands, fathers, brothers and the priest. Women are alienated during their periods.
Some Christians go by the Torah which states that “Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. Anyone who touches her during that time will be unclean until evening”.
A man should not touch you
If you are a typical African girl, you must have heard the saying “Don’t let a man touch you during your period”. Our elderly women then contend that if a man touches you during your period, you’d get pregnant.
Women are exempted from certain activities
Menstruation taboos can keep women and girls from touching water, cooking, or attending to religious ceremonies. These taboos reinforce gender-based discrimination, perpetuating the idea that the menstruating women and girls are unclean.
In Benin for instance, young girls believe that they should remain separate from their families during their periods, avoid certain foods like vegetables or anything with sugar, and abstain from exercise. Beyond the overt taboos, women and girls face stigma and ridicule that contribute to their exclusion from school and opportunities.
- A woman gets clumsy while on her period.
- If you touch any vegetable, flowers or any plant before or during the pickling process they would not pickle and would go bad.
- You can’t be in homes or have contact with anybody who is menstruating.
- If she is on her period, having sex with her can kill you.
- A woman can’t enter a kitchen or cook food for anyone else when she is on her period.
- She can’t enter a place of worship.
- If a woman washes her hair, her flow will be less and it will affect your fertility later in life.
- She should avoid dancing to very active rhythms in order to take care of your uterus.
- She should not paint her nails, wash your hair, or drink lemonade.
- She can’t make whipped cream, it will curdle.
- She can’t go to the beach or pool (no contact with water basically).
- You can’t make mayonnaise, it will curdle.
- You can’t make sushi because you have an imbalance in taste.
- She can’t cradle babies or she will cause them to get sick.
How to support a loved one during menstruation
This is the very important part of being a friend or partner. Do not be selfish like Tony. If you are in a relationship, think of the other person too especially if the person is a woman. This is because women go through a lot while experiencing their menstrual cycle. Below are some ways to show that support.
· Be Prepared
Tracking your partner’s cycle is the best thing that a thoughtful partner can do, as it allows you to be ready for what your partner is about to go through. Being prepared also means being mindful of your partner’s moods and can allow you to take into consideration PMS before you decide to react negatively. Try using a period-tracking app that includes a partner sharing feature, which is designed especially to be shared with partners for increased emotional support during PMS days.
· Give In To Their Cravings…
Cravings, we all have them. But for those who menstruate we know just how bad the cravings for certain foods can get, leading up to and during our period. Stock up on some chocolate, chips or ice-cream (or whatever their particular craving is) and allow your partner a night or two of bingeing, they’ll love you for it.
· Encourage A Fibre-Rich Diet
Menstruation can cause constipation for some people, so to help your partner combat this uncomfortable feeling offer them food that is high in fibre. Lentils, brown rice, raspberries, pears, broccoli and chia seeds are all rich in fibre and can assist to relieve constipation. Try not to force your partner to eat these foods if they’re not feeling it as they may just be craving other foods. Not everyone who bleeds gets constipated, so be sure to check in with them first before you start planning three days’ worth of fibre-rich recipes.
· Be Emotionally Supportive
If you are someone who doesn’t have their own cycle it is important to take a mature approach to menstruation, even if it does make you uncomfortable. Refrain from making inconsiderate jokes about your partner’s behaviour or telling them how you think they may feel. Listening is vital, your partner may not want to talk about how they are feeling, but if they do listen to any complains they may have without judgement. Your partner may not want any company, but check in first in a non-judgemental tone to see if they want to be alone. If they decide they do want to be alone respect your partner’s wishes but still maintain regular contact via text to let them know you’re thinking of them.
· Help To Ease The Pain
Have your partner’s Livia (a wearable device that stimulates nerves to block pain) ready for when the pain hits, the drug-free solution to zapping away those horrible cramps! Dehydration can also trigger abdominal pain, so prepare a jug of water that can be easily reached and make sure to refill it when you notice it is running low. Getting out of the house can also help to ease PMS & cramps through some light yoga and fresh air. A change of environment can sometimes be an unexpected cure, but don’t push your partner if they really don’t feel up to it.
- Netflix & Chill,Take Your Mind Off The Pain
Distraction is one of the best remedies, so keeping your partner pre-occupied with their favourite shows will be sure to keep you in the good books, while spending some bonding time together. To keep in theme with your partner’s time of the month check out our list on Period Positive Films that will be sure to uplift their spirit with relatable narratives.
· Pamper & Be Thoughtful
Indulge your partner’s inner princess by giving them body massages and preparing hot baths with body salts and candles. Make dinner for the few days as your partner may be struggling with period pain and take on more of the household chores and errands, anything that can take additional stress off their plate and allow them to relax. Even if your partner isn’t in a lot of pain, noticing your effort will make them feel appreciated.
· Be Patient
This can be an extremely emotional time, for some more so than others. Everyone reacts differently to periods; keep this in mind when you may think that your partner is being unreasonable. And never, under any circumstance call people who are menstruating “crazy”, it’s just going to fuel the fire and make matters way worse. Don’t lose your temper, just know that things will pass and if you’re feeling frustrated try meditating or stepping out of the space. Before you know it the moment will pass, with both of your minds and relationship still intact.
We are in the age of unlimited access to information; there is no excuse to be ignorant about almost anything. You should not be a woman to know about the menstrual cycle. Show you partner that you love them by acquiring more knowledge about this experience and how you can make it a less troubling one. Love them right, love them well!