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How Analysing Your Menstrual Cycle Can Help Diagnose Reproductive Diseases

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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.

Menstruation in itself is a topic that tends to intimidate women due to the excessive stigmatisation around it. Lack of proper information about it is something that is being dealt with on a societal level, and this change is heartily welcomed with open arms. However, one topic that still does have the tendency to get swept under the rug is that of female reproductive diseases.

Reproductive diseases are hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. This whole situation is worsened when women themselves are not aware of the diseases they can be at risk of and the various symptoms that they need to look out for. Looking for abnormalities in your menstrual cycles and analysing them can help you realise that everything may not be in order and take some action. Some of the major ailments that tend to go unnoticed are anaemia, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a disease that has slowly but surely been gaining traction due to the spreading of knowledge and awareness about it. Affecting around 10% of Indian women, according to a study conducted by the PCOS Society of India, it is essentially a hormonal disorder that causes enlargement of the ovaries, along with the formation of cysts. The study, done by AIIMS, claims that around 20-25% of Indian women of childbearing age suffer from PCOS. 

Hormonal imbalance may cause an irregular menstrual cycle, with light or missed periods — you may end up having only eight cycles in a year. But it can also mean heavier blood flow, as there is more endometrial line to release. These can act as crucial symptoms, along with the growth of excessive body hair (due to the presence of male hormones such as androgen) and obesity.

period panty
If women do not fully understand how their menstrual cycle is supposed to work, it becomes harder to recognise anomalies that can help detect severe issues such as cancers or sexually transmitted diseases and treat them early.

It is important to note here that there may be multiple reasons for missing a period or having an abnormal cycle. Having PCOS or any other condition may be one reason, but there are many other factors that you need to consider. Do not self diagnose and always take professional medical advice.


In a normal menstrual cycle, a tissue called the endometrium is grown inside the uterus every month in expectation of pregnancy, which is shed as blood during the period. When the endometrium starts growing outside the uterus instead of inside it, that is endometriosis. This is a highly painful disease, which made its way to the public consciousness after the case of Marilyn Monroe. The Endometriosis Society of India estimates that 25 million Indian women suffer from this disease. 

Endometriosis can lead to pelvic pain, pain during intercourse and is also associated with intense cramps during periods. An abnormally heavy flow and a cycle shorter than the usual 28 days right from menarche can act as symptoms for this disease as there are more tissues to shed.


Anaemia arises from a situation wherein a person’s blood does not carry enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to various parts of the body. Menstruation, due to its substantial blood loss, can sometimes play a part in causing this issue. Heavy flow and shedding of blood during periods can make you lose iron, which in turn can cause iron-deficiency anaemia.

Representational image.

Anaemia can often go unnoticed as its symptoms are not very specific: it can lead to excessive lethargy and a pale physical appearance. It can be easier to notice through your period, and how much blood you are losing. Excessive bleeding can be determined by how frequently you’re having to change your pad/tampon and unusually large blood clots. They can be symptoms of anaemia. Anaemia in itself can act as a symptom of larger underlying issues like endometriosis, PCOS and uterine fibroids.

If you look up any of these diseases, you will find that none of them are very well understood by scientists. Most of the diseases that afflict only women are not very well comprehended. This lack of study on them stems from a patriarchal setup that does not bother thinking about women’s bodies and health issues apart from what they want from it and how it affects them.

If women do not fully understand how their menstrual cycle is supposed to work, it becomes harder to recognise anomalies that can help detect severe issues such as cancers or sexually transmitted diseases and treat them early. It is imperative that these issues are brought up and discussed when healthy menstruation management practices are taught in seminars and classes.

These symptoms may also arise after hitting menopause. If you seem to have irregular periods and flow even after reaching menopause, it is best to get it checked out at the earliest by the gynaecologist. It may end up being nothing, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

In order to increase studies about women’s biological and health issues, such as the effects of various drugs on their bodies, it is essential that women start studying and make their mark in these fields.  

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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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