According to UNICEF (a United Nations agency), every month, 1.8 billion people across the world menstruate. Millions of these girls, women, transgender men, and non-binary persons are unable to manage their menstrual cycle in a dignified, healthy way.
Periods are a necessity for a woman's health but the topic of menstruation is silent and taboo for ages, especially in India. Because periods are considered to be unclean or embarrassing in various places & cultures. Although, now, awareness and recognition on topics like periods that are so important to talk about.
Menstruation or periods is a natural phenomenon in female human bodies. It occurs every month as a cyclic shedding of the uterine line that leads to bleeding from the vagina. During a menstrual cycle, the bloodshed from the body is warm and a very good medium for organisms to grow that can easily cause infections. A menstruating woman is more susceptible to urinary tract infections(UTIs), reproductive tract infections(RTIs), cervical cancer, or even Toxic shock syndrome(TSS) that may get fatal.
Hence menstrual hygiene is very important and adolescent girls & women across all ages should be aware of simple menstrual hygiene practices.
Here are 10 hygiene tips for a germ-free & safe period:
1) Clean: Clean your vagina properly with water, making sure no blood is sticking around even in the labia. Every time you use the toilet for the loo or to defecate or even to change your pad, wash. Remember to wash from front to back because if you wash from back to front chances are the organisms in your stool may touch the vaginal area. And blood is a very good medium for organisms or bacteria to grow and may cause an infection. Wash and wipe off. This may keep your vagina clean, safe, and free of the old blood clinging to the skin.
2) Wash your hands: Wash your hands with soap/antiseptic before and after touching your vagina during periods. Even while changing your sanitary napkin/ tampon/ menstrual cup wash your hands. This may minimize the risk of spreading infections.
3) Choose the right period product for you: It's 2021, and we have choices that suit us best. If you want to go environment friendly you can choose a menstrual cup or a cloth pad. There are even tampons that are used to great extent by women in the US. Remember to choose low absorbency tampons. And the old-style product, the sanitary napkin is always there. Try all, choose wisely, and stick to one product. That may help you the best and make you comfortable during your periods.
4) Changing times: If you are using a sanitary pad make sure you change it every 6hours. A menstrual cup can be changed between 6-10hours depending on your flow. Tampons need to be changed every 4-6hrs. No matter how busy you are, make sure you take out time for yourself and your health and follow this well.
5) Disposal: Menstrual blood is highly susceptible to cause and spread infections easily. Don't litter your used products in open or public places. Use a newspaper to wrap your sanitary pad or tampons and then throw it in the dustbin. The blood collected in your menstrual cup should be thrown in a sink. Clean your menstrual cup before every period in boiling water. Even cloth pads can be washed in hot water and strong detergents.
6) Stay away from fancy products: Soaps can cause irritation and allergies. Vagina has its own way of cleaning and flushing out bacteria's. Let it do its own work. Warm water or a chemical free intimate cleanser outside the vagina is enough to keep it clean. Don't use soaps inside the vagina or vulva.
7) Stay dry: Wet areas around the vagina may cause rashes between your thighs and make it difficult for you to move around. It's very common and happens due to the heaviness and wetness caused by blood in the pad. You can use antiseptic ointments or rash powders in your thigh area.
8) Keep your undergarments clean and dry: Wet or unclean undergarments may increase the chance of an infection. As a good practice, you can iron your undergarments after washing and drying. This may kill all the germs or bacteria on the cloth and keep you more comfortable during your periods.
9) Stick to one product: Stick to only one period sanitary product at a time. Wearing a pad and using a tampon at the same time is not a good idea. Gynecologists advise using one product at a time. And possibly stick to only one that gives you maximum comfort and ease while using.
10) Take a bath: Yes, bathing is an essential daily good habit. It's insane to not take a bath while on periods. Taking a bath not only cleanses the body but also cools it down, relieving aches and cramps. Warm water or a hot water bath may relax your body and put you in good sleep during your periods. It may also improve your mood and help you overcome irritation and mood swings.
Bonus tip: Do not shave or go for hair removal while on your periods or just before your periods. The vaginal skin is very sensitive and newly shaved skin is prone to irritation and itching. Periods may add on to the irritation and may increase the risk of an infection there.
The above tips are very simple and basic but can do wonders and save you from fatal infections. Not only women but even men should know about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. As this would increase awareness and help some or the other woman in their period's journey. Periods are not dirty or unclean. Menstrual hygiene is as normal and important as brushing your teeth. Spread awareness and talk about it.