Aditi Chauhan: Fixtures don’t look at our menstrual cycles, we have to adapt

The India international credits her family for normalising menstruation and its role in her life when she started her career.

When it comes to menstruation, Aditi wants availability of information and an open environment at home.

Aditi Chauhan's parents have played an important role in the goalkeeper's rise in Indian football, sticking by their daughter's side in what was once an offbeat career choice. She credits her family for normalising menstruation and its role in her daily life too.

Speaking to Sportstar on World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), Aditi emphasises on availability of information and an open environment at home.

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“When I started off, my parents always encouraged me to keep playing even if I was on my period. They had the awareness that it was part and parcel of life, and one would not have to stop regular activities if one is healthy,” the 27-year-old said.

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With players from all over the country coming together in the senior national team, Aditi remembers some of the misconceptions about menstruation that earlier existed in the outfit.

“I have seen a lot of players take time off on the first two days of their periods. That has changed now. From the coaches, physios, and technical staff, everyone has banded together to explain to players that rest isn’t needed unless symptoms are severe and we've tried to optimise our performance even if we’re on our period,” she said.

“Having said that, this is an individual choice to make because our bodies, metabolism, symptoms, and thresholds are different. I have played through matches and I’ve played even on my first two days. We can’t afford to keep that as an excuse because fixtures can’t accommodate all our menstrual cycles,” Aditi added.

Players’ daily metrics are noted down to ensure coaches and physios can better judge injury risks and keep tabs on their health. Incidentally, this also involves tracking the girls’ cycles.

“The duration and flow of the cycle is noted and in case anything unusual comes up, medical advice and any changes in fitness or diet are available to us,” the India captain explained.

Pads seem to be the popular choice for Aditi, keeping in mind the body contact and extreme diving a goalkeeper might have to engage in.

“Tampons and cups don’t really work for me, especially because of the amount of contact. I’ve used pads since my first period, so I am just sticking to that. Irrespective of the product, we are spoken to about how often to change, basic hygiene instructions. My parents have also handled that right from when I was a kid,” she added.

Aditi, who has spent two seasons playing for West Ham United Ladies FC in England has also founded and runs the She Kicks Football Academy where she seeks to train aspiring women footballers and offer them a platform for discovery and skill development.

READ | From tarmac to tampon – Alisha Abdullah’s race against menstrual taboo  

Menstruation is a frequent topic of discussion here too, but with the focus on parents.

“We need more awareness in our country, especially in terms of educating parents. At She Kicks, we discuss the menstrual cycle and how it affects girls and their development in the puberty stage. We have sports scientists working within our framework who guide players and their parents through these details,” she said.

“Schools also need to chip in. During my time in school, we never had conversations about this. Don’t shy away from talking about it. It’s a normal bodily process that does not need to spoken about in secret. Get the right people to speak to children,” Aditi added.

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