The last few weeks have been life-changing. It took a lethal virus to change the world as we know it. Everything has come to a standstill. Globally, governments have implemented lockdown measures in a hope to flatten the curve, at least until a viable vaccine becomes imminent.
We are living in a time of great uncertainty. There is absolutely nothing anyone of us can do but wait till things get better. Unfortunately, there is no specific date foreseen when things can go back to normal. We suspect that even when lockdown measures come to an end, we will have to adjust to a new normal – continuing to practise social distancing, avoiding crowded spaces, events and gatherings for a long, long time. Even if it is safe to go back to the old ways, the fear might still linger on for a while.
Considering this will be the new normal for quite some time, we thought it was important to touch upon the effects this pandemic has had on menstruation. If you have found your periods affected in recent months, you should know you are not alone. Being in lockdown for a long duration can wreak havoc on your body. For one, time has no meaning. Your sleep schedule might be affected because with no appointments, meetings and commutes, and a possibly reduced workload, no cues are enabling you to wake up early. Stress and worry are also contributors to sleeping late. An irregular sleep cycle occurs when excess cortisol is released. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys. It regulates sleep cycles, blood pressure and the release of glucose levels in the blood. Excess cortisol can cause a significant change in your menstrual cycle, especially when exposed to high levels of the hormone for a long time.
Since everybody is different, the menstrual issues that affect each individual might differ too. Some women report heavier periods; others have delayed periods. Menstruators might notice a lot more spotting or heavy-duty cramps. Some women’s cycles have changed drastically, causing further worry over concerns of pregnancy or health issues. At this point, there is not much you can do in terms of the virus and the lockdown. But there are ways you can bring some semblance of balance to your life. Being at home means a lot of home-cooked food, so eat at regular meal time intervals, and eat healthily. Take up to 40 minutes to an hour every day to exercise, be it yoga, pilates or dance. Several classes are streaming online. Take your pick and commit to it.
It is easy to fall into the habit of sleeping late, but you need to be strict with yourself. Commit to waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. It doesn’t have to be super early, but there is no need to keep it super late either. Your body thrives on proper nutrition, and good health practices, and sleeping for the right amount of time, is most definitely a good health practice. You might find your stress getting alleviated when following a soft routine. A well-rested mind and body are good for your menstruation.
We can completely relate to how scary this situation is. But at the same time, we need to be aware of what the ramifications of a pandemic are for people fighting on the front lines and people living in poverty. The stress for those on the front line must be at an all-time high. There is a shortage of adequate PPEs that doctors, nurses and medical personnel require for protection from the virus. They are the ones that have to treat patients of COVID-19 and other ailments as well. It is so nerve-wracking because the exposure is so high. Also, since the numbers of symptomatic patients increases by the day, their jobs become harder, and the working hours are incredibly long. Now can you imagine how stressful this is for a menstruator working on the front lines! The stress of being at the epicentre of the virus must be wreaking havoc on their bodies. To top it off, they don’t have the luxury of rest. They have to keep ploughing on.
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For people living in poverty, there is so much fear, along with all the stress. Every day is an ongoing battle to get food, water and masks, while at the same time trying to practice social distancing. For them, menstruation is an added stress right now. With so many restrictions, it can be quite challenging to get access to sanitary pads. As mentioned, the stress can either exacerbate the painful periods or cause a drastic change to the menstrual cycle. Period products cost money, and risking going out can cost a life. Unfortunately, poverty-stricken areas lack so many things that are so essential to keeping the virus at bay. They lack adequate space to enforce social distancing measures and access to water and sanitation is severely limited. One needs access to working toilets, sufficient water and menstrual products. The worry about what tomorrow holds, fearing a shortage of food and water, as well as the added stress of menstruation and where to get products from is enough to cause very high levels of stress and anxiety. Another legitimate concern is the hike in prices when a specific product is limited – this can make it incredibly hard for people with limited means to be able to afford enough to maintain the basic needs of their family.
Access to menstrual products has always been a challenge for many women across the country in any case. However, during the lockdown, this has been even more of an issue. As a society, we must come together to understand the importance of menstrual hygiene and products as essentials and refrain from denying any woman access to the same, under any circumstance.