There is a relationship between poor menstrual hygiene and anaemia, wherein the most common cause of anaemia is blood loss due to heavy menstruation.
The increasing burden of anaemia is a concern in the country with nearly one-third of the total population suffering from it. As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), India ranks 170 out of 180 countries for anaemia among women. Mostly during the adolescent years, girls experience various health problems. The most significant health issues faced by them are anaemia and poor menstrual hygiene management. There is a relationship between the two wherein the most common cause of anaemia is blood loss due to heavy menstruation.
Moreover, anaemia causes a spectrum of other health issues which impact physical and cognitive development in women. It further impacts the immune system making girls more prone to infections. Women also have anaemia at an early age due to the taboo associated with the consumption of various food items such as sugar, salt, and certain types of meat during the menstruation period. Therefore, the physical capacity and work performance of adolescent girls are severely impacted.
“ Women also have anaemia at an early age due to the taboo associated with the consumption of various food items such as sugar, salt, and certain types of meat during the menstruation period.
According to a report by World Bank, released in 2021, approximately 500 million women and girls globally lack appropriate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. These include the lack of proper sanitation facilities in public spaces, such as schools, workplaces, and health centres. Additionally, the lack of separate toilets in most rural homes of India and the unavailability of means to dispose of used sanitation napkins prevent women and girls from maintaining safe menstrual hygiene in a dignified manner.
Besides, taboos associated with menstruation such as women being impure, dirty or sinful while menstruating only exaggerates the problem. Improper menstrual hygiene management also leads to urinary or reproductive tract infections and sexually transmitted infections. These infections lead to tremendous blood loss ultimately resulting in anaemia.
“Besides, taboos associated with menstruation such as women being impure, dirty or sinful while menstruating only exaggerates the problem.
National Family Health Survey 5 released in 2021 had found that 57 per cent of women in their childbearing age have anaemia, this is the largest number in the world. Additionally, approximately 57.5 per cent of non-pregnant women worldwide are affected by anaemia.
Therefore, it is imperative to spread awareness and break taboos around menstruation to reduce the burden that is imposed by poor menstrual hygiene management. Some steps that can be taken by stakeholders to address this issue are as follows:
• Creating awareness around proper management of menstrual hygiene and mobilizing communities
• Addressing taboos and culturally harmful practices around menstruation
• Training mothers on menstrual hygiene management will create peer leaders from the community members
• Ensure last-mile delivery of services by reviewing the value chain
• Create an enabling environment in schools by leveraging government schemes such as Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) which promotes menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls
• Provide locally produced alternatives for sanitary napkins such as cloth pads
• Support self-help groups and entrepreneurs who work on making sanitary napkins
While these are some solutions that can be implemented to ensure effective management of menstrual hygiene, it is of utmost importance for stakeholders to come together to ensure seamless last-mile delivery of menstrual hygiene services. Moreover, evidence-based nationwide data is required to establish a cause-effect relationship between anaemia and improper menstrual hygiene management. This will help in exploring and implementing various preventive measures.