Pune: While the issue of awareness about menstruation and hygienic practices to be followed during the period is being discussed on a large scale in media, a recent survey by a sanitary napkin manufacturing company has shown that around 71 per cent of girls in India have no knowledge of menstruation before their first period.
The survey was conducted by Niine Sanitary Napkins that has been launched in India this year. The company claims to provide wide access to a high quality, appropriately priced sanitary product to menstruating girls and women across rural and urban India, including in hard to reach areas and communities such as tribal.
Dr Ramesh Bhosale, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the BJ Government Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital said that there is a need to educate girls about menstruation before they have their first period through a formal system of education as well as a healthy dialogue in the family.
He said, “It is the right of every girl to know about period beforehand. She should not be frightened when she starts menstruating. She should be able to anticipate it, and then welcome it, instead of getting scared.”
“Sassoon Hospital and BJ Medical together had conducted an awareness programme across schools in Pune during the menstrual hygiene week from May 28 to June 4, where we educated the school girls as well as provided orientation to the teachers on menstrual awareness. We learn almost everything at schools, so it is necessary that the girls learn about menstruation as well as schools, that too before they get period.,” Bhosale said.
“Teachers already do that, however, in our workshops, we insisted them on emphasising on the topic more. Also, there needs to be a healthy discussion about menstrual hygiene at homes also, especially between mothers and daughters,” Bhosale further added.
He said that if required, the parents can seek help from health workers, doctors at health centres who are ready to help, and there is a need to spread more awareness about these sources so that people know whom to contact when needed.
Speaking further about the need to educate girls at an early age, gynaecologist Dr Arun Phadnis said, “The age of menarche, that is the age of the first occurrence of menstruation is decreasing day by day. While earlier it was around 14-15 years, now it has come down to as low as 10 or 10.5 years. These girls are very young, and it’s very difficult for them to understand about ‘period’ after they get it, and it scares them. Usually, the programmes in schools are very late, for the girls in Std VI or VII. However, now these should be more inclusive of younger girls as well.”
Sangeeta Putatunda, a teacher at Global International School, Chinchwad said, “The schools have many programmes to spread awareness not just about menstruation, but we have activities addressing the adolescence issues of both genders. We have also recognised that menstruation starts early these days, and we even see some girls in Std IV getting their period. Hence, programmes are designed for younger girls also.”
However, Teresa David, Principal, Laxmanrao Apte Prashala said that most of the programmes at the school are held for girls in the classes of Std VI and VII, as that is still the age when maximum girls get their period.
“While there are girls who start menstruating in Std V, they are very few. The rest are very young. Hence, we start these sessions from Std VI. We also involve the mothers of the girls as it is necessary that they too learn about menstrual hygiene along with their daughters,” David added.
The survey also revealed that 88 per cent adolescent girls are also unaware of health implications that could occur due to poor menstrual hygiene. “It is necessary that all the girls are imparted with the knowledge of menstrual hygiene as if it is not maintained, it is possible that these girls suffer through health complications like infections, chronic pain in the abdomen. In extreme cases, this might also lead to infertility,” Bhosale said.