Menstrual Health During Covid

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The past few months have not been easy for all of us. Social life came to a standstill for most of us and we were forced to stay rooted yet safe at home. Routines turned topsy-turvy, habits were out of sync, sleep cycles were all over the place and what not. Personally, I am a creature of routine and this sudden change in lifestyle did not go down way too well on me. Initially, I suffered from crazy bouts of anxiety coupled with paranoia. My stress levels were at its peak and everything I did or wanted to do did not make any sense. It took me a couple of months to cope with this sudden change. It wasn't easy and this was a personal battle so I had to figure it out myself. With time, I did and I have made peace with the situation now. While Covid threw all our travel plans out of the window, reduced our social life to zero, suppressed the food explorers in us, took our mental health for a toss; an area that I did not expect it to impact was my menstrual health. I was so wrong and how.

I know that menstrual cycles are related to mental health and that stress can impact ovulation and menstruation. But, what actually happened took me by surprise. I, for one, know first hand what happens to a menstrual cycle when you live in a stressful environment. I struggled for two years with this. But, when I moved to a stress-free place, without any other external influence, my period happened like clockwork. It continued to be like this until the lock-down happened. I'm a fairly healthy person with excellent eating habits and a good exercise regime, this also helps me keep my mental health in check. When I missed my period in April, I was worried. When you are voluntarily child-free, every missed period comes with a mini-stroke/heart attack. I did get my period after four days and while most of you would say that it is normal, I'd say that it is not, for someone like me who has a perfect 28 to 30 day cycle.

I knew that something was wrong, but did not think much about it. Thankfully, I'm someone who has negligible or zero discomfort during my period and my life moves on as usual. Dance and yoga included. The next month, my period was again delayed by a week. This continued for the next two months. I was thinking of consulting a doctor, but I didn't want to go to a hospital during these times. I could do an online consultation, but I wasn't too sure of it. This month, my period was delayed by four days and was accompanied by severe cramps and excessive bleeding. This left me drained out with absolutely no energy. This was the first time something like this had happened to me since I started my period 21 years ago!

I knew that this had to do with the stress of the pandemic and the additional stress of having a missed period, but I wasn't too sure about it since no one else was talking about it. Ram mandir and Sushant Singh Rajput continued to be the hot topics. While the latter did lead to a completely misconstrued talk on mental health, menstrual health continued to be completely ignored. Oh yeah, why would anyone want to talk about a taboo? This is why it came as surprise to me when our PM spoke about the distribution of sanitary pads during his speech for Independence Day. As a city dweller, I did not have any problems in procuring a sanitary pad, but the trauma that came with the period was something else. Then, there was an article in Bangalore Mirror about the impact of Covid on menstrual health. That is when I knew that I wasn't alone.

One in three women have seen irregularities in their period during the pandemic, in terms of either flow, or onset, or duration, or even cramps. One in three, so you can imagine how many women and girls are actually going through it at the present. There is no question that stress can not only upset our normal routines but also affect our menstrual cycle. The pandemic has upended our normal routines and jacked up our anxiety while causing changes in our work schedules, sleeping and eating patterns and our exercise regimes. Unfortunately for us women, this has a direct impact on our menstrual cycle. I do not want to get too technical here, so just leaving this: “Excess release of cortisol (the stress hormone) can suppress normal levels of reproductive hormones, potentially leading to abnormal ovulation, which can disrupt your cycle,” Dr. Sarah Toler, Doctor of Nursing Practice in Los Angeles.

Now, let's address the elephant in the room. How can one not be stressed? More so, if you are a woman. With routines being squashed and house-help distanced, it is up to the woman to manage the house. There is no doubt that men are contributing more than enough, but the primary onus always lies on the woman. Before the pandemic, I was someone who never liked working from home. I still don't. Hence, it took me quite some time to get adjusted to it. That is where the stress bucket started. Then, it was about balancing the office work and house work. This was accompanied by paranoia and anxiety followed by uncertainty. Soon, the stress bucket was overflowing and a missed period only made it worse. I sometimes find this cycle funny and so unfair at the same time. Stress=irregular periods. Irregular periods=stress. 

While we cannot get rid of stress totally, it is important for us to understand what is happening to our body. Irregular menstrual cycles are common during the pandemic, but it doesn't mean that it has to be ignored. Talk about it, make conversation around it. When you see how common this is, you'll feel a tad better and you might just have one less thing to be stressed about. Understand the situation and try to make the most of it. Get some regular exercise and eat healthy. If you have totally missed your period or have excessive bleeding or discomfort, do reach out to a doctor. Looks like the pandemic is here to stay for a while, so it only makes sense to give menstrual health the importance it deserves. People have finally started looking beyond physical health and understanding mental health. It is time we put menstrual health under the microscope too.

This is something that needs to be spoken about often, pandemic or not. Now seems to be the right time to make a start. For those who say that menstrual health would come under physical health because it deals with a bodily function, please do us all a favor and jump off a cliff. 

12 comments:

  1. Covid has touched all our lives in so many ways. This is one more that people would rather overlook.

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  2. I can totally relate myself to this.. really nice one Sowmya.. ����

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    1. Thank you so much for taking out time to comment, Rajshree :)

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  3. So relatable. After being very comfortable with the pandemic situation for the first few months my anxieties hit the roof.
    Still working on balancing out my well being. It’s tough but not something which cannot be accomplished.
    Thanks for writing this. And now with the period approaching it feels like a dam ready to burst out 😂😅

    Take care S. Sending you big virtual hugs♥️

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    1. Thank you, darling! We all need to take care of ourselves in every possible way <3

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  4. I totally get you, Soumya. My peri symptoms went through the roof and I suffered much more for a couple of months. I did consult my gynaec online and had to get a couple of tests done. Long things short, things are back on track. Meditation is part of my daily life no , and I am trying to stay away from triggers as much as I can. Glad you wrote this post.

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    1. I hope you are much better now, Rachna. We need to take care of health in every possible way.

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  5. So glad you wrote about this. My flow had drastically reduced on month and in another I had severe cramps which I hadn't had for years. There are so many triggers at the moment and somehow it is a part which always gets ignored. Sometimes I wonder why even anatomically we had to be loaded with so much.

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    1. So many women are going through such problems, Naba. It is a pity no one is talking about it.

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  6. What a well written post on something very important Soumzie. Hugs for this and I hope things have settled down for you. The pandemic has indeed toppled us all over and about in every other way possible - so now we are all learning to cope with a new normal and hopefully will retain our sanity and perspective once we are over on the other side! XOXO

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    1. Thank you so much, dear Shalz! Things are better now, but you can never say what will happen in the next cycle.

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