What You Need to Know About Menstrual Hygiene
Although menstruation is a naturally occurring process, it is important that we actively maintain proper sanitary care when managing it. Just like how we make an effort to carry out daily activities like brushing the teeth and washing the face, we must likewise make an effort to give our periods the care they deserve. This is especially important as even the most minor neglect could lead to very undesirable consequences like vaginal irritation, toxic shock syndrome or the spread of infections to others. Simply put, it’s a no brainer that one should exercise caution when caring for the va-jay-jay area.
And as today is Menstrual Hygiene Day, here are some tips that can help keep your period hygiene in check!
Before we get into menstrual hygiene practices, let’s talk period and take a look at what menstruation is along with why it happens.
- Why do we get it?
Although the process of menstruation comes bearing some pain and tears, the menstrual cycle is a gift. It is in fact, the vital process that plays a key role in ensuring we are capable of having babies.
Our bodies undergo a series of changes during the menstrual cycle. Before the menstrual phase of a cycle, the levels of the hormone, estrogen, increases in the body, causing our uterine lining to thicken for the possible fertilization of an egg – to help with pregnancy. Once an egg is released from the ovary, another hormone, progesterone, which also aids in fertilization is released by the body. If no egg gets fertilized, the levels of these hormones drop and trigger the production of prostaglandins - the reason why we start getting those arduous cramps at the start of each cycle! The cycle then kickstarts and the uterine lining sheds out through the uterus and vagina. This is the menstrual phase – the first stage of every menstrual cycle which is also what we refer to as our period.
- When does it start and how long does it last?
Usually, girls get their first period between the ages of 12 and 13, as the breasts bud, hair sprouts in new places, vaginal discharge starts appearing and the hip bones get wider. In a previous article, we discuss the different types of vaginal discharge one could get, the reasons and signs to look out for!
The onset of menstruation means that one has reached reproductive age and hit puberty. The birth, death and rebirth cycle continues up until menopause - when the ovaries stop releasing estrogen and progesterone.
Fun fact - did you know that the average woman spends 3000 days of her life menstruating? That sounds like a long time to be on your period, doesn’t it?
Generally, a woman menstruates for 3 to 7 days of their cycle. However, periods can fluctuate because of conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibroids and should be addressed by a healthcare provider in any such case.
Menstrual Hygiene Tips
As we spend much of our lives menstruating, it is important to always ensure our menstrual hygiene habits are sanitary and safe to allow a fresh and unproblematic period. What follows are steps you can take to ensure a trouble-free experience.
- Change pads and tampons often
To avoid infections, it is important to replace your sanitary pads and tampons at regular intervals. If you use the pad for an extended period, it exposes your sensitive vaginal area to decaying blood and dampness, which can cause itching, irritation, or even a bacterial infection. To avoid this, it’s best to change your pad every 4-6 hours or 2-3 times a day. On the other hand, leaving tampons inside the body for long too long can cause a life-threatening bacterial illness called toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The rule of thumb as suggested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to change your tampon after 4-8 hours of use.
- Use natural products
The vaginal region is delicate. Using products with harsh synthetics and fragrances can easily cause irritation, itching or even rashes. It is important to know that commercial sanitary pads are composed of cotton that is not entirely natural and may include pesticide residue. You can avoid irritating and allergic responses by using organic cotton pads/liners. Natural products can allow your skin to breathe and safeguard it from irritation and rashes. You can pick a pack of the softest, ultra-thin and organic pads/liners here. All the more reason to adore it: these pads/liners are not only contamination-free but are also eco-friendly.
- Wash frequently
It's a good idea to wash before changing into a fresh pad or tampon to clean and remove any blood that's gotten trapped between your labia, onto your pubic hair, or around your vagina. This also keeps unwanted odours at bay and keeps the space fresh and clean. You could use a bidet to clean the area, take a shower, or wipe it clean with water wipes.
- Wipe from front to back
When it comes to using toilet paper, you may overlook the significance of employing the right technique. To keep anal bacteria from entering the vagina, it’s extremely important to wipe from front to back, especially during your period. This can help avoid urinary tract infections (UTI) and yeast infections, both of which can be bothersome.
- Discard the sanitary product properly
Disposing of your sanitary napkins and tampons in the right way does make a difference. It’s important to wrap it properly before discarding it to prevent lingering foul odour or spread of infections to others. Also note that flushing a pad down the toilet is a no-no as it can lead to clogging, cause the water to back up and result in contamination.
- Choose one method of sanitation at a time
Some people opt to use a combination of methods to prevent leakage from heavy flows. For example, one may use two sanitary pads or use a tampon and a pad together to prevent staining clothes from the heavy flow. Although this sounds like an effective technique, it can make you look past the fact that you need a sanitary napkin or tampon change. Wearing them for too long can lead to bacterial infection. It is best to use one sanitary napkin/tampon and change it frequently.
These tips can help maintain a healthy area down there. Keep these in mind at all times for a hassle-free experience!