During the adolescent years, one of the essential physiological changes in a girl’s body is the onset of menstruation. Menstruation signals the beginning of physiological maturity in girls. Then, it becomes a routine element of their lives until menopause.
In India, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about women’s menstruation, followed by many dos and don’ts. In fact, menstrual practices are not freely discussed due to taboos and socio-cultural restrictions. As a result, adolescent girls do not have sufficient knowledge and remain negligent of scientific facts and hygienic health practices.
Menstrual hygiene is vital during menstruation. It can restrict the chances of developing an infection in the reproductive and urinary tract. However, most girls aren’t aware of the consequences and do not follow appropriate hygiene practices, which sometimes leads to adverse health conditions.
Poor menstrual hygiene is a major reason for the high number of cases of Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs). Lack of knowledge about menstruation and menstrual hygiene results in poor attitude and practice. Many issues like availability and quality of napkins, awareness, water supply, reproductive health education, privacy, regular supply, family support, and disposal of napkins need attention for improving women’s health with the adoption of proper hygiene practices.
Repercussions of Unhealthy Menstrual Practices
Not caring for hygiene during periods can affect your health adversely. Here are some repercussions of unhealthy menstrual practices.
1. Urine Infection
If you don’t remain clean during menstruation, it can lead to bacterial growth. When bacteria enter your urethra, it causes urinary tract infections (UTIs). Not treating UTIs at the right time can even damage your kidneys.
Rashes are commonly caused by improper hygiene. When you don’t change your sanitary napkins frequently, it causes skin irritation and rashes. The plastic content of the menstrual pads and prolonged wetness can also result in dermatitis (skin inflammation with redness, itchiness, and swelling).
3. Abnormal White Discharge
A little vaginal discharge is normal and not a concern for women’s health. But, poor hygiene during menstruation creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and rapidly increase in number. Such proliferation in the vagina can cause bacterial vaginosis, leading to abnormal white discharge.
A doctor can help in diagnosing the actual cause of the vaginal discharge.
4. Rare Chances of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer affects the cervix, the lower end of the uterus. The most prominent cause of the condition is sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). While developing the disease because of poor hygiene during women’s menstruation is a rare possibility, the frequent occurrence of RTIs and UTIs can increase the chances of cervical cancer.
You must maintain proper hygiene during menstruation and otherwise. If you witness any unusual symptoms during your menstrual cycle, visit a gynaecologist soon.
5. Chances of Infertility
Inappropriate hygiene during periods can cause bacteria to proliferate in your vagina. As a result, you can suffer from reproductive tract infections. Not treating the condition on time can lead to infertility issues.
Frequent episodes of the above-mentioned infections can cause future consequences such as the increased risk of abortions, preterm delivery, and difficulty in conceiving. Thus, it is possible to conclude that improper menstrual hygiene can impact the entire reproductive health of a woman.
Tips to Maintain Personal Hygiene During Periods
Some habits can help in maintaining hygiene during menstruation. Make sure you follow these healthy practices to prevent bacterial growth and the resulting outcomes.
1. Change sanitary pads frequently.
The thumb rule to establish vaginal hygiene is changing sanitary napkins every 4 to 6 hours. If you use tampons, you must change them also within 4 to 6 hours. When menstrual blood is released from the body, it attracts several organisms from your body. These organisms multiply in the warmth of the blood, leading to irritation, rashes or urinary tract infections. Changing your sanitary pads frequently restricts the multiplication of these organisms and keeps infections away.
2. Clean your vulva
It is vital to wash your vagina regularly because organisms remain on your body even after you have removed the sanitary pad. Many women remember to wash regularly, but how they do this is not right. You need to move your hands from the vagina to the anus and not the other way around.
3. Avoid using soap or vaginal hygiene products.
You can use vaginal hygiene products regularly, but do not overuse them. Vaginas have a cleaning mechanism of their own, which functions during menstrual cycles. Using artificial hygiene products can affect the natural process further, causing bacterial growth and infections.
4. Ensure proper disposal of sanitary napkins
The right disposal of your sanitary napkin or tampon is essential. Wrap it properly before discarding it to ensure that infections and bacteria do not spread. Do not flush, as it can block the toilet, causing the water to back up and spread the bacteria all over. Additionally, remember to wash your hands properly after wrapping and discarding the used sanitary napkins and tampons. There is a chance that you have touched the stained area while wrapping the sanitary pad.
5. Use only one menstrual product.
Do not use more than one menstrual product at once. Pick from – tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, or period underwear. If you use multiple methods, it can lead to a false sense of low menstrual blood loss and longer use of products. Consequently, the chances of infection can increase due to prolonged contact.
When girls and women use safe and affordable sanitary materials to manage their menstruation, the likelihood of infections decreases. It results in cascading effects on overall reproductive and sexual health. Poor hygiene practices during menstruation can lead to serious health concerns, such as urinary and reproductive tract infections. These conditions can further lead to infertility and birth complications. Not washing hands after changing menstrual products can spread infections like thrush and hepatitis B.
Some healthy practices can make it easier for you to maintain menstrual hygiene. Change the napkin immediately after it gets wet. If you don’t do so within 4 to 6 hours, it can lead to irritation on the inside of the thighs and cause infections. Keep sanitary napkins in a clean and dry space. Moreover, remember to keep your private parts and body clean by washing frequently. During menstruation, wash the outer genitals regularly to remove any blood that clings to your body. Wash your hands each time you change the napkin. Wearing a soiled napkin or underwear invites bacteria and causes infection.