For Women on Bangladesh’s Coast, Rising Seas Pose a Reproductive Health Dilemma

Environmental News from India: 

  • In coastal areas of Bangladesh, where poor families often can’t afford menstrual pads, women and adolescent girls are compelled to use cloth rags that they wash in water that’s becoming increasingly saline.
  • This has led to a spate of uterine diseases, prompting many women and girls to misuse birth control pills in an effort to stop their menstrual cycles altogether.
  • Health experts say this practice, carried out without medical advice, poses both short- and long-term risks to their reproductive and mental health.
  • The root of the problem is the ever-worsening intrusion of saltwater into the water table, driven by a combination of rising sea levels, seepage from shrimp farms, and falling levels of the Ganges River.

The increasing difficulty of accessing clean water is forcing young women in coastal areas of Bangladesh to try to halt their menstrual cycles by misusing contraceptive pills, putting their long-term reproductive and mental health at risk, experts warn.

Saltwater intrusion as a result of rising sea levels and shrimp cultivation has made access to fresh water in these areas increasingly challenging. Compelled by this shortage to use saline water for their feminine hygiene, many women end up getting uterine diseases.

“During my periods, I always used pieces of old rags which I washed with dirty and salty water,” said a 15-year-old girl in the southwestern district of Satkhira. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said she’s seen her mother suffer from a uterine disease for a long time.

“I do not want to experience the same thing,” she said, adding that she began taking birth control pills five months ago from a neighbor to stop getting her periods altogether and thus avoid the problem of having to wash with saline water. She said that her parents don’t know yet; two of her friends also began taking the pills and stopped their menstrual cycles after following her advice.

Hers is just one of many cases of women, including minors, taking contraceptive pills without medical advice. Health practitioners say this practice has serious long-term implications.

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Source: Mongabay

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