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    Menstruation is on the Big Stage

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | March 24th, 2019

    Menstruation is on the Big Stage

    Yes, it is true,  a movie about menstruation and menstrual pads won the academy award for Best Documentary Short Subject. ‘Period. End of Sentence’is a 26 minute file that profiles women in an Indian village who band together to manufacture affordable menstrual pads. When it was announced, my sister sent me a text and suggested that I blog about the film. I told her that I needed to watch the film. It is currently playing on Netflix.

    As I was watching the movie, it conjured up a lot of memories. I got my first period on my 11th birthday. My brother was yelling to my mother. He had seen blood on my bed.

    “Ngozi cut herself, there is blood on the bed”

    My mother rushed into the bedroom and ushered my brother out of the room. She told me that I was now a woman. I really did not understand what that meant. I hated having a period. I was embarrassed. My periods were heavy and associated with severe menstrual cramps.  Fast forward, I vowed that when I had daughters, they would not be embarrassed. They would realize that having a period was as natural as having a bowel movement or urinating. It was part of life. It should not stop them from engaging in any activity they wanted to participate in. I can say that I kept my promise.

    The average age to start the menstrual flow is 12. The cycle starts from the first day of a period to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 21 – 45 days. Typically the menstrual flow length is 7 days or less. The average age of menopause is 51 years old. About 3 -5 years prior to the last menstrual period, the period can be very irregular.

    Although menstruation is a normal part of a woman’s life, it can shed light on other problems if it deviates from the norm. For example,  menstrual pain, also known as dysmenorrhea, is common and affects nearly half of girls and women, however if the pain is so severe that it prevents you from going to school or missing work, it needs to be evaluated. You may have endometriosis (when the cells that line the inside of the uterus are found outside of the uterus) or you may have uterine fibroids.  If bleeding is so heavy, where you are having constant accidents and soiling clothes, you should seek help. You may have fibroids or polyps or a bleeding disorder.  If you are a woman of reproductive age and have not had a period for over 2 months and you are not pregnant, you should seek help. It may be a problem with your thyroid gland or may have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). There are many reasons why menstruation might deviate from the norm and this should be evaluated by a health care provider.

    The movie is a reminder of how much work we have to do to normalize what is an important part of a woman’s life. Winning the Award is just the beginning. Let us all feel free to talk about our ‘periods’.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.
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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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