Menstruation is associated with various myths and misconceptions leading to lack of awareness among adolescent girls and women. Insufficient menstrual hygiene practices are cause of stress associated with menstruation and reproductive tract infections.

In some countries even mention of the topic has been a taboo in the past and even today the cultural and social influences appear to be an obstacle for progression of knowledge on the subject. Culturally in some countries, menstruation is still considered to be dirty and impure. Women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. She must be “purified” before she is allowed to return to her family and everyday jobs of her life.Many girls and women are focus to restrictions in their daily lives simply because they are menstruating. Not entering the “puja” room is the major restriction among urban girls whereas, not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among the rural girls during menstruation.Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books. The underlying basis for this myth is also the cultural beliefs of impurity associated with menstruation.It is further believed that menstruating women are unhygienic and unclean and hence the food they prepare or handle can get contaminated. According to a study women also reported that during menstruation the body emits some specific smell or ray, which turns preserved food bad. And, therefore, they are not allowed to touch sour foods like pickles.Myths and misconceptions on menstruation are often compounded by traditional associations with evil spirits, shame and embarrassment surrounding sexual reproduction. In some cultures, women bury their cloths used during menstruation to prevent them being used by evil spirits.In some places menstrual blood is believed to be dangerous, and a person can do harm to a menstruating woman or girl by using black magic .

It is also believed that a woman can use her menstrual blood to impose her will on a man.Some strict dietary restrictions are also followed during menstruation such as sour food like curd, tamarind, and pickles are usually avoided by menstruating girls. It is believed that such foods will disturb or stop the menstrual flow.As far as the exercise is concerned, many studies have revealed that many adolescent girls believe that doing exercise/physical activity during menses aggravate the dysmenorrhoea while in real exercise can help relieve the menstruating women with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhoea and relieve bloating. Exercise also causes a release of serotonin,making one feel much happier.

Women are prohibited from taking bath and washing hair in some places but that is actually good as a nice hot water bath relieves them from cramps.Such myths and misconceptions about menstruation present in many societies impact on girls’ and women's emotional state, mentality and lifestyle and most importantly, health. Large numbers of girls in many less economically developed countries drop out of school when they begin menstruating. There are health and hygiene issues also to consider relating to girls and menstruation.

Many menstruating girls and women use an old cloth, which is often reused. Further,women sometimesresort to using ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand to aid absorption. Poor protection and inadequate washing facilities may increases susceptibility to infection, with the odour of menstrual blood putting girls at risk of being stigmatized. The latter may have significant implications for their mental health. The challenge, of addressing the socio-cultural myths and misconceptions in menstruation, is further compounded by the fact the girls’ knowledge levels and understandings of puberty, menstruation, and reproductive health are very low.

About the Author
Public Health Researcher
Menka comes to FHTS with an interest in using FHTS’s innovations to increase access to healthcare and education for under-served communities in India and around the world and to bring a positive change in the under- served communities by providing...