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“Tolerate The Pain!”: Why Pill Shaming For Menstrual Pain Is A Reality In India!

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“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.

What Is Pill Shaming?

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.

Why Do People Prefer Avoiding Pills?

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.

Representation Image. Periods are different for every woman. The cramps, mood swings, hormonal changes also differ from person to person.

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.

Why Do We Ignore The Severity Of The Pains?

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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Image is for representation purpose only

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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