“Have you tried eating well?” “Maybe practice yoga?” “Don’t worry, it is normal” are some of the responses that we all have heard from our friends or relatives when we have told them that we were taking pills for menstrual ache.
It is very common in India to avert or advise one against consuming medicines especially when it comes to menstrual issues. Shaming one along the lines of their choice to consume pills is subconsciously rooted in our system.
Pill shaming refers to a situation where someone expresses their negative opinions when you tell them you’re using medication to treat an issue. Menstruation as a biological phenomenon is attached to a lot of stigmas and taboos in India. Along with these myths, comes an extra burden of not being able to consume pills. At times, it is imperative to consume certain painkillers to prevent unnecessary abdominal pains.
One of the main reasons could be the general negative value that many people hold towards medications. Painkillers do affect your body’s natural system in some way, so many people try to avoid consuming painkillers or other such pills until and unless it is absolutely necessary.
Arshiya Mahajan, a 19-year-old student from Chandigarh says that she has often heard consuming painkillers regularly for your period pains might cause a problem in either conceiving a child or might disrupt one’s natural body functions. She also mentions that a lot of times, people are of the opinion that taking a pill is a sign of weakness.
She stated that she personally tends to avoid taking pills for something like periods which she experiences regularly every month. She doesn’t want to reach out to medications every month for the cramps so she prefers using home remedies or heating pads.
Yashve Singhal, a student of Delhi University says that she has heard her family and relatives advise her against taking such pills and asking her to tolerate the pain. She often faces severe cramps and body aches during her periods so the first step she is recommended whenever she complains of pain is either a heating pad or massages.
There also exists a system of the blame game. I remember when I was in eighth grade, a girl in my class fainted due to her period pains. The medical assistant in our school advised her to take rest and offered glucose but restrained from giving her painkillers that could ease her pain. She claimed that period pains were normal and one should learn to build the threshold of bearing them.
This inherent understanding that the person claiming period pains is weak or simply not strong enough is wrong and we need to change the thinking that period pains are something that we should all bear. We need to understand that periods are not the same for everyone and sometimes it is better to take the pills than suffer acute pains.
If we look at the cultural aspect, Indian society is more prone to resistance towards allopathy than the west. The main reason could be the age-old belief that natural remedies are safer in comparison to medicines. This has been an understanding amongst most of the elder generation even today which is why there is a generational passing of advising young girls to use home remedies instead of medicines.
But, it is important to consider that sometimes the menstrual pain can be worse than the side effects and that painkillers can come to rescue the person for the day. Just like pills are okay to manage one’s physical health, it should be fine to take them for menstrual aches or mental health.
The most important takeaway should be that consuming pills don’t make you weak or make your pain invalid. Everyone’s body is different and so are its needs so we should open conversations on practising healthy menstrual habits and stop pill shaming people over their choices. Further, pain is something that cannot be quantified or measured across a scale. We need to empower women into taking their own decisions when it comes to pill choices and health in general.
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