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Improving Adolescent Health

“Menstrual Diary” is an innovation by SNEHA’s Empowerment, Health and Sexuality of Adolescents (EHSAS) Programme. It not only helps the female participants of EHSAS to keep a track of their menstruation cycle, but provides them a space to record issues related to menstruation. The Programme’s Community Organisers (CO) regularly take a follow up of these diaries, discussing issues brought out by the girls through this medium.

During one such follow up meeting, Srushti*, a 17 year old participant of SNEHA, whispered to the CO, “I did not get my periods this time.” Further probe by the CO revealed that she did not get her periods for months together. The CO paid a visit to her home, and asked her mother if Srushti was taken to a doctor for a consultation. Her mother replied casually that Srushti always had this problem and that they had consulted a private doctor few times earlier, who kept prescribing some tablets. As long as Srushti was taking the tablets her periods were regular, but once the tablets stopped, her periods also stopped. Unable to spend any more money on private treatment, they had tacitly decided to ignore the issue. 

The CO suggested taking Srushti to a government health facility. “I have work to do, I don’t have the time!” exclaimed the mother, who was shouldering the double burden of household responsibilities and employment. “Nobody ever has the time. You need to take out time.” was the calm reply of the CO.  Srushti herself was unwilling to seek help, as she was giving her Secondary Certificate Examination that year, was busy with her studies and health was not a priority for her. The CO explained to them both that such issues should not be neglected, as this could be a symptom of some underlying malady. She pointed out that reproductive health issues, if not treated on time, could result to serious problems for Srushti after marriage. The CO could still sense their reluctance, when they kept professing ignorance of where the health facility was located, and the procedures to be followed there.

Undeterred, the CO went to the government facility herself, to check out the timings and procedure of gynaecology OPD, informed the same to the mother, and showed willingness to accompany them. Finally Srushti and her mother went to Sion Hospital, along with the CO. The gynaecologist prescribed a blood test for Srushti, which revealed her to be anaemic. The gynaecologist explained that anaemia was the likely cause of the menstruation issues. The doctor prescribed iron tablets to Srushti, adding that a sonography might be necessary if the anaemia treatment did not resolve the issue.

The CO explained to the family how anaemia can have serious implications in all areas of an adolescent’s life, impressing upon them the need to comply with the treatment. Through regular home visits, the CO ensured that Srushti took the tablets regularly and also explained to the family the changes they needed to make in their dietary practices to improve their iron intake.  As a result of all these efforts, today Srushti is not anaemic anymore; neither does she have any problems related to menstruation. Her menstrual diary record now displays a regular menstrual cycle.

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