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Menstruation for People with Disabilities

Menstruation is a normal phase that will be experienced by all women. Although every woman has a different cycle, there are those who regularly menstruate every 21 to 35 days, and some are sooner or later than that.

This menstrual period occurs in all women, including women with disabilities. Maybe all this time we still pay less attention to those with special needs. Like other women in general, women with disabilities also experience a menstrual phase.

Researchers from Sebelas Maret University, Surakarta, Central Java, have also mentioned that some people think that women with special needs do not experience sexual development and sexual urges like women in general. However, in reality women with disabilities also have the same menstrual phase as women in general. According to Dr. William Schwab, in his article entitled the National Down Syndrome Society, he mentioned that people who have down syndrome also experience sexual feelings similar to other people in general.

This article will discuss methods, information, and menstrual products that are generally not designed for people with disabilities, and how we can eliminate taboos about menstruation that occurs in people with disabilities; however, before that we will discuss a little about disability.

What is Disability?

Disability is a condition in which a person experiences limitations, whether physical, sensory, mental, and/or intellectual for a long period of time to cause inhibition of activities to participate or socialize with the surrounding community.

There are several types of disabilities that you need to know about, such as physical, mental, sensory, and intellectual disabilities. A person with a disability can experience one or more types of disability at the same time.

For clarity, we will discuss the types of disability one by one.

1. Physical Disability
Physical disability is a condition where a person experiences limited movement function, such as paralysis, paraplegia, cerebral palsy (CP), and others. This condition can occur due to accidents, illness, side effects of drugs, or congenital abnormalities.

2. Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability is a limitation, both intellectually and behaviorally, that can be measured or seen to cause a reduced capacity to act in certain ways. People with intellectual disabilities are people with mental development disorders which are principally characterized by the deterioration of concrete functions at every stage of development and contribute to all levels of intelligence.

Besides having limitations on intellectual function, people with disabilities also have limitations in terms of adaptability which cause limitations in terms of communication skills, self-care, life at home, social skills, involvement in the community, health and safety, academic and work abilities.

3. Mental Disability
Mental disability is a condition where a person experiences limitations due to disturbances in the brain or mind. One example of mental disability is bipolar, depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental disorders. A person with a mental disability can have difficulty concentrating, thinking, making decisions, and speaking their minds.

4. Sensory Disability 
Sensory disability is a condition where one of the five senses functions is disturbed. Some examples of functional disability include difficulty hearing, seeing, or speaking.

Besides having limitations in intellectual function, people with disabilities also have limitations in adapting, causing limitations in terms of communication skills, self-care, home life, social skills, involvement in the community, health and safety, academic and work skills.

    Differences between Women with Disabilities and Other Women

    If we discuss the differences between women with disabilities and other women, there is actually no significant difference between the two. The only difference is intellectual intelligence. This is because women with disabilities have cognitive limitations, so that they can inhibit the absorption of incoming information which results in the learning process being hampered.

    Menstruation that occur in people with disabilities cause fear and anxiety if these cognitive limitations can cause unwanted things, such as unwanted pregnancies, sexual exploitation, and sexually transmitted diseases.

    Lack of understanding of sexual matters makes people with disabilities unable to control sexual arousal. Therefore, an understanding of personal matters and the boundaries of sex must be instilled early on by parents and caregivers. This includes how to use menstrual products, calculate the period of menstruation, and so on.

    Challenges of Persons with Disabilities During Menstruation

    As previously stated, there are still many people who have not paid attention to the needs of persons with disabilities, both public and private. Of course, the limitations in public spaces become one of the challenges for persons with disabilities, especially when they are in the menstrual phase.

    These are some of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities during menstruation:

    • Limited bathrooms that can be accessed by persons with disabilities
    • Lack of education about sex and menstruation for persons with disabilities
    • Stigma that appears in society regarding disability and menstruation that makes them ashamed
    • Practical problems for persons with disabilities
    • Costs incurred by persons with disabilities during menstruation

    How Do People with Disabilities Manage Menstruation?

    Perhaps this question has also arisen in your mind, about how a person with a disability can regulate their menstrual period? Currently some businesses are starting to pay attention to this condition. They have also begun to consider making special menstruation products for people with disabilities.

    There are several ways that people with disabilities can use to manage their menstrual period, as follows:

    • Track Menstrual Cycle
      The first way is to use a tool to predict the menstrual cycle. Currently, there are several applications that can be used to help predict the arrival of menstruation, such as the Nona Woman mobile application (https://linktr.ee/nonawoman).

      Of course, this tool can help people with disabilities understand their condition, regulate their cycle, and plan their own menstrual cycle. In this way they can know the menstrual cycle they are experiencing and of course can understand the symptoms that will appear.

    • Using Menstrual Products
      Currently, there are a lot of menstrual products or devices that function to accommodate menstrual blood. One example is the menstrual cup, where the menstrual cup is a tool that is quite helpful for people with disabilities during their menstrual period. This is because this menstrual cup has a large capacity and most importantly can be used for 12 hours. With a fairly long duration of use, people with disabilities do not have to bother going to change their menstrual equipment.

      In addition to the menstrual cup, period underwear is also a tool that is quite easy for people with disabilities during menstruation. Period underwears can reduce the risk of 'leaking' during menstruation, so people with disabilities do not have to worry about activities or at night.
      • Using Health Services
        For people with disabilities who are worried about their menstrual cycle, they can use health services for consultation. The doctor will help diagnose, provide direction, and treat reproductive conditions or the menstrual cycle you are experiencing. Before meeting with the doctor, people with disabilities may be able to write down some of the complaints they are experiencing to show the doctor.
        • Education for Persons with Disabilities
          In addition to going to health services, people with disabilities can also get education regarding menstrual periods and proper management. This education is generally held by communities that specifically provide reproductive education to persons with disabilities.

          These communities usually provide several platforms to make it easier for the public to access them, such as websites, social media, and others. These communities usually offer a safe space for persons with disabilities to tell about themselves or ask sensitive questions.

          Those are some explanations regarding the management of menstruation for women with disabilities. It should be underlined that women with disabilities and other women have the same menstrual cycle. For this reason, as fellow human beings, we also need to provide support and assistance to persons with disabilities in managing their menstrual period.

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