Ramadan and The Menstrual Cycle: Beyond The Stain

by Radwa El Samahy

During Ramadan, Muslims fast between dawn and sunset, but when a woman is menstruating she does not fast, on the condition of recovering the missing days after the holy month is over.

Be Compassionate with Yourself.

A very large percentage of `Muslim women are not aware of what happens to their bodies during the menstrual cycle. Of course everyone knows all about periods and how long they last, but menstruation is a much broader and deeper topic  than just the period alone.

A typical menstruation cycle takes around 25-28 days, and consists of four phases; menstruation “the period”, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. That cycle comes with a few common problems, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhoea – or painful periods, heavy menstrual bleeding – that, if left untreated, can cause anemia. During those 28 days, your body goes through a hormonal roller coaster, starting with periods, low estrogen, fatigue, and cramps. When it ends, the estrogen increases gradually over the following 10-11 days, taking you from feeling down and drained to being highly energetic, social and productive. Then, on days 14-18, ovulation starts, bringing with it sudden hormonal changes, intensified emotions and tiredness. During the week after, estrogen drops causing your skin to break out and become more sensitive. Finally, during the time between 23rd to 28th day, the PMSing starts and the progesterone levels increase, causing bloating, gloominess, and mood swings. These hormonal changes can also amplify things like anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions you may already be trying to manage.

All of these symptoms and shifts put your strong, delicate, body through constant change that keeps you from being able to fast. And that’s why we’re here to tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay to ask for the help and support you need. It is okay to be moody and edgy sometimes, but most importantly, it’s very much okay to give your body what it needs during a time of vulnerability.

Be Compassionate with Her

Many factors contribute to the regularity/irregularity of the menstrual cycle, such as stress, illness, changes in body weight, and dietary changes. During the beginning of the holy month, all of our eating habits start to change drastically. This has a huge impact on a woman’s menstruation. During that time of the month, a woman’s body is very dehydrated and in need of higher-than-usual sugar intake, and that’s why she needs to feel safe to have a few cups of water and a couple of light snacks during the day to keep her hormones and bodily functions as balanced as they need to be. Fasting during a period could have significantly adverse effects on a woman’s body.

“I once got caught eating during Ramadan when i was on my period, i was ashamed to tell my brother i was on my period so i just went with ‘I got tempted by food’ ”

A woman on her period is not something “shameful” or something that has to be kept secret; moving forward, we should be mindful and educated on all of the combinations of change she feels over the duration of the full month. What women go through during menstruation causes a lot of stress; it is a right of ours to be catered to, considered, and given the help and support we should have been awarded a long time ago. What is unacceptable moving forward, is for women to use the allotted amount of energy we have to experience the cycle in its full glory, without having to extend added brain juice to hiding in fears of ‘getting caught’ having a sip of water.

Compassion & Consideration is a two-way street.

Abstaining from eating and drinking in front of your fasting fellows is a beautiful, human, and considerate thing to do when you’re not fasting, and being just as considerate and compassionate with non-fasting women is absolutely vital and pivotal towards becoming a more accepting, understanding and kinder society.

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