Jared walked into the consultation room with his wife, Alice, and declared that they had an acute emergency. However, my trained medical eyes and my sixth sense could not immediately identify the said emergency. Neither of them showed any sign that breathing was about to stop or that the heart would cease in a short while.
“I am serious,” Jared said when I prodded more. “Culture dictates that we must have sex tomorrow night yet she just started her period this morning!” Jared continued. “Do what you can to immediately stop those periods or this is going to be catastrophic.”
Jared was a 48-year-old farmer. Alice was 45 and a business lady selling second hand clothes in the local market. They had been married for 23 years and had five children. According to Jared, they were to start building a new rural home the next day. He had mobilised resources including labourers, building materials and a caterer to make food for the occasion.
“So in my culture you have to build a small hut on the day the home starts and spend the night in the hut,” he explained. “That first night is very important for making the home safe for me and my children.”
The safety of the home, according to Jared, was pegged on the owners having sex. It is ritual that cleanses any future evils and if not performed, the couple or any of their children could die. It was however culturally illegal to have such sex when a woman is on her period.
“Wow that is a real uphill task for me, she is already having her periods you said?” I asked, not sure how to help.
Medically it is better to have nature take its course and let periods flow when they come. There are however a few occasions when a doctor may prescribe medicine to delay or postpone the period. If a couple is in a long distance relationship, they may have only one or two nights to be together. We frequently find women in such relationships seeking to delay their period so as to be intimate with their long distance man.
Delay, postpone or stop periods?
Another common occasion is when a couple is at wedding. Wedding dates are fixed many months in advance. As the date approaches, a lady may notice that she will be in her periods on the wedding day. This would definitely not augur well, especially for those couples who abstain until their wedding night. Such couples come to the clinic desperately seeking to delay the period.
Celebration times such as Christmas and New Year holidays also present people with this challenge.
“It is good to know that I am not the first one to request this,” Jared interrupted, a smile pasted on his face.
There is however a difference between delaying or postponing periods and stopping periods. If you intend to delay or postpone your period, you must take the medication at least three days before the expected day of start. Once the period has started, there is little one can do to stop it.
“But her periods are irregular, how did you expect me to predict them?” Jared was getting irritated. Alice had been quiet all along. She suddenly went into a fit of emotions and started crying uncontrollably.
“You do not understand, if the periods do not stop we cannot proceed with these plans yet everyone in the village is excited and waiting for us tomorrow morning!” Jared said.
“And my children will die if things are not done the right way in starting the new home, I cannot afford to lose my children!” Alice said amid sobs.
After exploring all options, Jared and Alice opted to have Alice admitted in hospital to fool the village into thinking she was too sick to travel. Three days later Alice was discharged. Her period had ended. They travelled the next day to go and start their new home. It was another experience of how culture and sexuality interact.