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Is The Pandemic Affecting Your Periods? Because Same!

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

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.

Have you ever felt like the pandemic combined together with the lockdown has disrupted your schedules? I, for one, can vouch for the fact that ever since the pandemic started, all of my routines (work, college, sleep patterns, eating habits- you name it!) became messed up. It has proved to be quite stressful to balance all of it while retaining my mental health at the same time. On top of that, I started to notice that my periods became irregular, a month into the lockdown.

At first, I thought it was just me. When my mother started to complain about her aggravated PMS pain, I started wondering whether it was happening to more menstruators out there. So, I posted a story on Instagram, asking my followers whether they have noticed anything weird about their cycles. Unexpectedly enough, I started receiving innumerable DMs from my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances- all stating weird symptoms that they have noticed about their periods during the lockdown.

Representational image.

People who barely ever had abdominal cramps before or during periods reported that ever since they stopped going out, they started experiencing immense pain and cramping. People with lighter flows started getting heavier flows, and vice versa. For some, the cycles became shorter, and others said that they did not even get their periods for three months at a time.

Weirder symptoms started popping up, with some saying that they got blue marks on their thighs along with tender, itchy breasts just before their periods started. Some experienced changes in PMS symptoms as well, with increased anxiety or mood swings, joint pain, insomnia, and hot and cold flashes.

Why Is This Happening?

All of this got me thinking, and after a bit of research, here’s what I found: several gynaecologists have stated that their patients started reporting irregular periods or unusual symptoms during the pandemic. It has been found that while experiencing anxiety or stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol which in turn interfere with the other hormones of the body. Increased levels of cortisol in the body due to stress lead to suppression of the normal reproductive hormones and can disrupt ovulation or lead to amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual cycle).

Some gynaecologists have stated that contracting COVID-19 could also lead to a disrupted menstrual cycle. Alternatively, some have suggested that changes in the menstrual cycle have been due to the hypothalamus, which contains the pituitary gland that releases reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. The hypothalamus responds to stress, which in turn could inhibit the release of the reproductive hormones, thus resulting in fluctuations in ovulation, resulting in a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea.

What Can I Do To Prevent This?

  1. Track your periods to point out irregularities: The first step to finding a solution is to identify the problem. Personally, the first thing I tried the moment I realized that something was wrong was to track my period using a period tracker app (such as Clue or Flo). These apps are extremely effective in predicting period dates and reminding you about missed periods or irregular cycle patterns.
  2. Maintain a healthy and timely diet: Maintaining a good, nutritious diet is of paramount importance when battling with stress-linked irregular periods. I tried cutting down on my junk-food intake and started having more leafy greens and protein-based meals. Now more than ever is the time to say goodbye to your favourite soda or chips. Having frequent meals is also important since long gaps in between meals do you no good.
  3. Maintain a balanced exercise routine, if possible: A lot of menstruators have stated that staying fit by exercising helps them to maintain a regular menstrual cycle, and gynaecologists recommend it too. However, if you are someone who undergoes immense dysmenorrhea or is unable to exercise, it is best to refrain from doing so. You must keep in mind that too much of anything isn’t good, and the same applies to exercise as well. Overexerting yourself can contribute to the stress you are already experiencing.
  4. Find a way to manage your stress: If at all, you find it difficult to navigate around your day-to-day activities, try these simple activities to de-stress yourself and your body. The pandemic hasn’t been easy for any of us, and some may have it way worse than is imaginable. If your symptoms still persist or are debilitating enough, try consulting a doctor or a therapist.
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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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