Menarche: A Developmental Milestone, A Rite of Passage
For individuals born with female reproductive system, menarche is an expected event during adolescence. It marks the delineation of a girl and a woman. Menarche, pronounced as ˈme-ˌnär-kē, refers to the first menstrual flow of a female. On average, among Filipinos, it usually occurs at age 12 years old. Although, among those who consume more of high-protein diet, menarche may occur as early as age 9 years old. But for those who are skinny to the point of appearing dehydrated, it may occur as late as 16 years old.
With the interplay of hormones in the body, secondary sex characteristics among females are activated during the adolescent stage. A part of the brain, the pituitary gland, makes it possible for the release of gonadotropin hormones (LH and FSH), which are responsible in the dynamics of a ripened egg cell. The anterior pituitary gland produces seven important hormones: human growth hormone (hGH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin (PRL), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH). The ovum or ripened egg cell is released by either of the two ovaries towards either of the left or right fallopian tubes. If a female is observant of her body, she will notice a mittelschmerz or that dull pain felt upon ovulation in either left or right part where ovaries lie.
Having a menarche calls for a celebration among some people. Mothers prepare a menarche party. In some societies, girls on menarche undergo certain rituals. In the Philippines, there are traditional ways to do upon menarche, transmitted by mothers or grandmothers to their daughters. Recalling our own moments of menarche, friends hailing from the provinces, share similar experiences. There was this instruction to leap three levels of a stairwell in the house. There was also a gabi leaf to sit on to, with the rationale of evading possible overflow on skirts. The list could go on…
What really sets the present generation apart from the past, when it comes to menarche, is the availability of sanitary napkins. Along with other positive social change that benefit the present-day population, having menstruation on a monthly basis has become comfortable. Gone are the difficulties of using pasador, washing it, and reusing it. Pasador is a cloth used in lieu of the present sanitary napkin. These days array of sanitary napkins are available to choose from. There are those for day use and night use, for heavy flow and for ebbing flow. There are also those which are ion-based, which are healthier to use compared to ordinary napkins.
Now, it is my and my friends’ daughters’ turn to experience menarche. I prepared mine by letting her wash her undies and teaching her how to wash them properly. Barely half a year since washing her own undies and she has now her menarche. There’s no party and no transmission of the traditional ways. There were just congratulations, health education on hygiene and propriety, and thanksgiving prayer for such a milestone in life being experienced.