Importance of Maintaining Good Hygiene During Periods
Even in today’s age, when several menstrual hygiene products like sanitary napkins, tampons, and menstrual cups are available; 88% of Indian women don’t use the most basic form of menstrual protection available in markets. Instead many use old rags, muds, leaves or anything they lay their hand on to collect menstrual blood. Least to say that how much inconvenience and health risks do such women face for not having access to sanitary napkins for periods.
Taking about menstruation is a taboo in most societies, and this contributes to the ignorance and illiteracy on menstrual hygiene management. Using old clothes and other traditional unsafe methods to deal with menstruation hampers mobility and day to day activity of women. The result is that they have to miss out on work, schools as well as other daily commitments. Around 23 million girls drop out of school every year at menarche in India. It is a shameful situation in which due to lack of affordable sanitary pads, menstrual awareness and lack of facilities to change sanitary towels in those organisations render it impossible for women to go out without the fear of staining or embarrassment.
Maintaining Hygiene During Periods-Healthy Way to Manage Periods Menstruation is a normal biological process which is key in maintaining the reproduction health of a woman. When the egg released by the ovary is not fertilised, the egg along with the uterine lining which was prepared for receiving the implantation of a fertilised egg is sloughed off and shed out of the body. This waste contains blood, mucous and lining tissues and is collectively called menstrual blood.
While pregnancy is a celebratory topic, menstruation is considered as a dark phase which is supposed to be dealt with secretly. Regressive socio-cultural norms pertaining menstruation are responsible for the use of unhygienic products to manage periods instead of much safer sanitary pads. Women are forbidden to bath or cleanse themselves properly during these days, which increase the threat posed to their health due to lack of menstrual hygiene. Furthermore, they also feel scared to go out to schools or work since those places too lack facilities like clean water, soap, and washrooms.
Cleanliness of genital area and access to safe menstrual hygiene products can reduce the incidents of infection up to 97%. The proper use of sanitary napkins for periods is important to reduce risks associated with periods. Changing sanitary napkins every 4 hours and washing hands every time sanitary napkin is changed, are small but significant steps towards ensuring good hygiene during periods. Without the discomfort and pain associated with infections, women can enjoy stress-free periods and continue participating in all day to day activities.
The Need to Maintain Good Periods Hygiene Use of unsanitary absorbents in prevalent in developing nations, in poorer settings. Economic status, socio-cultural beliefs and lack of sufficient menstrual awareness are contributors to the lower prevalence of women using sanitary napkins for periods.
Women are forced to use unsafe means of collecting menstrual waste, which is mostly contaminated. Clothes used as sanitary napkins are often washed without detergents and dried indoors, out of shame and fear of superstitions related to menstruation.,
That does not mean that women who use commercially available sanitary napkins are safe from risks of poor menstrual hygiene. Unsafe use of commercial sanitary napkins can result in serious forms of infections like Toxic Shock Syndrome and Vaginitis.
Here are five important reasons why it is important to maintain good hygiene during periods:
• Reduced Risk of Urinary Tract Infections:
Using damp and dirty menstrual clothes or using a sanitary napkin for longer than 4 hours can act as a perfect environment for growth and multiplication of harmful bacteria and yeasts. Microbes like Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, E.coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa grow easily in the humid environment provided by prolonged use of unhygienic absorbents or sanitary napkins.
These bacteria can invade your urinary tract including urethra and urinary bladder, resulting in painful urination, lower abdominal pain, back pain, and fever. These complications can be easily avoided by using sun-dried and clean sanitary towels or hygienic sanitary napkins for periods. Cleaning external genitalia with clean water and gentle soap along with a frequent change of sanitary napkins can prevent 97% of such infections.
• Reduced Incidents of Rashes in Genitals:
Abrasion, allergy and prolonged wetness can injure the external genitalia and cause rashes during menstruation. If sanitary pads are not changed frequently, vaginal skin may get infected with bacteria or fungus resulting in painful rashes.
Commercially available sanitary napkins are composed of plastics and SAP which is derived from crude oil. These products have greater potential to cause damage to your health, and hence they need to be changed as often as possible to prevent allergies and rashes.
Biodegradable sanitary napkins with all natural composition are effective in addressing problems like rashes and allergic reactions. They do not alter the microenvironment of the vagina by maintaining the pH of the region.
• Ensuring Good Reproductive Health:
Unhygienic absorbents or improper hygiene during periods can result in Reproductive Tract Infection. RTIs can result in reproductive health morbidities since bacteria responsible for these infections can invade the mucosal layer of the reproductive tract and cause serious damage to uterine wall, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Vaginitis and abnormal vaginal discharge are preliminary symptoms of severe RTI.
Majority of women who used unhygienic methods to collect menstrual blood in India have greater chances to suffer from RTI and vaginal discharge. Awareness and access to affordable sanitary napkins for periods can prevent reproductive complications due to RTI.
• Minimizing Risk of Cervical Cancer:
Cervical cancer is cancer of the opening of the uterus which is caused by Human Papilloma Virus. This virus is transmitted sexually, and unhygienic handling of menstrual waste can spread the infection easily.
Sharing of reusable absorbent pads, not washing of hands after changing sanitary napkins and lack of hygienic sanitation are some causes that can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer; although several other reasons are also responsible.