Menstruation is a normal physiological process. Women menstruate every month for longest time in their lives, but still talking about menstruation is wrongly regarded as a taboo. There are numerous unrelated beliefs and myths related to menstruation which hamper proper health and hygiene maintenance at time of menstruation. In retrospect, taboos have inflicted indignities to many girls and women and having said this, lack of proper sanitation, water, privacy has also urged girls to stop going to schools also. Even if adequate washing facilities, sanitation, menstrual sanitary pads are available, still hygiene management remains a challenge due to lack of access to information as to how to manage menstrual hygiene. So, here we discuss basic dos and don’ts of menstrual hygiene management.
Poor Menstrual Hygiene Consequences
- Increased Risk of infection (including sexually transmitted infection) is higher than normal during menstruation (Urinary tract infections UTIs/RTIs) are bacterial infections
- Yeast infections such as Thrush (Candidiasis)
- Using unclean cloth instead of sanitary pad leads to the growth of unwanted bacteria that could lead to infection
Social, educational and economic impacts of menstrual hygiene:
- Dignity – It is crucial for girls and women to feel empowered to engage in regular daily work without much discomfort. and other daily activities and not hide away or have limitations in their movements due to menstruation.
- Education – Lack of menstrual hygiene services often leads to girls missing school.
- Loss of Economic Opportunity – Due to monthly illness women lose out on economic opportunity.
What hygiene practices should be followed during menstruation?
- Change napkins regularly: It is common practice to change pad only when it is fully soaked. It’s wrong!! Pad should be changed at least every 6 hours. Even when the flow is lighter on 4th or 5th day, still pad should be changed 6 -8 hourly.
- Remember to take change of napkins whenever going out: Always carry extra sanitary pads when you move out of house. Long hours with same pad can cause infection.
- Wash the genital area after each use of the toilet, also after urination: Use warm water to clean your vulva. It’s been proven that vaginas are self-cleaning so, do not apply soap. However, feminine hygiene products can be of help.
- Direction of wash : Remember also to make sure that the water flows from the vagina towards the anal areas and not vice-versa to avoid urinary tract infections.
- Keep the area between the legs dry otherwise soreness and chaffing may develop
- One should take bath everyday during menses.
- One can easily exercise, walk or do any regular activity.
How to dispose napkins?
- Napkins should not be thrown into the toilets particularly the water closet.
- It is better to keep a dust bin in the corner of the toilet. Keep old newspapers/waste paper ready to wrap the sanitary pad. Drop it in the bin. You can dispose the contents of the bin after your cycle bleed is over or daily.
- In case there is no disposal mechanism prevalent in your locality, see about disposing it within your backyard itself either by sanitary pit (burial) or incineration (burning).
Some myths!! Don’t worry!!
In some cultures, women and girls are told to abide by some customs which have no scientific logic like
- During their menstrual cycle they should not bathe (or they will become infertile)
- Touch a cow (or it will become infertile)
- Look in a mirror (or it will lose its brightness)
- Touch a plant (or it will die)
When to visit a doctor?…
- Dysmenorrhoea – If menstruation is painful that is severe enough to limit normal activity or requires medication.
- Menorrhagia– Excessive (>5-6 tsp. per day) uterine bleeding Prolonged (>7days) regular
- If any discharge that is colored, has strong odor, or itches call a doctor…
Menstruation is way towards womanhood. Menstruation should never bog you down from taking up challenges. Your hygiene is in your hands. So, be wise and maintain menstrual hygiene.