I have said that I do not want you to think yourself a semi-invalid and so be “fussy” about yourself, but I have also said that I want you to take care of yourself at all times, and especially during your menstrual periods. How can you make these ideas agree with each other?

I know that many writers say that a girl should spend one day each month in bed, or at least lying down; that there are some things that should always be forbidden to girls, simply because they are girls, such as running up and down stairs. These wholesale restrictions make girls rebellious at their womanhood. I simply want you to use good sense at all times in your care of yourself.

Knowing the fact that just before and during menstruation the uterus is heavier than at other times, because engorged with blood, and remembering that it is loosely suspended, it is easy to understand that long walks or severe exercise at the menstrual period will more easily cause it to sag, and this sagging becoming permanent may cause pain, backache, and other discomforts. Therefore, having good sense, you will not plan to take long rides or [146]walks or do any severe exercise. At the same time moderate exercise in proper clothing will tend to relieve pelvic congestion by equalizing the circulation, and if the clothing is properly adjusted and the muscles are strong and well-developed, an ordinary amount of physical activity may be beneficial rather than harmful.

Girls are so often told that they must not walk at their monthly periods, must not study, must not ride, etc., etc., that it really is no wonder that they feel it a very undesirable thing to be a woman. My observation leads me to believe that if girls from earliest childhood were dressed loosely, with no clothing suspended on the hips, if their muscles were well developed through judicious exercise, they would seldom find it necessary to be semi-invalids at any time. In fact, we do sometimes find a young woman who has no consciousness of physical disturbance during menstruation. She can pursue her usual avocations without hindrance, and finds her physical womanhood no bar to any enjoyment.

This is as it should be; but as girls have not all been well developed and properly dressed, we cannot assert that all girls can be indifferent to physical conditions at this time. If a girl is well, has no pain or discomfort, then I would say, let her use good common sense in the ordering of her daily life and give the matter no special or anxious thought. If she has pain [147]or uneasiness, let her govern her life accordingly, using care, taking some rest at the time of the menses; but, above all things, let her arrange her clothing at all times so as to secure for herself absolute freedom of movement. Then let her, during the intervals between the menstrual periods, endeavor by judicious exercise to build up strong muscular structure around the vital organs, such structure as will support the viscera where they belong, and in time she will probably find herself growing free from menstrual pain.

During the painful periods resulting from congestion it is often advisable to keep the recumbent position, and to use heat both externally and internally. However, I would advise never using alcoholic beverages. Their apparent usefulness lies principally in the hot water with which they are administered, and the danger of forming the alcohol habit is too great to justify their use.

There are cases of nervous pain at menstruation that are aggravated by heat and diminished by cold. I knew such a case where a girl at school, suffering with menstrual pain, alarmed teachers and friends by wringing towels out of cold water and laying them over her abdomen. But the alarm subsided when they saw that the pain soon passed away under the cold application. The girl was one in whom there were no local congestions, but great [148]nervous exhaustion and heat always increased her sufferings, while cold allayed.

I have read that a woman should not bathe or change her underwear while menstruating. I cannot see how soiled clothing can be more healthful than that which is clean; and if well-aired, I should no more object to your putting on clean underwear than to your changing your dress. Most especially would I advise a frequent change of napkins, in order to remove those which are soiled from their irritating contact with the body. A full bath during menstruation would, for most people, be unadvisable, but the cleansing of the private parts is imperative. For this, tepid water, with good soap, may be used daily or oftener. Other parts of the body may be rubbed with a wet cloth, followed by vigorous, dry rubbing. Cleanliness at all times is certainly a mark of refinement.

You should use good sense and not run out in thin slippers on wet or cold ground; but if your feet get wet through accident, keep in motion until you can make a change of shoes and stockings. There is little danger from wet feet to those in good health, if they keep in vigorous motion.

As to other rules, they are those that pertain to the care of health at all times: loose clothing, deep breathing, wholesome food, plenty of sleep, sunlight, pure air, exercise according to [149]your strength, and, above all, serenity of mind, accepting the fact of physical womanhood, together with a recognition of its sacredness and dignity.

As a minor item, I would suggest that the napkins be fastened to straps that go over the shoulder and are then joined together in front and back to an end piece, on each of which a button is sewn. Buttonholes in the napkins at the corners, diagonal from each other, will make them easily attached or removed. The napkins should be of a material that is quickly absorbent of the flow. Cheesecloth is cheap, and can be burned or otherwise disposed of after using. It may be protected by an outer strip of unbleached muslin which is almost water-proof.

A very comfortable way of arranging napkins that are to be used from time to time is to take a piece of linen or cotton diaper sixteen inches square. About three inches from one end, make on each side an incision four inches long. Fold this strip in the middle lengthwise, and sew together up to the end of the incisions. This makes a band with a sort of pocket in the middle. Hem the cut edges. Fold the napkin over, four inches on each side, that is as deep as the incisions. Then fold crosswise until you can enclose the whole in the pocket in the band. This makes a thick center and thin ends by which to attach the napkin to the suspender.

[150]I hold that mental serenity is one of the essentials of healthful menstrual periods, and this cannot be had if the mind is continually troubled and the thought centered on the physical condition. I would be glad to have your mind freed from the ideas of sex matters as far as possible. It is a scientific fact that thinking continually of an organ tends to disturb that organ. I know a man who was so afraid of heart disease that he felt of his pulse every few minutes and kept a stethoscope on the head of his bed to listen to his heart in the night. I would have been surprised had he not had heart trouble


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