That Bitter Pill to Swallow Called Norethisterone: How Women in Palestine Should Delay Their Menstruation
“I know of their negative side effects, but these pills cannot be more harmful than the missiles, death and destruction all around us.” (Ruba Seif)
The never-ending Israel attacks on Palestine have caused countless damages for Palestinians. People are forced by the current circumstances to constantly adapt to their surroundings even though they have to do the maladaptive coping mechanisms. For instance, many women in Palestine should take norethisterone pills to delay their menstruation.
So, what is actually norethisterone? People usually take norethisterone pills to avoid the discomfort and pain they feel during menstruation. It works by keeping progesterone hormone levels raised. Once the hormone levels are high enough, those pills will stop the uterus from shedding its lining. Though it has been claimed to be safe for use, side effects will still occur, such as irregular vaginal bleeding, nausea, changes to the menstrual cycle, headaches, and mood swings.
Given that Palestinian women have no other option, it seems logical if they take this decision. The numerous Israeli airstrikes made them experience displacement, which brought them into a troublesome situation. Consequently, excessive crowded living conditions cannot be avoided. Each of them should share a home with another person. The use of the bathroom must be rationed, showering has become a luxurious thing to do amid this humanitarian crisis. Clean water supply is really needed by women during their menstruation so they are able to clean themselves. However, in the middle of a crisis, they find it difficult to get a clean water supply. By not using clean water, this will put women at big risk such as infection and can even lead to toxic shock syndrome.
In addition, the Israeli blockade is causing pharmacies and supermarkets to run out of medical supplies. Transporting goods from medical warehouses to pharmacies is not feasible due to Israel’s bombing of main roads in the Gaza Strip. As a result, it is difficult to get menstrual hygiene products such as sanitary napkins and tampons.
The use of norethisterone is also supported by the current stressful condition faced by Palestinian women. As we know, women ordinarily undergo psychological and physical symptoms in the days before and during their menstruation. They will feel some changes in their mood, including lower abdominal and back pain. Those sufferings undoubtedly get worse in times of crisis like this. Women have to bear the extreme stress of displacement and menstruation without any adequate healthcare provided.
The combination of those conditions created an unfriendly environment for people, especially for women. They have no access to hygiene facilities such as clean water, sanitary napkins, and tampons. The stress of the current crisis will double during their menstruation. They are unable to reach any psychological help in nearest healthcare facilities due to the limited amount of them. Thus, the only thing they can do in this situation is delay their menstruation by taking norethisterone pills. Unfortunately, not all women are able to control their menstruation with norethisterone. Pregnant women, women who have just given birth, and women who are breastfeeding are not allowed to take the pills. This thing surely leads to another big problem.
Women’s struggle during this humanitarian crisis in Palestine does not just stop there. Due to unhygienic settings, women who use intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) are having bleeding and infections. The UN warned on October 25 that Gaza’s fuel supply might run out in a matter of hours. Hospitals in the Gaza Strip are only taking emergency patients because of fuel shortages. Many women and girls are unable to access care for their sexual and reproductive health as a result.
If Israel keeps cutting off humanitarian aid, including safe delivery kits, from entering Gaza, many of the estimated 50,000 pregnant women will have nowhere safe to give birth, and at least 15% are likely to encounter difficulties. Sadly, not all pregnant women will be admitted to the hospital. The hospitals prioritize those who are already fully dilated to be handled. After that, they are given three hours to leave the hospital immediately due to overcrowded situations.
The current events in Palestine demand the attention of the entire world. Each day goes by, thousands of innocent people are attacked by Israel. Palestinians are trying to survive amid the chaotic conditions made by an irresponsible party. They take every action possible to adjust to an unwelcoming environment. In fact, women can’t even peacefully go through their natural monthly events such as menstruation. Letting menstruation happen means you put your life at risk. They have to delay it by taking menstruation-delaying pills. Making this decision is never something they consider doing.
Alsaafin, L., & Amer, R. (2023, October 31). No privacy, no water: Gaza women use period-delaying pills amid war. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/31/no-privacy-no-water-gaza-women-use-period-delaying-pills-amid-war
Barr, H. (2023, October 24). Israel’s Unlawful Blockade of Gaza Sparks Women’s Rights Crisis. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/10/24/israels-unlawful-blockade-gaza-sparks-womens-rights-crisis
Walker, S. (2022, June 15). Period delay tablets can help you temporarily skip your period – here’s how they work. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/period-delay-tablets-can-help-you-temporarily-skip-your-period-heres-how-they-work-184991
Women and Girls in Gaza Are Chemically-Delaying Their Periods— Here is How One Clinic Aims to Help. (2023, October 23). Mille World. https://www.milleworld.com/women-and-girls-in-gaza-are-chemically-delaying-their-periods-here-is-how-one-clinic-aims-to-help/Women and girls sheltering for their lives in Gaza face dire lack of sexual and reproductive health supplies, disease outbreak – occupied Palestinian territory. (2023, October 30). ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/women-and-girls-sheltering-their-lives-gaza-face-dire-lack-sexual-and-reproductive-health-supplies-disease-outbreak