The onset of menstruation is one of the most important physiological changes in girls during adolescence. It becomes the part and parcel of their lives until menopause. On an average, a woman goes 350 menstrual cycles in her lifetime. Apart from personal importance, this phenomenon also has social significance.
Menstrual hygiene is a hygienic practice during menstruation that can prevent women from the infection in the reproductive and urinary tract. On the contrary, blood which is considered shameful is the origin of a new life yet menstruation is still considered a taboo in both rural and urban areas and surrounded by myths and misconceptions with a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for women. Resulting in adolescent girls lacking knowledge and remaining ignorant of the scientific facts and hygienic health practices, which sometimes results in adverse health outcomes.
Hygiene-related practices of women during menstruation are of considerable importance, as it may increase vulnerability to Reproductive Tract Infections (RTI’s). Poor menstrual hygiene is one of the major reasons for the high prevalence of RTIs in the country and contributes significantly to female morbidity. Lack of knowledge regarding menstruation and menstrual hygiene lead to poor attitude and practice.
There are various issues like awareness, availability and quality of napkins, regular supply, privacy, water supply, disposal of napkins, reproductive health education and family support which needs simultaneous attention for promotion of menstruated hygiene.
Common repercussions of unhealthy menstrual practices
.Irritation of the skin causes discomfort and can possibly result in dermatitis – a medical condition in which the skin swells, turns red, and at times becomes sore with blisters.
.Introduction of bacteria into the urethra may cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). It can happen anywhere in the urinary tract and can be fatal as it can even damage the kidneys if left untreated.
.Alteration of the pH of vaginal flora can happen. This can lead to changes in the environment and an increased tendency to get bacterial vaginosis. It impacts the maximum when the woman is trying to get pregnant.
Frequent episodes of such infections can lead to future consequences like difficulty in conceiving, increased risk of abortions, and preterm delivery. Hence, not maintaining proper menstrual hygiene can affect the entire reproductive career of a woman.
Hence following measures are advisable to maintain menstrual hygiene.
.Change frequently – Changing sanitary napkins or tampons within every 4-6 hours is the cardinal rule to establish vaginal hygiene.
.Washing the intimate area with the right technique: Most people wash regularly, but not the right way–which is, using your hands in motion from the vagina to the anus, not vice-versa.
.Don’t use soaps or vaginal hygiene products – Vagina will have its own cleaning mechanism which comes into play during menstrual cycles, and these artificial hygiene products can hamper the natural process leading to infections and the growth of bacteria.
.Discard the sanitary napkin properly – Disposing off your tampons and sanitary napkins properly is an important step.
.Stick to one method of sanitation – Using multiple methods can sometimes gives a false sense of low menstrual blood loss and prolonged usage of items, leading to increased chances of infection after prolonged contact.
(The wirter, Dr B Gowthami, is the consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Milann Fertility and Birthing Hospital Kumarapark, Bangalore).