Menstruation is a natural process, with about 300 million women menstruating every day globally. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, with most women bleeding for 3 to 5 days.
Empowering women to keep clean as they menstruate enables them to stay healthy and productive as they go about their day-to-day life.
How should one maintain hygiene during menstruation?
- Changing one’s sanitary product regularly. Depending on the product being used, timely change is essential to staying clean. Most pads and tampons need to be changed every 4 to 6 hours depending on the heaviness of the flow, while some menstrual cups can last 8 to 12 hours without needing to be changed. It is good to know how to properly use different sanitary products, to prevent any undesirable side effects.
- Washing oneself. Bathing at least twice daily is imperative to maintaining hygiene while menstruating. Avoid douching, which is forcing water or beauty products into the vagina, as this practice does not contribute towards cleanliness, and can otherwise lead to infections developing by destroying the natural pH of the vagina.
- Safely discarding used menstrual sanitary products is a hallmark of good menstrual hygiene. As a rule of thumb, sanitary pads should never be flushed down the toilet because they may clog the drainage system and lead to flooding of the toilet. After use, a disposable sanitary pad should be wrapped in a newspaper, toilet paper, or in the wrapper of the new pad you are going to use then put in a garbage bin; destroy it by burning it to ash in an incinerator. This is because sanitary products are not biodegradable, and so it is essential to have a reliable way to dispose of them in a way that is clean, and not harmful to the environment. Retaining used sanitary products in one’s living space can lead to foul smells developing, the breeding of parasites, and eventually, disease.
- Washing hands before and after a change of sanitary products is a tried and true way to maintain hygiene. This simple habit ensures cleanliness during the menstrual cycle as one handles and disposes of used products.
- Wear clean comfortable underwear. Wearing clean cotton underwear and changing it daily is advisable as it ensures good air circulation during this time, and thus helps to keep one clean. It is important to endeavor to keep one’s underwear as dry as possible during the day as this is a good way of keeping track of one’s cleanliness.
- Consult a doctor in case of any irritated skin. If one develops any skin irritation while using sanitary products, it’s best to stop using that product and consult a doctor on the best course of action. Avoid self-medicating in this situation, and this includes painkillers. In case of any marked cramping pain, consult a doctor for an appropriate prescription.
As discussed above, there are some habits to avoid during menstruation including douching and self-medication in case of skin irritation. It is also good to avoid taking too many caffeinated products and aerated foods.
While having food cravings is common when one is menstruating, too much sugar and caffeine intake can disturb normal sugar levels and thus lead to changes in mood swings and comfort levels during the period.
Also, do not flush sanitary products down the toilet. This will block the water passways and is not a sustainable way of discarding used products.
Observing the above habits helps prevent genito-urinary and reproductive system infections, thus saving time and resources.
Observing personal hygiene also helps maintain harmonious interpersonal relationships. Remember that menstruating women are not ill, it is a normal process and women should be encouraged to live their life as usual.
Blog written by Dr. Sharon Akisa