The menstrual cycle or periods is a normal process that most women go through from puberty to menopause. Without this biological process, birth and perpetuation of humans wouldn’t be possible. But it is important to maintain proper menstrual hygiene or otherwise called as periods hygiene for healthy body. Let us understand it in detail.
However, many myths revolve around menses — possibly due to a lack of knowledge caused by embarrassment associated with it.
Even mothers hesitate to open up to their daughter about this process.
This lack of knowledge and communication results in hygiene unawareness and disorders of women’s urinary and reproductive tract.
Why and How of “Menses”
Every month, a woman’s body undergoes a series of changes that support the possibility of pregnancy. During this cycle, one of the ovaries releases an egg, a process known as ovulation.
During this phase, hormonal changes happening in the body prepares the womb (uterus) for pregnancy. The lining of the womb becomes thick to support a baby.
If, after ovulation, the egg is not fertilized, the hormones supporting the growth of uterine lining are withdrawn, which causes the uterine lining to shed through the vagina.
This is the normal menstrual cycle.
What is Menstrual Hygiene?
Menstrual hygiene is defined as “Women, and adolescent girls are using clean menstrual management materials to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials.”
Menstrual hygiene is essential to the well-being and empowerment of girls and women worldwide. Although access to appropriate toilets and sanitary pads is essential, Periods hygiene is much more than it.
All girls and women must live in an environment that offers them to manage menses with dignity.
The Problem of Menstrual Hygiene in India
Going by the numbers, only 18% of the Indian females have access to sanitary hygiene.
Millions of women cannot use sanitary pads as they are expensive and end up choosing low hygiene standards. Almost 88% of women opt for clothes, husk, or ashes during periods.
Furthermore, menses is still regarded as taboo and women are not allowed to have a shower or enter the kitchen during periods.
Reasons for Lack of Menstrual Hygiene
In India, poverty is the commonest cause of using unhygienic menstrual absorbents. Women in rural areas use unhygienic absorbents, such as old rags, wood husk, mud, dried cow dung cakes, or ash.
They are not only inconvenient to use but also harmful to health. They could also prevent women from doing daily chores.
Besides, menstruation beliefs and embarrassment prevent women from drying their menstrual clothes in the sun. They wash them at night and dry in the dark. These favors the growth and multiplication of bacteria, increasing the risk of urinary and reproductive tract infections.
Moreover, a lack of awareness of menstrual hygiene or periods hygiene due to taboo surrounding periods and lack of education are also an important factor why women do not know about hygiene products.
Even in today’s modern world, many women are using traditional methods, which exposes them to health disorders associated with periods.
15 Ways to Maintain Menstrual Hygiene
Here are some tips to marinating hygiene (Periods Hygiene):
- Wash your genital area twice during a menstrual cycle. Bacteria and other pathogens thrive on blood. Thoroughly washing the genitals will thus reduce the risk of bacterial growth and, thus, infection.
- Wash your genitals from front to back. Pathogens in the fecal matter are the commonest cause of urinary tract infections in women. So, remember to start cleaning with labia and then proceed to the perineum and anal region.
- The Female’s reproductive tract is designed to take care of itself and thus doesn’t need to clean it from inside. Stay away from hygiene procedures that take away the healthy vaginal flora, such as douching.
- It is recommended to clean the genital area with plain warm water. Hygiene products may disrupt the normal flora, increasing the risk of infection.
- Shower with warm water during periods. Many believe that a woman shouldn’t have a shower during menses. However, the myth is far from being true. However, you should check the hygiene of the bathtub as your immune system is suppressed during menses.
Related to Sanitary Napkins
- During periods, change your sanitary napkins every 4-8 hours. Failing to do so increases the risk of bacterial growth.
- Select a form of sanitation that suits you the best, such as a sanitary napkin or a menstrual cup. Unmarried girls prefer napkins while married females use a tampon or a menstrual cup.
- Discard pads and other products by wrapping them first, which prevents the spread of infections.
- Instead of using multiple sanitary options together, it is better to change them often.
- Avoid the use of scented products, such as pads, tampons, or toilet paper. They may alter the vaginal pH and flora, increasing the risk of infection.
- Do not wash your vulva and vagina too often
- Avoid using bigger size pads and cloth as they may result in a rash
- Wear clean and comfortable underwear. Tight underwear, such as thongs, doesn’t allow the skin to breathe, increasing the risk of infections.
- Keep separate underwear for periods.
- Never flush sanitary products down the loo.
Why is Menstrual Hygiene Important?
Women must pay attention to personal hygiene. During these days, they are prone to life-threatening disorders. Poor menstrual hygiene can result in fungal, viral, or bacterial disorders of the urinary and reproductive tract.
A lack of menstrual hygiene causes almost 70% of the reproductive tract infections.
Some Commonly Associated Disorders are:
Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI)
- Reproductive tract infection: Contaminated products from menstrual blood favors the growth of bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and E. coli. These bacteria can rapidly multiply and enter the reproductive tract through the cervix. Bacteria can enter the blood through the mucosal membrane, which can cause sepsis and associated complications.
Not changing sanitary pads can lead to moisture retention and trigger the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. The contaminated product could change the pH of the vagina. This, in turn, alters micro flora, increasing the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Some common symptoms associated with reproductive tract infection are back pain, pustules, genital itching, abdominal pain, and genital discharge.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Urinary tract infection: This is the commonest form of infection in women with poor menstrual hygiene. Here the harmful bacteria enter the urinary tract, irritate the mucosal region, and result in infection. If not treated, it can result in various complications.
Washing genitalia from back to front, washing genitalia with water, and using unhygienic products are some of the common causes of UTI.
Other Possible Problems, Faced Due to Improper Periods Hygiene.
- Hepatitis B: It can be transmitted through body fluids, included menstrual blood. So, it is important to wash hands with soap and water while changing napkins. It holds true for other sexually transmitted diseases (STD), such as candidiasis, HIV, and trichomonas.
- Yeast infection: Candidiasis or yeast infections are also commonly associated with a lack of menstrual hygiene. It is seen to affect almost 75% of women in the reproductive age group. Candidiasis is asymptomatic in most of the cases.
- Cervical cancer: Poor menstrual Hygiene increases the risk of cervical cancer, which is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to wash every time I use the toilet during the menstrual cycle?
The outer skin of your vagina has folds that may result in the accumulation of blood, resulting in bad odor. Increased moisture and menstrual blood support the growth of harmful bacteria and fungus, increasing the risk of infections.
So, wash yourself every time you go to the toilet. The correct way of washing is also important. To wash, always proceed from front to back and not the other way round.
Besides, avoid the use of vaginal hygiene products during periods. Periods hygiene is necessary for a pain free and healthy genitals always.
How often should you change the sanitary napkin?
Keeping yourself clean is the best way to maintain menstrual hygiene and prevent infections and other disorders. To do so, change your sanitary pad every 4-8 hours, depending on the flow.
If you use sanitary napkins for longer, it may also result in skin irritation. You can also choose to use biodegradable and organic menstrual cups that are environmentally sustainable.
Sterilize the menstrual cup every time you use it. It is also a great idea to empty them frequently and hygienically store them after use.
Select the appropriate size of the menstrual cup and napkin as per your flow, age, and depth of the vagina. Keeping in mind these small but useful tips for periods hygiene can really help you during your menstrual cycle.
What Should I do to prevent skin irritation?
Use clean, fresh, loose, and cotton underwear during periods (menstrual cycle). Change them every time you have soiled them. Unclean underwear results in bad odor and increases the risk of infection. Besides, using breathable fabrics such as cotton allows your skin to breathe, preventing skin irritation.
You can also use panty liners for absorbing discharge during the initial days.
How should one dispose of sanitary products after use?
Discarding sanitary napkins, pads, or tampons are crucial to menstrual hygiene. Always wrap them and dispose of dustbins assigned for them. This will prevent the spread of harmful bacteria as well as bad odor. Also, do not flush them down the loo as they would clog the drains and sewage pipes.
Of note, clean your hands after you discard them. Use soap and water to clean your hands. Also, make sure that you clean your hands before and after you touch your genital area. This is another important periods hygiene tip for all.
Is it safe to use two sanitary napkins if I have heavy flow?
No, it is not a good idea to use multiple forms of sanitation at a time. You may think it will help to absorb blood and prevent the risk of infection. However, this is not true. Instead, opt for changing them often instead of using two at a time.
How often should I wash myself during periods?
Moisture and blood offer favorable environment for the growth of harmful bacteria. So, it is also a great option to wash yourself or take a bath at least twice. You can even do this more often if you feel uncomfortable.
Having said this, it is not recommended in periods to clean the vulva and vagina too often as you may wash off the healthy bacteria while doing so.
What products can I use to clean the intimate areas?
Gynecologists recommend cleaning your genitals with plain water. While you can use soap sometimes, excessive use should be avoided. Other cosmetic products are not recommended to clean as they alter the pH and reduces the natural flora in your vagina.
Can I bathe myself during periods?
And the answer is “YES.” There is no scientific reason to abstain yourself from the pleasurable feeling of the bathing. Running water cannot do any harm. While using the bathtub, it is important to make sure that you clean it before use.
Many cultures still believe that women shouldn’t bathe during their menstrual cycle. In older days, this would be sensible advice as the women had to bathe in the open and in water bodies such as a lake or river. But with invent of an indoor bath, it is an excellent option to take a shower at least twice during periods. It will not only cleanse your body but also maintain the hygiene of the private parts. Thus helping you have proper periods hygiene.
Moreover, bathing with warm water also helps to relieve backache, menstrual cramps, and improve digestion. Take a shower with a warm water target on the abdomen or back to get relief from menstrual cramps.
Which products can I use to prevent vaginal odor?
Feminine hygiene products are not recommended for use. They may contain chemicals that could trigger vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina).
Moreover, contact of chemicals and vulva or vagina should be avoided. It is better to use warm water or wet wipes to clean your vaginal area.
Avoid using toilet paper to clean yourself as it may shred and tear once it comes in contact with water.
Should I wake up at night to change the sanitary pad?
Well, it may not be needed. As you are active during the day, the flow is heavier. Besides, the pad absorbs sweat, blood, and sebum, which supports bacterial growth. So, you need to change your pad every 4-8 hours.
However, while you are sleeping, your activity and other functions slow down. Bleeding intensity also reduces. So, you can wear a single pad overnight.
How to clean menstrual cups?
It is crucial to clean the menstrual cup before storing them after use. You can clean the cup with water and any antibacterial soap.
Menstrual hygiene is a necessity and not a luxury. Every girl and woman has a right to get all facilities essential for periods hygiene. Lack of awareness and appropriate facilities are increasing the prevalence of infections and disorders associated with menstrual hygiene. Follow the tips and have a happy period!
Hygienic Periods, Happy Periods !!
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