Who is afraid of awareness about menstruation, and open letters to all Gynaecologists?

The beauty of Red.

@TowardsHarmony shared this video on twitter.


“And something changed

The goodness of red escaped from a crack
And then it became the colour of shame… of pain
I was around eleven when I saw the red river, flowing between my thighs…
I was frightened and confused…
I have blood cancer I thought…
I did not know this blood would become my lifelong adversary…
My life would now be full of don’ts.
Don’t walk like that
Don’t talk to boys,
Don’t dress like that,
Don’t think like that,
Don’t speak about those things!
Don’t go out late…

Spread awareness about menstruation and shatter myths around the subject.”

The breaking of Silence about menstruation would be a step towards questioning the disrespect, ignorance and society’s control over women’s bodies – specially women’s reproductive health.

Controlling women’s reproductive rights and sexual rights would be difficult without the power and authority of Silencing and Shaming.

This control facilitates women little girl-children being seen as no more than future mothers of male heirs to carry forward their future spouse’s ancestral names (since women must have no names of their own)

Which is why this letter is so relevant:

Open letter to all Gynaecologists [link]

Dear gynaecologists,

I write this letter on behalf of all women who have or are touching the dreaded age of 30. Some of us come to you as part of our annual check ups, some of us come for minor irritations and questions while some of us come for questions related to our fertility and choices of motherhood.

…the first thing we are told is that our fertility is running out. The implication always is that most of us have given preference to career goals or some new age ideas and are delaying motherhood. These assumptions are made regardless of your knowledge of what is going on in our life, whether we have been coming to you for years or even if it is the first time we ever came to your clinic.

This assumption is just the starting point, …

In a country where sometimes even a well educated 20 something woman sometimes does not know fully well about sex, sometimes a woman just comes to you to get a clearer idea. And a friend who came to one of you regarding clarity, so that she could proceed with caution with her fiancé was given a morality lecture on the pre-marital sex and basically told her fiancé was probably only after one thing.

… We thought our grandmothers and those pesky aunties scared us the most about marriage and the impending deadline for it. However, the fear one visit to you puts in us is far worse.

…. if you show the way, there is a likelihood, the society might also consider a woman’s utility beyond her reproductive abilities.

Edited to ask: So, who is afraid of awareness about menstruation, and open letters to all Gynaecologists?

Those who are empowered by ignorance, shaming, blaming and silencing. Also those who feel having a Voice is shameless and immoral.

Related Posts:

1. Women’s sexuality

“This impudence of a widow to fall in love cannot be tolerated by any man…”

Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex

A tag: But when a woman sees a hot man, nothing happens in her brain?

“There is so little conversation about a woman’s desire for sex that a lot of people simply assume it doesn’t exist.”

“In my own company in a cosmopolitan city, I know women who were horrified on the First Night.”

“let me ask – how many girls in city remain pure till marriage ?”

Here’s why I think the society should not obsess over a woman’s virginity.

Romanticizing innocence, chastity and related taboos for women.

An email: Also this is a genuine question and not a pornographic mail.

2. Menstruation:

If men could menstruate, this is how little boys would react to their first period.

Some doors are different… they are closed for fifty percent of the population.

Should women go to this temple?

Sex Education has nothing to do with Blue Films.

Being untouchable during periods.

Nepal: Custom & Dangers of Isolation of Women During Menstruation

Have you heard about the menstrual cup?


151 thoughts on “Who is afraid of awareness about menstruation, and open letters to all Gynaecologists?

  1. I’ve had some pretty terrible experiences with gynaecs in India! It started when I was 13 and had period problems… Mum took me to a doc close to our place.
    The lady refused to check me out and told my mother that everything will be alright as soon as I get married!!! WTF?! Is that what one tells a scared and uncertain kid?!!

    And because I have PCOD, I was told to have unwanted procedures instead of treating thyroid issues…
    It was a nightmare.

    I’m glad I have good doctors now who have told me there is nothing wrong in choosing to have children in your 30s and that PCOD can be controlled and taken care of with proper medication, exercise and a good diet. I didn’t know half the things I know now. My knowledge and awareness has increased with the proper information and great doctors (touchwood!)


    • WTF! o.O

      I’m lucky to have a good gynec. She didn’t even take offence to the fact that I’m not married. 😛 And she pinpointed the issue right away. I think she’s also a lot into convincing women to go ahead with the births of their daughters. But such doctors are few and far between. My friend’s doctor scared her right off contraceptives saying they will make her infertile. WTF!


    • Doctors are handling the lives of so many people and hence must be really dedicated to work and be completely empathetic towards the patient. Many parents too do not take the complaints of young girls regarding menstruation seriously and cut them short saying, “It happens with everyone.” No pain should be taken casually. You never know what’s going inside our body.

      My problem turned out to be a non-malignant tumor and for years my Mom’s gynae refused to check me saying, “It’s just menstrual spasmodic pain. She’s perfectly active and doesn’t look ill at all.” An early diagnosis could have avoided a lot of pain, stress, medications and surgery. I was lucky to have finally met a wonderful old lady doctor who was the HOD of Gynae & Obstetrics at AIIMS.


      • heh!! You are right Ruch!! The horrifying things I’ve heard from doctors!! Whew!!
        And why is no medication given??
        They ask you to “have a kid right away”. But, what about later on? The side effects of PCOS are many… they don’t educate us on that at all..


    • I know a gynecologist who told a woman in India that unless a woman “wants” sex, she is physically incapable of getting raped. So according to her, rape is a made up crime and all women who get raped are liars.

      I have no great faith in Indian gynecologists.


        • No. I never said it was an exception. But even the comments on this thread cannot be the criteria to generalize all Indian gynecologists to be what you think! It isn’t very sensible to generalize things based on a few bad examples.


        • “So you don’t think this open letter to gynaecologists should be written at all?”

          I’m taking it that this question is directed to me.

          You probably got my earlier comment wrong. I didn’t question the open letter at all. In fact, I’m all for open letters so that people who are at fault and are ignorant about those faults should realize where they are going wrong.

          I was only questioning the generalization about Indian gynecologists as was done by a person above. The open letter doesn’t generalize all Indian gynecologists to be weird. It actually intends to draw the attention of those who have twisted views about female sexuality/morality. But the person commenting above went to the extent of losing faith in Indian gynecologists as if all of them are the same.

          There have been so many open letters to the Indian male. And not just based on other stories you find in comment threads here, but almost all of us have had real-life personal experiences with Indian men who are unfit for human civilization. But does that mean we should generalize and lose faith in all Indian males??? Well, that’s my point.


  2. Menstruation is a very interesting topic , I talk to women in my society they say I cannot attend Ganesh Charthurti Pandal , I have periods…Period.
    I ask why : We are impure , who told : everyone..

    Same my mother in law asked me to take period delaying pill ( i.e birthcontrol pills she dosnt know that..) before marriage as it will be ashubh.. I got period the moment I sat in the Pandaal 🙂 I got relieved mentally probably.She told that the Gynaec in her locality gave that to her daughter for this purpose at time of her marriage…So this is the state of gynaec…BS…BS…

    Well my MIL told me that women become impure during periods , What I answered : “Yes I know you are correct , One Maha Pandit told me this thing is absolutely correct but women who are pure in this time come to know that they are pure by themselves and women who are impure and dirty come to know that they are impure by themselves during this time.So I came to know I am pure , May be you are very dirty hence u are impure…So that is fine.”
    So this way was very tough for her to handle.
    All women in my colony some how or other believe in this in some or another form…they are all educated and no matter what you say they do not get the logic .So the above statement works well where they prove themselves dirty and want to get out of this shame else traditions make them accpet the same nonsense.

    (OK , no one knows the Maha Pandit is me 🙂 , I hope u all to believe that 🙂 )


    • I get this a lot too, from my own family. I finally got sick of being excluded from all the fun things, so I stopped telling them I was on my period during those occasions. The way I see it, if God thinks I’m impure, they can take it up with me personally. 😀 Since I have yet to see a cloud formation or some other divine message along those lines, I’m going to assume all is well and get on with my life.


      • @A,
        Yes it is so unfair when one is exclided from all the fun things.Fortunately, in my family, nobody restricted me.I grew up thinking its a normal thing,as normal as sweat,which is a daily thing.So, no restrictions about touching vessels in the kitchen, or food ,no isolation, etc.Mum did not beleive in such stuff.She simply said, we have to move with the times, just because I suffered does not mean you should too.And she merely completed school,no higher education.


    • One of the first blows delivered to me immediately after marriage scarred me for life and strained the relationship between me and my chachi-saas forever. We were visiting her and I was menstruating. Everyone except her and me (i.e. only men) were eating lunch. Someone asked for rice and I ran to the kitchen to bring rice for the dining table thinking I was being a good bahu, helping her and all. Later when I was eating, alone, she came into the room with the pressure cooker in her hand and simply inverted the cooker over my thali! The round chakki-like rice fell on my plate with a loud thud, and as a I looked up startled, she said ‘who will eat that now that you have touched it!’. I felt like a street dog who is being shooed away. I was hurt and insulted like never before. I had no idea she will behave like that as she says she is a Ph. D. And I am pretty sure she menstruates too!

      So much hatred, so much loathing, just because I was having my period. Though the incident made me wiser enough to keep my distance from her, I still feel the sting. This is the general state of ignorance and bullshit that we maintain in India. How can we expect the society (Men+women) to respect women when women themselves do not respect their own kind:
      “Nari na mohe nari ke roopa”.

      Doctors are a crop of this society too. How can we expect them to be different?


        • I got pissed off and told her you do not look like a science student , my pati fought with me endlessly on this until I cured him too 😉 , Some how my postpartum hormones helped me …I think to protect my newborn child from her nonsense I rebelled… Now I have learnt that I should have fought for myself also as vigorously initially , actually I tried my husband acted I like a stupid man.


      • In my family, my mother would go nuts trying to keep me from touching anything during the first 3 days of my period, then she would do all the washing up. My grandmother actually hid her food from me while she was eating and I just passed by, as if just looking at it would pollute her. Both persons surely menstruated themselves! It was such a relief when I moved out and put an end to the silly practice. I could have just lied about my periods, but I’m not made that way, so it meant a huge fight every month.


        • And God help women if they did not get their periods at all. Then, too, they would be treated as something grossly abnormal, as pariahs. A no win situation. Best is not to mention your periods to anyone. Why should you? Do you announce to everyone every time you go to the loo or blow your nose? Then why should you announce to them about this? Let them keep guessing. Let them stew!


        • Often, the veil of secrecy surrounding periods, sanitary napkins also adds to the problem and makes it some weird alien concept for men.

          I think we need not announce it but if I don’t feel like cooking and want to lie in bed and not do anything because I feel tired, I don’t mind telling – male or female but then this is applicable for liberal families because conservatives will put 20,000 rules for that.


    • @Fakeindinabbhahu. I love your approach. I share your point of view, for periods as well as any hygene issues. Therefore no one could ever make me believe I am impure. And when I hear comments about westerners being dirty it just makes me laugh 🙂

      The truth is, even in the west, men fear the power of the uterus and the clitoris. 🙂
      But it makes me really angry to hear doctors do not treat PCOS. There is no reason to feel pain around your period, and if you do ask for treatment.


      • thanks Victoria…but all this have come after lot of thinking as we are so much made to behave like laloo also moment we try to combat nonsense we are put “in place” by women , family and all in patriarchial system…As a majority and elder they take the cake away along with Blame , ill names put on you…


      • @fakeindianbbahu,

        Just write gibberish and recite it to them as fact. Who knows Sanskrit anyway? I’m sure pandits recite gibberish now and then too.


  3. I am blessed to have an excellent gynae. But I’ve had one experience with a horrid one. The first thing she told me was to get married to get rid of period pain. Then she said even if you have PCOD I will not put you on any medicines because you are not married and they might cause problems “later”. What “later” !! She was more concerned about my non existent future marriage plans than the pain and issues I was facing in the present !
    And now every day I thank god for my current gynae. No pressure to get married/have kids. Everything explained and handled in a logical scientific way.


    • That is really strange advice, because there is no reason getting married would change your period pain at all. Perhaps she was implicitly claiming that having regular sex might be helpful but I don’t think that’s generally true, and even if it *was* true, she could then just as well have recommended that you have sex regularily. (either with a partner, or by yourself – masturbation does exist)


    • … Many of us suffered from dysmenorrhoea, all of us were told by different doctors it will get better after marriage, if not marriage then definitely after childbirth. Wao, again our female lives were on hold for that cure-all called “marriage, a package deal came with babies” (even if you wanted or not).
      Given the bliss of stress of being married to dysfunction DG developed PCOS and she pursued the endocrinologist like a hawk, he asked if she was planning to start a family? When she said no, his response was then why does she care?
      She said, I want you to fix me now when it is the beginning not then when it is bad enough to cost 25 grand. It is all about money. why won’t you fix it in the beginning and wait until it is rotten late? Simple economics.

      Had she told him her intentions he would have fell from the chair.

      In order for her to be childless by choice she need to have the capacity to have a child. You fix her now so that she can give up that ability to practice her right to have a child. You cannot give up something you do not have.

      It is interesting how the discussion again has come and rested on menstrual taboos instead of the ingrained patriarchal bias in the medical profession.

      Desi Girl


    • I’ve heard a lot about this from my friends. Seems like getting married and having child should solve all these problems..

      I do have a problem for which my bf and I need to consult a gynecologist. I’m dreading & avoiding it from a long time because, I’m afraid that we might get shooed off, since we are not married yet 😦 ..

      Can anyone suggest me a good doc from Chennai, Please?


  4. The kookery, quackery and ‘moral lecturing’ I’ve heard from Indian gynecologists just boggles my mind.
    As a US OB/GYN I find that not only do Indian OB/GYN not only disbelieve & or belittle their female patients complaints- they are rather ignorant on issues such as PCOD, endometriosis, fibroids’ etc & the treatments thereof. Why this should be I do not know.
    As for the ‘moral lecturing’ of female patients on their sexual habits & proclivities – it was decided in the US around the 1970’s that a physician’s duties do not include instilling sexual morals & values.
    The benefits of ‘safe sex’ are about as far as any ethical lectures on sexuality should go is the general consensus in the US now.
    (Although you will still find a few US physicians who are so ancient or ‘hyper religious’ they will lecture the patient as to their own beliefs on sexual morality & behavior).
    Usually in US public & private schools girls around the age of 10 yrs old are separated from the boys to watch a 1 hour film on what to expect about menstruation & pubertal changes that will be happening in their bodies soon.
    Even in the US though, before girls are allowed to see the film a consent form must be signed by a parent.


    • I must confess I am surprised by all the horror stories being recounted here. I have never been to an Indian gynaecologist as a patient, but I did study medicine in India, and most OBGYNs I came across as a student and internship tended to be more liberal than the average Indian woman, not less 🙂
      I suppose a generation gap could explain some of the sheer BS that patients are subjected to. Hopefully that will change when this generation of gynecologists-in-training begin practicing.


      • The girls & boys are separated to watch prevent embarrassment & hopefully create an environment where girls will feel more comfortable discussing menstruation & body changes.
        I agree that boys should see a film on pubertal changes in their bodies as well as an overview of the menstrual cycle in girls also.


        • IHM, many 10-11 year olds are very shy about their bodies and the changes that they are going through. When I was eleven I certainly wasn’t comfortable with discussing periods with anyone, including my friends and my mother-this despite my mom telling me all the details when I was around eight years old. Perhaps when they are older, around 14 or 15, and more mature, you can teach sex Ed in a mixed environment. But I think that it is simply easier for 11 year olds to be separated by gender and taught about menstruation.


        • “What makes period or menstruation an embarrassing topic for girls or boys?”

          I guess the same reason why one wouldn’t want to discuss his or her bowel/bladder habits with others.


    • Tell DG about this idiot male OBG she had to visit in the US when her regular female OBG was on maternity leave he said, PCOS can only be cured by surgical removal of ovaries.
      In India the same film (Johnson & Johnson promotional for sanitary products) on female reproductive anatomy, puberty and menstruation was shown to us in late 80s from grade 9-12 in post recess period without parental consent and boys scratched their heads wondering why girls are given preferential treatment and what secret movie are they being shown. After the movie each girl was give an informational booklet and sample sanitary towels. Now red faced girls had to go back to their classes with these goodies that they had no way of hiding as they were herded in the auditorium directly from the lunch hour.

      As she walked hands free (thanks to her divided skirt with deep pockets), the male class monitor mustered some courage and asked DG what was going on she said it was a documentary on menstrual hygiene but
      for a long time DG wondered about the movie, if women are being told in the movie it is natural to have periods and girls should be happy about it then why do they have to keep it a secret from other half of the humankind and how are they suppose to understand what women are going through if they are not even aware of it.
      Shame, shaming and unnaming is pretty messy business keeps everyone confused.
      Desi Girl


      • …But boys would never talk about spontaneous erections, masturbation and night ejaculations to girls, although these are perfectly natural things…

        I don’t think it is a problem if boys and girls have secrets. But girls shouldn’t be kept in the dark and told stupid things about menstruation, sexuality and pregnancy. Boys should also be educated in this area.

        Even in Europe where teenagers are taught about these things in school, the lessons are very technical and don’t talk about such things as desire and pleasure. Although how can you enjoy sexuality without desire ?


  5. Though there was a clear commercial motive there but back in the late 80s and early 90s a leading sanitary napkin company held workshops in schools for us and gave us samples but more importantly booklets in both hindi and English as a lot of moms/parents could only read hindi and they did help in understanding menstruation better.


      • I guess this was still a lot better than the kind of “education” we were given in the late ’70’s in an all girls’ convent school. The Geeta Chopra rape case in Delhi had just been all over the news.

        So we get hauled off to the auditorium. A lady (not a nun) walks in to “educate” us. She starts with “Girls, do you know what happened to Geeta Chopra”? That is our introduction to sex education! Grrrr…… Getting to know about all the details after that is even more distressing. Somehow she has skillfully associated a deep shame with the very process – “We are born in sin” – (without actually saying those words. The thought that this is how we were born is very hard to take in at that age after that introduction and the shock of all this is just too much with a pregnant sister around.

        After that it took years for me to come around to seeing men as anything other than potential rapists.


  6. I don’t live in India, so I’ve never experienced a gynaecologist from the motherland. But I have met plenty of Indian doctors/gynecs in Canada who ascribe to the exact same beliefs as what was discussed in this blog post. I remember going to a walk-in clinic once for a measles shot or something. It is standard procedure to ask if a patient is pregnant, but the doctor who gave me the shot told me, “I don’t have to ask you this. You’re an Indian girl. I’m sure you’re not like these people at all.”

    There was another incident I heard from a friend, which is apparently very common among those who go to Indian doctors as well. She went for a check-up and was asked if she was sexually active. Her answer was yes. The doctor then asked if she was married. She said no. Then the doctor asked, “If you’re not married, how can you possibly be sexually active?” And then proceeded to give her a twenty minute lecture.

    Thankfully, I do think that Indian doctors educated in the US are not quite so ignorant about many of the conditions discussed in the comments. My family doctor, for one, was quite prompt about prescribing birth control and such for the problems that I was having. The only time she ever had issues or gave us lectures was when one of us purposefully neglected our treatments or our health. To her, that was morality–respecting your body enough to take care of it when it’s ailing. Not preserving some mythological purity that’s only a social construct.


  7. I consulted a Gynac a few months back. And it was horrible. My periods were always painfree & on-time. Hence I panicked when it was late by a few days and rushed to the Dr. She said it happens to single women. There’s a time for everything and I’m already ‘late’. Eggs get exhausted. And Have I ever done ‘it’ (she meant sex) before? Risks of breast cancers for single women is more.
    I should have given her a piece of m mind. But I couldnt say anything because I thought she knw what she was talking about (and I had no idea- that changed :D)…


  8. Unbelievable are the things that people believe! And gynaecs at that! I ran into a gynaec in my dad’s hospital (he’s a doctor) and only casually happened to tell her that I suffer from great pain on the first day of my periods. She had this annoying smirk and said, “Arre, shaadi ke baad sab theek ho jaaega.” (Translation – everything will be ok after marriage). I was like, WTF? What marriage? What she means is it will be ok after sex, so why be a prude and say ‘marriage’? As if that is the only way one can get sex if she wants it! Also, what about NOW? This month? Next month? And the months after that? What if I decide not to get married? What if I get married but have no sex due to any number of reasons? All these cases – my being unmarried or having had no sex – make me unworthy of medical attention? What kind of education are these people receiving in their medical colleges? I would love to see the content of their coursebooks on the subject. Anyway, the bottom line is that it was the first and last time I ever saw that doctor. My dad was utterly annoyed – so much that he did not attend her daughter’s wedding though she had personally invited him and my mom. I argued feebly – what is her daughter’s fault? And he was like – yeah, as if she respects anyone’s daughter.
    PS: I have had sex and it has not helped me, so gynaecs would say itis because I don’t have a kid yet! Grrr…


    • When I first complained of cramps, none of the women in my home took it seriously.Only person who said lets go see a doc,happened to be a male -my hubby. And then the doc too did not take it seriously, saying It is normal,you are a woman,its expected blah blah.I kept insisting,for 6 long months,that it is not normal,do something about it,literally begging.Finally she did and the diagnosis was that i had endometriosis. Agreed docs do symptomatic treatment,but then, simply treating the pain and dismissing it as normal due to my gender is akin to a WRONG diagnosis,no? I used to get pissed off at her for dismissing my pain and suggesting i merely had a low threshhold for pain.Bah!


  9. I have a question. Let us say that I am a gynec(I am not. Just Saying). I am shy and retiring and don’t want to rub anybody the wrong way. I set up a practice in a small residential area. And I myself live in that same locality where everybody knows everybody. A 26 year old single woman has delayed periods and comes to consult me. I know her to be a reasonably traditional girl. She works in an MNC and works late hours. Can I ask her if there is a possiblity that she may be pregnant? Don’t I run the following risks?

    1. She considers it a slight on her character.
    2. She feels that just because she works late hours I had asked this question.
    3. She feels that just because a platonic friend dropped her in his bike, I had asked this question.
    4. a. She feels that I must have felt that way just because I myself wasn’t “pure” in my pre-marital life.
    b. All this must be common in my medical college.
    c. All this must be common in my city/state. (If I am not originally a local)

    What if I start being frozen out by neighborhood acquanitances because I ask indecent questions to family girls? Should I put a disclaimer before I start consulting? Should I inform that the question is not meant to be an insult? I am not really curious about her sexual history on a personal level. But how do I let her know that?


    • I don’t understand. If such questions were asked by a neighbour, he/she would run those risks. When a doctor consults a patient who willingly walks in to see them, the doctor has every right to ask questions that will help diagnosis as long as they are being professional about it. It is bad enough that there is shame attached to such topics, but if doctors too start feeling awkward, or silly or shy, or that they might risk their image by doing their job, there is no hope in this world, is there?


    • A Gynae asked this very question to one of my flatmates when she went for a checkup with her Aunt. Aunt and she came home and told us the story amid much ‘Hawws’ and ‘Ooohs’ from rest three of us. The ruckus was greater because of the presence of the aunt because she was scandalized and vowed to never visit that gynae again.


    • Pure. Family girl. Slight on her character. Traditional.
      These are words that make me sad, mad, depressed, and freaking angry – all at the same time. Nothing against you, though, Rahini – I understand your predicament. However, it is these words and our liberal use of them (probably the only thing wrt women we are liberal in) that totally freaks me out.


      • Yes yes Surbhi.
        All this is I understand. Please understand that this is not my predicament.
        As already mentioned, I am not a gyneac. I am asking a hypothetical question.
        And even when asking a hypothetical question I can’t liberally use “slight on her character”? How can I phrase that question?
        Yes this comment space is now filled with women who say that they wouldn’t have minded such questions. It is a doctor asking. Why would I mind? And all that. But there are women who would mind. I have met plenty of them. In fact that is the only sort of women I have personally met in real life.
        My point is that if I assume that only marriage can bring sex, then I might offend a few. If I assume that asking it in a brisk professional tone is quite alright, then I may offend a potentially much higher number of women. Women who would stop other women from visiting a doctor “like that”.
        If it is my profession then I should know the pulse of where I am working, who I meet. Why would I risk all that?


        • Rahini David-
          This is another thing I’ve noticed with Indian physicians.
          They don’t ask the female patient if they could possibly be pregnant before prescribing medications that are known teratogenics (can cause birth defects).
          ALL practicing physicians should ask ALL women of childbearing age (generally considered 15 yrs to 49yrs according to UNICEF) if there is a chance they may be pregnant when writing for drugs known to cause problems in pregnancy.
          I’ve seen drugs known to cause problems in pregnancy (i.e. chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, nitrazepam, enalapril, retinoids, & even oral contraceptives) commonly prescribed to pregnant women in India – they were never asked if they pregnant nor were they tested for possible pregnancy.
          Indian physicians also commonly fail to ask the patient if they have ever had an allergic or adverse reaction to a drug before writing a prescription. Nor are patients informed what a ‘true’ allergic reaction would be- hives, rash, itching wheezing, shortness of breath, fever, facial swelling, anaphylaxis (shock).
          As an OB/GYN when I was first pregnant in India I went to the local physician, ‘Dr Khan’, in my husband’s town.
          My ankles had swelled to the size of tree stumps – (actually I swelled up like 10kgs in the 1st three weeks of pregnancy) & the malaise & misery of the the first trimester were really getting to me.
          I simply wanted my blood pressure & kidney function checked with all this fluid retention going on.
          Dr Khan did not even ask if I was pregnant, did not ask about my health history, nor did he check my kidney function (a simple blood test) or blood pressure.
          Get this- he wrote me a prescription for 2 appetite suppressants, advised some weight loss diet & exercise for 30 minutes a day.
          That’s right, he assumed I was fat, not pregnant.
          Diet drugs & appetite suppressants are NEVER to be prescribed to pregnant patients even if the pregnant patient is obese – diet drugs & appetite suppressants are famous for raising blood pressure sky high & predisposing the patient to strokes & aneurysms.
          I asked Dr Khan if he thought these drugs were safe in pregnancy- he paused a bit and said ‘Yes, I’m certain they’re safe in pregnancy’.
          He didn’t even take the hint!
          Anyhow I’ve found it’s futile pointing out the stupid mistakes of these older Indian physicians – (Dr Khan was probably in his 50’s).
          I just left, ripped up the prescription & had myself flown to a fellow OB/GYN I know in Delhi.
          What to do?
          And I always hear Indians telling me what a ‘world class health care system’ they have.
          Well, health care is quite accessible in India (at least compared to the US) & I admire that.
          But quality of healthcare in India is definitely NOT ‘world class’.


        • Beatrix, Total ignorance of the physician isn’t what I was talking about. That exists a lot in India and I will probably write in my own blog about it.
          What I was talking about is something else. I can see that a gyneac has to know. I understand that a diagnosis can’t happen without it.
          But a urban physician who meets a girl only in a professional capacity can go about asking routine questions. A rural gyneac who will also meet the girl later in the nearby church or saibaba temple has to watch her step. She has to subtly let the girl know that these medications are given in the assumption that she is not pregnant. This medication is dangerous if taken by pregnant women. And all that blah blah.
          All I am saying is that it really must be tough being a gneac where everybody in either side of the argument can very easily wage war on the gyneac as she goes about her professional duties.


    • I think the issue here is more of the doctor and patient both being concerned by what the other might think of the topic at hand. The doctor’s worried about her reputation and the patient is worried about hers. Maybe the real lesson is to learn to not give a shit what other people think. As a doctor, your job requires you to ask certain routine questions, social norms and attitudes be damned. And as a patient, your being honest about your habits/lifestyle and choices will result in a better diagnosis and better chances of a successful treatment. Doctor-patient confidentiality is a thing and it ought to be remembered as well as practiced. But I suppose that’s a long shot if we’re going to have common cases of ‘Oh but you know Miss so-and-so came to see me and she confided that she was having premarital sex’, or ‘I went to see Dr XYZ and she asked me the most scandalous questions! I wonder what went on in her town/college, she must have learned all that SOMEWHERE’. I’m not accusing you or anyone mind, just saying that the ‘log kya kahenge’ attitude firstly spreads from this sort of gossip being spread.


    • You can do what my doctor did. First she asked me about my sex life, then she told me that I must never hide anything from doctors and there is nothing wrong about any decisions. I was rather impressed with that, which is why I’m sticking with her even though she is always late for appointments due to other medical commitments. Who wants to trust their lives to a judgemental asshole parading under the name of doctor?


    • I was about to say the same thing!
      I accompanied a girl I knew to the gynaec once because she had missed a period. The gynaec beat around the bush a little bit, first asking her if she was married, then if she had a boyfriend and so on before finally asking her if she had sex. After the girl came out she told me she was really offended and embarrassed at the doc asking her these questions. I asked her what she expected! She’s a doctor and she has to ask these questions. She calmed down and understood what I was trying to say, so all ended well.
      But girls like her who are naive and brought up in conservative households- their first reaction is to get offended at such questions. They take such questions quite personally and feel insulted.


  10. My friend got married in her late 20s and went to a gynac to get advice about contraception. The gynac advised her to not use any as she is nearing 30, and that she should start trying for a child right away. My friend then went to Google.


  11. Some assistant gynac told me that Nobody Vomits so much in pregnancy that too till 9 months and she was giggling , another assistant said only going to moms home helps…All Nonsense I complaint to the senior Gynac who is my doc and she scolded them left and right ….My Gynac even for a internal will always take my permission , Can I Check as I this is the reason or to figure out the reason…She always gives me reasons and also doesnt get offended on direct questions.


  12. Oh I hope my dad was a gynaec/obs instead of an orthopedician. Oh, I’ll tell you something totally unrelated yet something that underlines the rampant misogyny. Now, my dad is a senior ortho consultant, and naturally, most of his patients are either accident victims or those with various joint/muscle/bone aches etc. The latter category includes middle-aged and elderly women (maybe they are even in majority). Now, my dad is someone who would stress on healthier lifestyle changes and prescribe medicines as aids to help healing – and not vice versa. There was this incident when an elderly 70-ish year-old woman had painful knee joints, and dad prescribed certain exercises she should do to make her joints more flexible and therefore less painful. Her son who had accompanied her was shocked my dad could suggest exercise – not because she was old and he was concerned she would hurt herself even more, but because she is a woman and in his world there is no concept of exercise for women. He made the mistake of saying as much in as many words to dad, and my dad had only one thing to say – “Pardon me for saying this, but I was under the impression that she is the patient and not you.” Turning to the lady, he asked her, “Madam, will you follow the exercise routine?” And the woman without looking at her son replied, “Yes I will, because only I know how much pain I undergo.” I am not sure what that son thought after all this, or whether he realized why he was wrong. I just wanted to highlight that people think any number of things when it comes to women!
    PS: I wonder how the woman is treated at home, though. She seemed fiesty from what my dad told me, but who knows. She is old and has poor health, after all.


    • I want to think you’re kidding but then I’d be in the ideal world. I can’t even count the number of people who strongly discouraged me from lifting weight as part of my fitness routine “Ladies should not lift weights because it will make you bulky”. As if all the men with that much testosterone get bulky within 1 week of lifting weights. I want to knock some sense into their heads and say that weight bearing exercise for women is even more important than men because nature has blessed us with much less muscle density and weight loss can actually be very harmful for you when it starts eating into your muscle. If only people started believing in science rather than what the neighbor aunty said. I think all those naysayers are also secretly worried about me getting physically stronger than the men in my life. Women are supposed to be dainty, dumb and man-dependent to be counted as sanskari, no?


      • “Ladies should not lift weights because it will make you bulky”

        I have been lifting weights for around nine months now, and trust me, I have not bulked up ANYWHERE. This is just pure, unadulterated bullshit that men use to keep women out of “their space”. -eyeroll- Thankfully, in the gym I go to, the men have been nothing but gentlemen, but you’ll often hear these ignorant comments from stupid people. I guess they’re right in some ways though. All that lifting has really built up my upper body strength, so I can punch them in the gut when they make these comments. Maybe that’s why they don’t want women to lift.


        • LOL @ All that lifting has really built up my upper body strength, so I can punch them in the gut when they make these comments. Maybe that’s why they don’t want women to lift.
          Here’s to punching bullshit out of people!


    • Why what is so shock7ng about suggesting exercise for women? Would the son be shocked if tablets were suggested?No.Then,if exercise is suggested insgead of tablets/injections,to help reduce pain, why should the son be shocked? I really dont understand.Can anyone think why?


  13. I am a regular reader of the blog and I generally appreciate the contents of the blog. Howver I beg to differ in few things that is being said about gynecs
    1) If a women is married , but is in her 30s but has no plans to have no kids now , but maybe later , then what is wrong in telling her know to have kids sooner. Biologically noone can deny that as you age , your fertility decreases . so what is wrong in giving a suggestion . DOnt doctors suggest for other things , such as leading healthy lifestlye , exercise , regular checkup etc etc as you age older.
    2) I dont know how true is it that cramps reduce, if you have an active sexual life .. but still to suggest something that indicates about having sex , i guess it is a subtle way to tell that getting married will help.. please dont forget that we live in India and we are yet not open about talking about premarital sex , hence if doctors were to go on and say to everyone that having sex will improve , not evryone may take it in the same way , specially when young girls who accompany their gynecs with their mothers , so telling as ‘getting married’ would be subtle way to tell that ..


    • I agree with your point no.1, however suggesting having sex reduces period cramps somehow implies that the woman is hysterical and her pain is imaginary (a woman is incomplete without a man). I have a mild form of endemetriosis, I believe this affection is found in 25% women and can cause cancer if not treated by proper medication. I really laughed hard the day my husband suggested having sex could reduce the pain and heavy bleeding ! 🙂


      • @Victoria
        I agree that suggesting cramps are reduced after marriage,read sex, is misleading. Dangerous too.nfact, in the case of women with endometriosis, sex is painful.So, a gynec suggesting sex as a remedy for period cramps could lead to a woman enduring painful sex and still having to live with the cramps.Dangerous.I know.I myself have endometriosis.


        • So sorry to hear that Aarti. I usually don’t feel pain in sex. I think this pain can be reduced through hormonal medication or surgery, did you try it ?


        • @Victoria
          I read like crazy about endometriosis on Google, because my doc simply announced my condition, did not explain anyhing about the disease.
          Heard about both redies via Google againh.My doc did not advise about either,so I have not tried thinking in that direction yet.


        • @Aarti. I think you should insist for treatment. Also maybe you need iron supplements – because of the heavy bleeding. Take care.


    • 1) “Biologically noone can deny that as you age , your fertility decreases . so what is wrong in giving a suggestion .”

      This is simply not as true as you think. Yes fertility reduces with age but you’re thinking 20 onwards and the reality is probably more like 35 or 40 onwards. If doctors propagate myths, they’re just being lazy.

      “The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.
      In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not.”


      2) “i guess it is a subtle way to tell that getting married will help”

      But the point is that it’s not getting married that will help, it is (supposedly) having sex that will help. So why does a doctor suggest ‘getting married’? A biological act is completely unrelated to marriage itself. This imposes false expectations. If a woman is desperate to try this advice but has no partner, she can masturbate. Why not say ‘sexual activity’ or something instead of ‘marriage’? It’s not a doctor’s job to worry about moralities, they should stick to fact.


      • “specially when young girls who accompany their gynecs with their mothers , so telling as ‘getting married’ would be subtle way to tell that ”

        Seriously, if the doctor thinks the girl is too young to seek private consultation and mention sexual activity, then they definitely should NOT be advising marriage for her! Why not skip it altogether and stick to medication then? It makes zero sense to think that someone is not old enough for independent decisions about sex but is old enough for marriage!


        • “It makes zero sense to think that someone is not old enough for independent decisions about sex but is old enough for marriage!”

          Thats an excellent point carvaka.


      • @Carvaka. Nowadays women can have children later, but it is still true fertility decreases with age. Many of my friends who have waited until their late thirties/early forties to get pregnant have had to undergo IVF treatments that lasted several years. Plus the longer you wait, the more likely you are of having eggs with genetic faults, developping hypertension etc. I think any woman should be realistic about this. If you want to have a late pregnancy, fine, it is your choice. But don’t lure yourself, it’s going to be more difficult.

        Personnally, I’ve been pregnant at 22, 30 and now, at over 40, which is a kind of miracle. Each pregnancy was different…. However the biggest difficulty I face is that the last child has an Indian father, and he is deeply ashamed because of my age and has not told anyone in the family yet. Everyday I am amazed to see what strange ideas this man has. For example when I asked more help in the house he told me in India you don’t help pregnant women for fear that they become lazy !!!… Sorry this is probably off topic…


    • The gynec can say ‘ as one ages their fertility reduces’ and thats that. I might inspite of reduced fertility want to have kids after 40, that is not my gynecs business, no lecture , just a statement that fertility reduces after a certain time frame is good enough tanks you .

      If sex reduces Cramps and the gynec thinks it’s medically t a treatment option , then she as a doctor should say ‘ if you have regular sex then the cramps will go away’, this will help the patient either decide to have regular sex or come back to the dr and ask for other options on reducing pain since she doesnt plant o have sex . what has marriage got to do with it.
      a gynec is a dr, a scientific educated one not the priest or moral police at the nearest church. she should do her job and save the moral advise and verbal buffonery for someone else.


        • well according to many a gynec it does 🙂 maybe they take them aside in med school and teach them that. Who knows I’ve never been to med school. Thank god I’ve never had to go to a idiot gynec for menstrual cramps, no saying what i would have done If she gave me a lecture. I have a relative low tolerance to nonsense.


    • Gynaecs are not the moral police. They are doctors whose first duty is to their patient(as part of their Hippocratic oath). There is really no need to mince words or be “subtle” when it comes to a woman’s health. How about doctors start telling women about taking a mild painkiller or introducing some physical activity to help with the period pain and stop telling women that must get married to stop the pains?
      This BS about “it will go away once you get married” has to STOP. It has led to too many cases of PCOS from going undiagnosed. You can read several such instances in this very comment thread if you haven’t heard it in your own circle of women.


    • @GB,
      Ummm, I was always told by my mum,who is just a 12th pass,and my Gynec, that fertiliy reduces at age 40. Not 20s,not 30s.But my Gynec also told me that one ought go be aware that after age 35, the possibility of a child being born with problems increases.By problems, she mentioned,vaguely, mentally retarded,etc.I do not know if that is correct.I did not Google.
      Anyways, if my mum could know about the age 40 factor, how come Medical Professionals don’t? What do they gain by propogating a myth? How do they benefit by more women getting pregnant in a rush while still in their early 20s? Doesnt make sense.


  14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_taboo
    You know I always liked this Guy…

    In Sikhism, a woman is given equal status to man and is regarded as pure as man is. The Gurus teach that one cannot be pure by washing his body but purity of mind is the real pureness. They are not called pure, who sit down after merely washing their bodies.[7] Guru Nānak, the founder of Sikhism, condemned the practice of treating women as impure while menstruating.

    In Sikhism, the menstrual cycle is not considered a pollutant. Certainly, it can have a physical and physiological effect on the woman. Nonetheless, this is not considered a hindrance to her wanting to pray or accomplish her religious duties fully. The Guru makes it very clear that the menstrual cycle is a God given process. The blood of a woman is required for the creation of any human being.[8] The requirement of the mother’s blood is fundamental for life. Thus, the menstrual cycle is certainly an essential and God given biological process. In other faiths blood is considered a pollutant. However, the Guru rejects such ideas. Those who are impure from within are the truly impure ones.[9]

    Meditating on God’s name is of importance. Whether your clothes are blood stained or not (including clothes stained from menstrual blood) is not of spiritual importance. Thus, there are no restrictions placed on a woman during her menstruation. She is free to visit a gurdwara, take part in prayers and do Seva. In The Feminine Principle in the Sikh: Vision of the Transcendent, Nikky Guninder Kaur-Singh writes: “The denigration of the female body ‘expressed in many cultural and religious taboos surrounding menstruation and child-Birth’ is absent in the Sikh worldview. … Guru Nanak openly chides those who attribute pollution to women because of menstruation.”[10]


    • i am a sikh married to a hindu. My MIL is extremely orthodox. During periods she has imposed more rules(but no she lets me cook, how generous of her) which suit her and ignores the ones that dont. I am not asked on temple visits during my periods(which is welcomed by me because i am not very religious). Her jaw literally dropped that I have never been restricted to go to gurudwara during my periods. She thinks how can anybody go to a religious place during periods. I find these rules very strange because I had never experienced them all my life.


      • “how can anybody go to a religious place during periods”

        Ah, yes.. the common refrain. Unless women’s vaginas are on show in these religious places, I can’t see a problem. Even then, tampons will solve their problem.


      • “how can anybody go to a religious place during periods”
        This has been my fav religious craze *sarcasm*!
        Actually I have a very punctual but 36 day cycle making it difficult for any one except me (and now hubby) to track it. Periods have been my savior on many occasions when I didn’t want to join my family’s many temple visits.


      • See, this is why I never tell anyone when I’m on my period. First of all, it is absolutely none of their business, unless my uterus has suddenly decided it wants to fold itself into a trefoil knot and I need medical attention. Why should my bodily functions be public knowledge? Why must everything I do, knowingly or unknowingly, be aware to people? It’s just another way to control women.


  15. Reminds me of a scene from the movie Paa in which Vidya Balan is a gynecologist. A couple comes to her for checkup and she advises the wife that whatever is happening to her is her body’s way of telling her that it’s time to have babies. The husband says they are not really interested in having kids and will adopt if they feel the need for a child and Vidya’s character lectures them on how having a baby is the ultimate fulfillment of a woman’s life.

    I have never been to a gynecologist in India. So when i first watched the movie, I was mad at Bollywood and at Vidya Balan as well. Now I realize it’s not just them.


    • My counselor also lectured me how children are a god’s gift to a woman and I should never say i dont want children instead I should say i dont want children right away. I never visited her again.


  16. Fortunately, I have a great family physician. As soon as she heard from my mom that I was getting married, she took it upon herself to call me up(international call to the US) and strongly recommend birth control and counseled me on how to prepare to conceive if we ever decided to. I am eternally grateful to have her as our family doctor.

    However, I very commonly come across women who have no clue about their bodies. I don’t know if it’s the education system that has failed all Indian women. Why we find it so shameful to discuss our own bodies and physiology with our doctors is beyond me. Girls shouldn’t have to rely on pop culture or their friends circle to learn about their bodies.


  17. Geez. What is with Gync’s in India! When I went for the first time to this lady in a premier hospital which does a womens health check up ‘packages’. Of course they billed me up quickly and ran through all the tests at lightning speed, mechanically.
    When it came to the pap smear, she refused to do it, and gave me no explanation other than we dont do PAPs for ‘unmarried women’. I was mind boggled, she didn’t say you wouldn’t have to take a PAP Smear unless you’re sexually active, just ‘no, your file says you’re unmarried’.
    I was stunned. I had tell her to her condescending face that I am in fact sexually active and would she please go ahead and do her job.
    I may as well have asked her to eat the hearts of little children. She was so mad, didn’t bother to close the door properly, nor the screen and needless to say, everyone in the waiting room got a good look at my fun zone when the nurse walked in AND she hurt me – pinched my cervix with her metal ‘pitchfork’ – hard.
    To bookend all the joy, when I walked out into the waiting room of people who know me from angles I don’t know myself, to the nurses station, the head nurse calls all the others to look at the ‘unmarried pap smear’ like some specimen.
    I was trying to be a responsible person who looks after herself.
    Dr. Vinutha Arunachalam & Nurses of Apollo Hospital: YOU SUCK!

    Ps: Now I wish I wrote a blog just so I could post this is big bold letters, so anyone looking up the wretch would see this.


    • The nerve! This is unbelievable! She is a damn doctor – what is it to her (or anyone for that matter) whether her patient is having premarital or extramarital or promiscuous or pious or daily or weekly or monthly or yearly or no sex? Unless of course it is to advise or warn or share information about something medically related. I am appalled! And I am so so so sick of this pseudo prudishness that is so pervasive in our society. Really, I hope you reported this and I hope she gets punished for this. Unbelievable!


  18. decades ago when i was newly married and possibly pregnant we went to a gynec to confirm or deny 🙂 and when she pronounced we were pregnant and quite possibly with twins ( oh the horror) , she was writing up some stuff and we were getting ready to leave and discussing between us if we should continue or abort or what not … she suddenly butted in and gave us a lecture for 10 min on kids, the need for kids and the morality of what we were thinking and rounded off saying ‘ you are married for a yr already so it’s correct time’ excuse me, i was barely in my 20’s..i was speechless.. my husband is the not so quiet , docile person simply stood up and said ‘ you give us your medical opinion, the rest we don’t require your advise, you are a trained gynec not my conscience and certainly not my wife, neither is this your pregnancy for you to give your moral opinion, stick to medical knowledge; and we never went back to her. she was ok actually quite pleasant but my husband is not really a fan and refused to go back to her. oh well that was decades ago and i guess progress and respecting private space hasn’t touched us fully. we are slow learners.


  19. And just today I was telling a woman at the school gates that just before we left India I was working on a menstrual cup project that would impact women in 500 districts etc. She cringed at that word. I gave up.


  20. I actually have something nice to share – when I got my first period, my mother was uncertain as to what to do. She didn’t want to deck me up as a bride, and invite the neighboring ladies to ‘bless me’ the way all my relatives suggested. But she wanted to ‘mark’ the occasion in some way. Finally she followed my dad’s suggestion. They gave me a book called, “It’s Time You Knew”. An old British-style book with old fashioned pictures and delicate language:) They also gave me a big fat Reader’s Digest ‘Human Body’ book. They sat down with me and explained the changes my body would go through, and that I would become capable of producing babies. They did not give all the details, but showed me where in the book, I could find more information.
    They said that now that I’m a “big girl”, I will be given more choices, and along with that, more responsibilities. For starters, I was allowed to join my dad on a “serious hike”, that is all the way up to the top of the hill behind my house. As for being more responsible, I was given the job of bathing our dog weekly (our dog was a handful, so this was no fun at all).

    And that’s it. That was my first period. I’ve never had to stay out of anything at my parent’s home during periods. (although my in-laws were and still are strictly against my participation in religious events during periods)

    I saved that old book and recently gave it to my niece when she got her first period. I checked with my brother and s-i-l first of course. We found the pictures and wording a tad old fashioned, but then we thought “it’s not bad, let’s do it, this is way better than performing a ceremony”, so we gave it to her 🙂 Along with a shiny red “big girl” bike, of course!


    • Three cheers to your parents.Absolutely loved reading.Had a smile through out.I too never went through the whole ceremony though I saw neighbours doing it.For me, the day was just a normal day,like every other day.


  21. Hey it’s a beautiful poem.. An interesting and a genuinely honest open letter to the Gynac’s
    But I feel it is also on us women to b aware and b comfortable with our bodies and sexuality.. It’s also on our shoulders to make same and discuss it with our kids boys and girls .. I have been extremely open without the hoo haa around it .. As soon as I felt it was an appropriate tim,e I think my son was in std 5 my daughter in std 3 that time I told them both about what is mensuration cycle .. Sanitary pads .. Etc. thankfully they have always cm n asked me about everything under the sun .. What is sex? How does a baby come out of moms stomach? … It’s how you answer them with full honesty and looking in their eyes… Kids are extremely sensitive, they can sense ur comfort level and ur answer and ur attitude will make the difference how they perceive SEX / Mensuration / .. Life


  22. When I got Pregnant first time I was in search of good doctor , I was trying some of them…
    One told dont eat pappaya ….another something else…and all superstitions , This is state of Docs.
    I got pissed off and there was no proper reason, Finally I met my doc when I asked her , she said dont listen to nonsense I have never seen any scientific papers on this…
    Infact I used to take my brainwashed hubby (by my MIL) and ask all MIL passed on questions and she used to say what Nonsense…Ashamed my hubby used to return ,My hubby came to know that MIL has all nonsense in her brain.


  23. I was very shocked recently to find out that a young acquaintance of mine who recently got married and moved to the US was relying on the rhythm method and morning after pills as her primary form of birth control. She has a few pills she got from India and was rationing them out. She had no health insurance and so did not want to visit a doctor to get a prescription for birth control pills and her husband could not be relied on to use condoms reliably so she was constantly terrified of being pregnant. I sent her to Planned Parenthood.
    I also found out another friend tried to get birth control pills was given wrong advice by her doctor, got pregnant and ended up having an abortion because her husband thought it was too soon for a child. I am also constantly shocked by the number of women I hear relying on the morning after pill and abortion as birth control mechanisms.
    IHM would you like to compile a list of sites that are useful for people looking for information on contraception? I’d be happy to help come up with such a list or even write up the information myself based on information gathered?


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