Is the topic of menstruation taboo in some cultures? A mother came to me at the end of her daughter’s Puber-Tea class and thanked me for talking about this topic. She grew up in the Philippines, and no one discussed puberty and periods during her childhood. She had no knowledge about what was happening to her body on the day she started her period. Unprepared and afraid, she cut her shirt into small strips to use. She did not know what else to do. She would later have to wash and re-use these strips of cloth each month. Her mother never discussed this subject with her.
This mother was grateful and relieved that, thanks to our Puber-Tea class, her daughter now knew what would happen to her body, that there were products available to use and that she could talk to her mom about it. I was humbled to know that I had played such an important role in her daughter’s childhood. I also wanted to know more about how menstruation is addressed in different cultures.
In an article for Women’s Health, authors Caitlin Abber and Nicole Abi-Najem explored how women in cultures experience menstruation. The following details are all pulled from this article:
- A Chinese woman shared that her mother never spoke a word about menstruation, however she took her shopping for pads and physically helped her wash her undergarments. She felt supported despite the silence.
- In some countries a male figure, such as a woman’s father or husband, has to purchase pads, which are considered a luxury item. This leads to the use of sticks and leaves as stand-in products.
- In other cultures, women are considered unclean during their cycle and therefore are not allowed to attend religious services, pray or fast. After menstruation is complete, women must bathe from head to toe to clean themselves before being allowed to pray again.
- In one African country, Malawi, UNICEF had to step into communities and teach girls about menstruation because the subject is truly taboo. Parents do not discuss this topic or reproduction. UNICEF provided education, products to make washable sanitary pads and private, separate bathrooms at schools.
- Girls around the world miss school regularly due to menstruation, widening the education gap and future employment opportunities.
Every woman doesn’t have to be willing to make a tampon commercial, but should be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to explain periods to her daughter. Menstruation happens to all female mammals. It is how the human race has continued to exist.
Our Puber-Tea class is proof that you don’t have to explain where babies come from at the same time as menstruation. If you are wondering how we do this, sign up to take a class with your daughter! If you have already taken this class, tell your friends and encourage others to talk with their daughters.
Maybe your daughter is too little for Puber-Tea, but could benefit from My Best Self. Maybe you have an even younger child at home and are interested in Bodies in Motion. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. We can help our children with this by starting to talk to them at an early age and continuing healthy conversations about their bodies throughout their lives. Every girl needs a village to help her into womanhood and throughout life. Let’s be that village together!
Registered Nurse at CHOC at Mission Hospital; Birds & Bees Connection Educator