Menstruation is triggered by falling progesterone levels causing regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina. During this month, the tissues in our womb release chemicals that trigger pain, and these menstrual cramps often worsen with age. About 20 to 30% of women experience PMS, while 3 to 8% experience severe symptoms such as painful periods and heavy bleeding during menstruation. Hence, it is pretty challenging to handle menstrual cycles but even more difficult for women and girls with disabilities. People with disabilities are some of the most marginalized in society, and people need to manage their periods with dignity.
Managing menstruation for women and girls with disabilities
Programming experiences and tools
Women and girls with disabilities are currently under-represented in menstrual health management (MHM) programming, but a few of those programs include girls and women with disabilities or specifically developed educational tools for them.
1.Femme International, Tanzania
Femme International provides services and life skills training to youth with disabilities and provides training courses and sensitization for parents. In 2017 they partnered with the Youth with Disabilities Community Program to bring the Feminine Health Empowerment Program to girls with disabilities to make their lives easier and make the period more manageable.
- Period Tracker Lite
This simple app views our cycle’s duration on the app’s calendar view with no bells and whistles. When it comes to intellectual disabilities, it is tough for them to understand what is happening to their body and a lack of ability to gather information on periods; hence, periods are stressful times of the month for them. Many of us can handle them on autopilot as we have grown to be accustomed to our periods. Still, if we think about women with intellectual disabilities, it is pretty challenging to comprehend this blood flow fully. Hence it is beneficial for family members or carers to track the periods of those with disabilities using this app as girls with intellectual disabilities may not recognize the tell-tale signs of an upcoming period. Tracking will allow the person to be prepared for her next period making it easier to manage.
- Vikalp Design, India
Vika and the Pearl Academy of Fashion developed a Menstruation Kit in 2011 for visually impaired young girls and women. The kit includes a life-size human body model for demonstration, Braille for the visually impaired, and tactile diagrams and material and texts for the sighted to provide an educational insight on the occurrence of the period. It also offers accessible, valuable information and guidelines on handling periods; hence, this kit is a life savior for women with visual or hearing impairments.
Period-proof underwearor sanitary towels are the best choices for people with physical disabilities. They are often found to have more negative symptoms, such as heavy periods and painful periods. Hence these applications can make things slightly easier rather than inserting and removing menstrual cups. Therefore, this can be essential for those who do not have sensation below the waist. They can’t always tell when their period is on its way or already there, providing the opportunity to avoid leakage.