One might think there is something wrong with the world when people see menstruation as a problem. Menstruation is a biological process which is directly proportional to the well-being and dignity of half our world’s population.
When a girl has a period for the first time, it is a distinct step into womanhood. There are a number of myths surrounding a girl’s periods and most of them are based on the fact that the girl is ‘unclean’ during those days. This belief stems from a time when women did not have the sanitary measures we have today. They would use old cloth as napkins and often had to wash and reuse them, apart from that they did not have access to running water and the kind of soaps we have today. All this along with a misguided understanding of a woman’s body and its method of functioning has lead to a large number of myths like not going near a holy place, not being allowed into the kitchen to even absolute seclusion during those days of the month. Times have changed and so have we. EHC brings you how you can stay clean and hygienic during your periods with some home remedies to reduce menstrual pain.
As a first step, choose the right method for sanitation during your periods. Today there are a number of ways including the use of sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups to stay clean. In India, most unmarried girls prefer to use sanitary napkins. If you do decide to use a tampon remember that it is essential to choose one that has the lowest absorbency rate for your flow. During this time it is essential to realize that it does take time for one to get used to using a sanitary pad or tampon. Try and use one brand for one type of protection, for a while to know if it helps your needs. Frequent switching between brands can make you uncomfortable since they suit everyone differently.
It is important to change your sanitary pad, tampon or menstrual cup regularly. The standard time for a sanitary pad is once every six hours, while for a tampon is once every two hours. While some women might have a heavy flow and would need to change more often, others will need to change less frequently. There are a few instances where your sanitary napkin or tampon might not be completely used – usually on days when you have a lesser flow – but you must change at regular intervals.
Sanitary napkins are made of cotton wool and gel. When you bleed into one, most of the blood gets soaked in, but at a certain point the pad gets saturated and may leak. Another consideration is that menstrual blood – once it has left the body – gets contaminated with the body’s innate organisms.
Wash yourself regularly
It is important to wash your vagina and labia well before you change into a new pad. If you cannot wash yourself before you change make sure to wipe off the areas using toilet paper or tissue. When you menstruate, the blood tends to enter tiny spaces like the skin between your labia or crust around the opening of the vagina and you should always wash this excess blood away. This practice also tends to beat bad odor from the vaginal region.
Don’t use soaps or vaginal hygiene products
While it is important to wash yourself regularly during this time, all you need to use is some warm water. You can use soap on the external parts but do not use it inside your vagina or vulva. The vagina has its own cleaning mechanism that works in a very fine balance of good and bad bacteria. Washing it with soap can kill the good bacteria making way for infections.
Discard your used sanitary product properly
Whether you are using a sanitary napkin, tampon or menstrual cup, it is important to know how to dispose of it correctly. Always wrap the used product in waste paper or put it in a plastic bag. Properly wrap it so that it does not open and discard it in a dustbin meant for used sanitary products. Do not throw it without a wrapping or bag, do not leave it on the window sill or on the floor of the toilet and finally, never flush it down the toilet. It is essential to discard your used napkins or tampons properly because they are capable of spreading infections, will smell very foul and is just disgusting for the person using the washroom after you.
Caring for pad rash
A pad rash is something that you might experience during a period of heavy flow. It usually occurs when the pad has been wet for a long time and rubs along the thighs causing it to chaff. To prevent this from occurring, try to stay dry during your periods. If you do have a rash, change your pads regularly and stay dry. Apply an antiseptic ointment, after a bath and before bed. This will heal the rash and prevent further chaffing. If it gets worse do visit your doctor who will be able to prescribe you a medicated powder that can keep the area dry.
To some it may seem like the most inane advice, but in some cultures it is believed that a woman should not bathe during her periods. This myth was based on the fact that in the olden days women had to bathe in the open or in common water bodies like a river or lake. But with indoor plumbing having a bath is the best thing you can do for your body during your periods.
Bathing not only cleanses your body but also gives you a chance to clean your private parts well. It also helps relieve menstrual cramps, backaches, helps improve your mood and makes you feel less bloated.
Keep the extra stuff
When you have your periods it is important to be ready. It is important to have extra sanitary pads or tampons properly stored in a clean pouch or paper bag, a soft towel, some paper tissues or towels, hand sanitizer, a healthy snack, bottle of drinking water, a tube of antiseptic medication (if you are using one).
Changing your pads/ tampons regularly is essential, so you will need extra. More importantly storing them properly so that they don’t get contaminated is as important as changing. Pads or tampons that remain in your bag without a clean pouch to protect it can also lead to infections like UTI (urinary tract infection) or vaginal infections. The soft towel can be used to wipe your hands or face if you wash them. Paper towels are the important to wipe off the excess water after you wash your private parts.
It is important to understand that menstruation is a sign of fertility and good health. We need to make sure it is managed hygienically and safely.