I try to trek in the Sahyadri at least 3 out of 4 weekends, and in the Himalaya every 2 months. Add to this, manoeuvring through the limited pool of public holidays, and leaves that a job allows. Oh, and also add to this seasonal nuances of treks – some treks can only be done in certain climate!
This leaves you with very restricted stretches of time to go trek.
One of the frequently asked questions, after the standard stuff on “Where do you sleep?”, “Where do you pee?” “Can you take a bath?”, that women have asked me is “Do you trek during your periods, and how? “As women, we are so used to working around our periods so that they do not clash with important events. Assuming a period lasts five days on an average, we give up on having fun for 60 days out of 360 days every year! Is that something that we need to do?
I wanted to deal with this discussion, by laying out some pressing questions women have, and I had, on trekking or doing any physical activity during our periods.
To trek or not to trek?
Is it necessary to postpone or cancel a trek you have planned and looked forward to because of periods? Absolutely not! I have crossed Rupin pass, seen the Great Lakes of Kashmir, summited Pangarchulla peak, and done countless treks in the Sahyadri while on my period.
Of course, everyone has different levels of pain and discomfort, and you should listen to what your body is saying. I have found that physical activity helps in reducing cramps and pain, and moreover, keeps you distracted from your period. If you feel apprehensive, try out an easy trek, and talk to your gynaecologist.
What products do I use?
Most of us use pads as our preferred sanitary product. However, pads have some limitations: they are non-biodegradable, and if you want to trek in the monsoon or cross water bodies, they become ineffective. Tampons are a good solution to this. Although they are also not biodegradable, they are less restrictive and can be used in rains.
My backpack always has emergency tampons, and a zip lock bag to store my used tampons. You might think – “That’s so gross!”, but the beauty you receive on treks should not be repaid with pollution! Please always carry your used sanitary products till the end of the trek, and dispose them off when you reach a town or city.
How do I stay clean?
There is a higher change of UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) during your periods. Hygiene becomes very important when you are on your period, and even more so if you are trekking while menstruating.
Keep adequate stock of sanitary products (pads or tampons) with you and change at regular intervals (I change at least every 4-5 hours or so) to prevent infection. You can also hand sanitizers, and a small pack of tissues to keep clean on the go.
One big tip is to keep extra undergarments with you – these can be lifesavers when you have an accidental leak!
Who can I talk to?
If you are going on an organized trek, and need some help or have any questions, speak to the trek leader! It is true that in most cases, the trek leader happens to be a man, but everyone knows about menstruation, and it is completely ok to talk about it.
I remember asking my trek leader for a pain killer while on the Rupin Pass trek, and it was as normal a discussion as any other medical help.
To sum this up, do not let periods come in the way of doing things that you like. Track your cycle, keep your dates in mind, and plan on how you can deal with them on a trek. If you are prepared, and if you have a positive mindset, treks are not only doable, but also a good remedy to have a better time!