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There’s More To Your Period-Related Mood Swings Than You Think. Read On

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

My family has a history of PCOD. So whenever my period cycle becomes a bit irregular, my mind straight away starts thinking that oh my god it’s setting in in me too. That leads to a cycle of uncertainty and anxiousness in me. In most cases, it is nothing, but just the fact that there is a possibility really takes a toll on my mental health sometimes,” said Bhumika (name changed).

There are so many days when I’m having irritable mornings or just experiencing a very low level of tolerance towards general things. I spend hours wondering why I’m behaving like this, what’s the reason, etc. It leads to a lot of self-introspection, and sometimes it isn’t good for your mental health because it unnecessarily puts you into a chain of thought. Then I realise my period is coming near, and it’s just hormones,” said Shruti (name changed).

The symptoms of PMS or premenstrual syndrome and the impact it can have on women are well known. This is because a majority of the women, 90% to be precise, experience such symptoms before their monthly cycle. While symptoms like bloating, headaches and moodiness are commonly associated with menstruation, the impact it has on the mental health of women is still in unchartered territory.

However, just because it doesn’t form part of the general discourse, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD in abbreviated form can be defined as an extension of PMS. However, it can have a significant impact on the mental health of 3-5% of the menstruating women who experience it.

PMDD And Its Impact On Mental Health

While PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome, it also causes emotional symptoms that can make it difficult for women to socialise, work and have healthy relationships. A person suffering from PMDD described it as a ‘self destruct‘ button that leads to imploding her life once a month. The emotional impact of PMDD ranges from feelings of anxiety, tension to hopelessness and irritation.

In some cases, people suffering from it have also expressed suicidal feelings. For someone already living with mental health problems, being diagnosed with PMDD can further deteriorate their mental health. Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder have been known to worsen during the premenstrual period as well.

Other Ways Periods Can Have An Impact On Mental Health

Image Credits: Everyday Health

The intersectionality between periods and mental health can be looked at from a variety of ways. Broadly classifying it, there are several ways menstruation can have an impact on the mental health of women. The first is the hormonal factors. For example, the two hormones responsible for regulating menstruation- oestrogen and progesterone, are at their lowest during the premenstrual period. Low levels of oestrogen can have an impact on the serotonin levels, which affects mood processing and ultimately leads to women feeling low.

Another way menstruation can have an impact on the mental health of women is via social factors. In a society where menstruation is looked upon as a taboo and isn’t freely talked about, period time can be a particularly lonely time. The lack of support and discussion amongst friends and family can foster feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Whenever I get my period, it’s like my mother’s senses get heightened. She asks me to stay out of the kitchen, coddles me much more than normal, and just acts on her tiptoes when she’s around me. While sometimes it is done with an intent to pamper and take care, sometimes it subliminally makes me feel that those 4-5 days are something that shouldn’t be talked about,” said Bhumika (name changed).

Such a practice is particularly evident in India. Socio-cultural factors and taboos associated with menstruation can also impact women mentally. When they are asked to stay out of religious places, not touch certain foods and are isolated from family during menstruation, it drives in the point subliminally that they aren’t wanted. This societal alienation can also foster feelings of abandonment and self-doubt among menstruating women. Research has revealed that perceived social isolation can foster feelings of depression, anxiety and even hallucinations.

The first step towards solving any problem is having an open discussion about it. Therefore, it is important to understand the impact menstruation can have on women from a mental health perspective. The conversation around menstruation and mental health shouldn’t be just restricted to PMS or mood swings. Mental health is a concept that has several social, cultural, personal factors at play. It’s time we look at this angle to find sustainable solutions. Only then adequate mental health aids can be developed for menstruating women all over the world.

The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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