1. EARLY/DELAYED MENSES
The menstrual cycle is controlled by the central nervous system through the “hypothalamo-pituitary-ovarian axis”. What does this jargon even mean?! Simply put, the brain releases certain hormones which act on the ovaries, resulting in ovulation and subsequent cascade of events that lead to menstruation. When you have fasted for a long period of time, the HPO axis will go into a “starvation mode”. This stressful condition results in a temporary imbalance in the release and activities of the hormones. Our bodies respond in different ways, but the commonest effect is a delay in menstruation. Others may experience early onset of their menses, scanty bleeding, or intermittent bleeding.
Good news is, there is nothing to worry about as this effect does not go on forever. Once you resume your regular eating after Ramadan, the HPO axis returns to normalcy. If that does not happen in the next month or two, contact your doctor.
2. IRREGULAR BLEEDING
I’ll talk about this from the fiqh as well as the medical perspectives. For the fiqh aspect, it is important for every muslimah to be able to differentiate between her normal menses and irregular menses. Scholars have written extensively on the topic and I encourage you to read further. The general ruling is that, any bleeding outside the definition of normal menses should be disregarded and you should pray and fast irrespective. It may seem awkward and distressing, but this is the right thing to do.
Medically, irregular bleeding is ALWAYS abnormal. You should see a gynecologist for proper evaluation and treatment. There are medications that can help to stop the bleeding for the duration of Ramadan at least, so that you can fast with peace of mind; even though the bleeding does not technically vitiate your fasting.
3. LAST MINUTE MENSES
If you think you are having a bad day. Just remember that a woman got her menses at the last minutes of the day! You have finished spicing the soup, wrapped the samosa, cut up the fruits and filled the jug with water. You want to read a few more pages of the Qur’an before iftar and then, boom! The August visitor arrives! The feeling can only be imagined. You try to deny it by looking out of the window to see whether the sun has set. But no, the sun has not even started waving goodbye. You just have to accept Allaah’s qadar and let go of that 13 or more hours of fast for that day and repay it after Ramadan. Very painful, but it is what it is.
May Allaah accept all our acts of worship and reward our patience. Aameen.
What other struggles have you experienced during Ramadan?