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Sickle Cell and Menstruation: How to Raise Awareness and Advocate for Better Care

May 26, 2017 by Andrea
Photo: pxhidalgo/istockphoto.com

Photo: pxhidalgo/istockphoto.com



Monthly periods can be painful enough for women and girls with completely normal red blood cells and hemoglobin levels. Throw sickle cell in the mix and typical cramps can become a full-blown crisis -- every single time. Research shows that menstruation can directly trigger a pain crisis in sickle cell warriors, and also confirms that this particular area of study is neglected. Much more exploration needs to be done in order to better care for female patients with SCD.

A common issue when it comes to the realm of period talk in general is that it's forsaken, perpetuating an idea that periods are taboo and "dirty" and "bad." This negatively affects women overall, fueling lack of understanding, causing women and girls in some countries to have to stay home from school and work, and even here in the United States, it has resulted in a serious deficiency of research, and in turn care, for sickle cell warriors on their periods.

To combat the stigma of this completely natural bodily process, WASH United created Menstrual Hygiene Day -- a global initiative to raise "awareness of the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to their menstruation and highlights solutions that address these challenges." First celebrated in 2014, MH Day occurs every year on May 28 (May is the fifth month and periods usually last five days, and a full cycle is typically 28 days). This provides the perfect opportunity for the sickle cell community to voice concerns and difficulties that are unique to them when it comes to that time of the month. Here's how to get involved:

1) Download the MH Day 2017 campaign materials here.
You'll find educational posters, fact sheets, emojis, and more -- in several languages!

2) Share your story on social media.
Not a sickle cell warrior? Help spread awareness through the stories of others like this one. Be sure to include the hashtag #sicklecell  with the hashtags #menstruationmatters, #mhday2017, and/or #menstravaganza in your posts.

3) Host a seminar, local art exhibit, or other program to help educate the community specifically about how menstruation can affect sickle cell warriors.


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