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5 things you should know about PCOS & diabetes

Talking about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is essential in the conversation about menstrual health. PCOS is a complex hormonal, metabolic and reproductive disorder. A staggering 50% of the women living with PCOS are going undiagnosed. Here are a few things you should know about PCOS and diabetes. If you have been in the dark so far, we’re glad you’re taking time out for your (or your loved ones’) health and if you already know some or most of these facts, remember to share this article widely so that maximum people may benefit by knowing what affects the majority of India’s population.

 

1. PCOS and diabetes are related – 

PCOS has been linked to an increased risk for developing several medical conditions including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, among others. This is not to alarm you, only make you more aware so that you can be well informed and take necessary steps if required.

 

2. PCOS is more common than you think –

PCOS affects 1 in 5 women and  greatly adds to the burden of women’s health in India. PCOS symptoms may include irregular periods, acne, excess facial hair, thinning of hair or balding, problems getting pregnant, etc. If you feel you display any of these symptoms, do not hesitate and consult a healthcare professional immediately. They should be able to get you started on a course of appropriate treatment.

 

3. India is the diabetes capital of the world –

Diabetes is broadly of three types (there are other types too but these are the most common ones) – type 1 (autoimmune, involves taking 4-6 injections daily and testing blood 5-8 times a day, doesn’t have a cure yet. If you’re type 1 diabetic, read how to manage your sugars during your period), type 2 (lifestyle related, possible reversal, most common type of diabetes around the world and also linked to PCOS) and gestational (during pregnancy) diabetes. India pretty much leads the global diabetes epidemic with about 70 million diabetics and counting. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, India is expected to have over 98 million diabetics by 2030.

 

Symptoms of diabetes include extreme thirst, hunger, urination, weight gain/obesity (or extreme weight loss in the case of type 1 diabetes), blackening or pigmentation of the skin, slow healing wounds, fatigue, blurry vision (sometimes there may be no symptoms too). The easiest way to know if you have diabetes is to get your blood sugar & HbA1c tested at a reputable pathology lab, consult a doctor and they’ll be able to suggest a further course of action and medication. Remember, starting with medication if your doctor advises it is the best way to deal with the problem head on (no, insulin or metformin is not ‘addictive’ and you are not a failure). Avoiding this could cause several medical complications down the line, so it’s in your best interest to start soon.

4. Impact on mental health – 

PCOS is very closely linked to various mental health issues such anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even suicide. In a society where there is great emphasis on the way women ‘look’, not being able to look conventionally feminine enough (PCOS may lead to excessive facial hair, weight gain, pigmentation, hair thinning or baldness etc) to fit in to the often impossible and obnoxious social constructs of beauty is extremely burdensome and distressing for women and young girls living with PCOS and naturally this results in a great deal of psychological distress. 

Mental health is the most ignored aspect of living with a physical disease or condition. At Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, we run an app based helpline for diabetes and mental health, called the Blue Circle Buddy Project. This is a community led, peer support system where trained, multilingual volunteers living with diabetes and other medical conditions are available to talk about psychosocial issues that people with medical conditions live with, everyday. We are here to hear you, download the Blue Circle Diabetes app on Android or iOS and schedule a call on our helpline! You are not alone.

5. Catch ‘em young – Early diagnosis & treatment of PCOS is very essential. Since it is an emerging health problem during adolescence as well, therefore promotion of healthy lifestyles and early interventions at school level are required to prevent future morbidities. You might be aware that the government runs a basic menstrual health programme in schools. Since PCOS is also a menstrual health issue and growing at an alarming rate, don’t you think it makes sense for the government to add a unit on awareness, prevention and treatment of PCOS (and diabetes) to the existing MH programme in schools?

Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, a registered NGO runs ‘Project Gaia’, which is an initiative to empower women & girls with diabetes in India & in collaboration with Youth Ki Awaaz we demand that PCOS and diabetes education be added to the Menstrual Health education programme in schools in Maharashtra and eventually all over India.

Please share your experiences and thoughts through this survey (any age, gender, medical history or location is fine) which will help us approach the government with data & demand the inclusion of a PCOS & diabetes module in the Menstrual Health programmes in educational institutions in the country. Fill & share the survey and let’s make a difference together: pcos.bluecircle.foundation

For any queries related to the survey email us: support@bluecircle.foundation or visit our website to know more about our work: https://www.bluecircle.foundation/

 

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Fill the survey now!

 

 

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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