Ugh! It’s that time of the month again! When Aunt Red comes visiting and brings all her children with her; Stress, Mood Swings, Irritation and Pain. No one can really avoid her, but we sure can follow some basic hygiene to make Aunt Red’s visit a pleasant one.
So, what is menstrual hygiene?
Simply put, it refers to the management of hygiene associated with the menstrual process. This involves using a proper menstrual management material like sanitary pads, tampons, cups etc., changing them at regular intervals, disposing them off responsibly and practising personal hygiene.
Did you know that in India, only 1 in every 2 girls has knowledge about menstruation before their first period? And even lesser women know how to maintain menstrual hygiene. Turns out, keeping a good menstrual hygiene practice leads to better reproductive health. It also keeps vaginal infections and other reproductive diseases at bay.
Here are some tips to maintain your menstrual hygiene and have a happy period:
Change your sanitary pad every 4-5 hours
Majority of the urban women in India use sanitary pads and it is advisable to change them every 4-5 hours, especially on the first two days when the flow is heavy. On other days too, wearing a pad for more than eight hours is not advisable.
Choose your menstrual sanitary pad/ cup/ tampon carefully
Sanitary pads which are popular are usually made of a highly absorbent but synthetic material which may lead to rashes in the peri-vaginal area. Cotton or organic material pads are much better. Many brands are now available online, so try one that suits you and stick with it. Menstrual cups are becoming popular too. Picking the right size is important for comfort and ease of use. Tampons which come with a disposable insertion mechanism are much better than the ones that have to be inserted with one's hands. Never leave a tampon overnight. it should be changed every 4-5 hours. Keeping it beyond that could lead to serious infections.
Clean reusable material properly
For women who use reusable pads or cups, it is very important to clean them thoroughly to reduce risk of infections. Ensure you don’t exceed the number of reuses that a particular material allows.
Don’t use more than one pad at a time
Some women think that in the days of heavy flow, two pads are better than one to prevent staining the clothes. This, however, is not true. Use one pad at a time to prevent vaginal infections and change it more often if you are experiencing heavy flow.
Keep the vaginal area clean
While it is a must-do at all times, keeping the area clean becomes especially important during periods. Vaginal douches though are not recommended unless medically prescribed as they eradicate normal health microbes in the vagina and may introduce pathogens in it. Use warm water with mild soap to clean the area. However, if you experience itching or rashes, please see your gynaecologist immediately.
Wear comfortable and clean undergarments
Avoid wearing tight undergarments or underwears made of non-breathable fabric. Wear cotton knickers that don’t stick to your skin to avoid rashes and infections during these times. Clean them everyday. Plastic lined period underwear should be avoided, as they reduce the sense of the flow, retention of moisture in the peri-vaginal area causing skin breakouts and cause friction with the sensitive skin around the perineum.
Dispose the sanitary pads/tampons responsibly
The disposal of the used pads and tampons should always be done by wrapping them in the provided cover or paper and thrown in a closed bin in the non recyclable bin if made of synthetic materials. Do not flush them as they clog the pipes.
Visit your friendly gynaecologist
It is important to regularly visit your gynaecologist for the upkeep and maintenance of your menstrual health. Discuss any abnormality or discomfort with them and seek medical advice on some of the best practices on menstrual health.
Involve the men in the menses talk
While this may not be directly related, it is important to create awareness about menstrual health in the minds of men that we are living with. Involving them in the conversations and breaking the taboo and shame around menses will ensure their support in helping the women maintain their hygiene. Monetary support must be provided by men for women to purchase clean and hygienic products in households where men are the major breadwinners.
So ladies, practice good menstrual hygiene, talk about it to your friends, share and spread the word, break the taboo. Take charge of your menstrual health and stay safe!
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