Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Hidden Condition Disrupting Life for 1 in 3 Women

On Menstrual Hygiene Day, it’s important to look beyond the basics of hygiene to the wider impact undiagnosed menstrual conditions such as Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB) can have on women’s lives in terms of health, wellbeing and productivity.

It used to be that talking about periods was the ultimate taboo. In recent years, thanks in no small part to social media and evolving social norms, period- or menstrual-health-and-hygiene-related topics and conversations have become much more common and acceptable. May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day, for example, providing a platform for awareness-raising and dialogue on this topic.

While this is a welcome and much-needed social change, we still have a long way to go. There are a multitude of topics under the broader banner of menstrual health and hygiene that remain obscured – quite often due to the dearth of opportunities to openly and constructively discuss such topics.

The simple reality is that the average woman will spend much of her life on her period; as much as seven years over the course of her lifetime! [1]3During this time, good menstrual hygiene, as well as the availability of, and access to, appropriate menstrual hygiene products, is absolutely essential. Good menstrual hygiene not only prevents avoidable health complications such as infections, but also ensures women can stay comfortable, productive and active during their period. This is extremely important from the perspective of women’s inclusion in public life, as it directly impacts their ability to go to school, work or travel.

As such, as a society we must make an effort to shine a spotlight on all aspects of menstrual health and hygiene that not only affect women’s health, but also their ability to live their lives to the fullest and to be fully contributing members of society.

One topic that still gets overlooked is that of heavy menstrual bleeding. Heavy menstrual period can hinder a woman’s active participation in daily life, as well as having serious impact on her health and wellbeing. It’s a surprisingly widespread issue; it is estimated that 1 in 3 women suffer from Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB)1,2. And yet, most of us are unaware that this is a genuine medical condition. A heavy period is often just considered one’s lot in life – yet another inconvenient burden for women to bear in silence.

The truth is that HMB is a medical condition that can be treated, and women don’t have to suffer and lose out on opportunities and experiences due to it. HMB can be assessed based on the presence of several indicators, for example, if you experience occurrences such as leakage or bleeding through clothing, being unable to leave the house on the heaviest days of your period and having to change your sanitary pads frequently (including at night), you might be suffering from HMB.

Here is a simple test women can take to determine whether they might be suffering from HMB; click here to take the test. Answering yes to 4 or more questions is an indicator of possible HMB; you can use these results to start a conversation with your doctor. We also hope you’ll share this information with women in your life to help spread awareness on this topic so that we can help end unnecessary suffering and empower women to be as productive and active in life as they choose to be.

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1 Bitzer J et al. Open Access J Contraception 2013;4:21-28

2 Hurskainen R et al. Obstetrica et Gynecol 2007;86:749-757

3 FAST FACTS: Nine things you didn’t know about menstruation (unicef.org)

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