Hitting puberty marks the beginning of a new phase in life for every person. The onset of periods or menstruation can brings about many physical and emotional changes. Embracing these changes needs to come with a fair share of awareness. Knowing about a healthy period cycle and how to maintain menstrual hygiene is a part and parcel of this.
Menstruation is the medical term for a monthly period flow which persons with a uterus go through. This is a natural biological phenomenon. The blood that the body sheds is the innermost lining of the uterus with mucus during reproductive years. During these days of the month, women or menstruators need to be extra cautious of their vaginal hygiene. To this end, they need to follow some basic ways to stay clean during periods.
“When moisture comes in constant contact with the skin, personal hygiene helps in keeping infections at bay,” Dr Rubina Shanawaz Z, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Uro Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru, tells Health Shots.
Tips to maintain menstrual hygiene
According to the expert, these are some of the top tips to keep period hygiene in check during menstruation.
1. Choose your period product smartly
The market has a wide variety of period products to choose from – from sanitary napkins and menstrual cups to tampons to period underwears, each one of them come in various materials ranging from synthetic to biodegradable.
Talking about the products, Dr Rubina says, “If you use a sanitary napkin, a biodegradable fabric is recommended. The menstrual cup is the most eco-friendly and versatile menstrual hygiene product.The initial fitting and the process of getting used to is where most women shy away from using the menstrual cup (click here to know some menstrual cup myths).”
As for the tampon, she says it is an absorbable insert as opposed to the menstrual cup which doesn’t absorb but retains the menstrual fluid. Period underwear, she says, is recommended for young girls of puberty age.
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2. Change period products
Whatever be the choice of sanitary product, the doctor recommends you to change it at a maximum of 4 to 8 hours. “This should be done based on the type of product and flow in order to prevent moisture retention and foul odour. If period flow is heavy,changing more often is advised,” she says.
3. Menstrual product disposal or cleaning
Your work doesn’t end at using a period product. An important part of maintaining menstrual hygiene is to know how to dispose off sanitary pads or tampons. “While disposing off a pad, care must be taken to wrap it in a cover or newspaper and discard in the appropriate trash bin. Never flush a pad down the toilet,” reminds the doctor.
If you use a menstrual cup, sterilising the cup is very essential at the end of every period. During the period, wash it well after every use.
4. Maintain proper hand hygiene
The importance of hand hygiene is very important for overall health in general. But before and after handling period products, you must ensure cleaning your hands well. “Wash your hands after using the restroom and before using the menstrual product,” suggests Dr Rubina. Here are some tips on how to wash your hands.
5. Wear breathable clothes
Wearing underwear in loose and breathable fabric will help you keep your menstrual hygiene in check. “Prolonged use of tight and synthetic undergarments can trap bacteria and lead to yeast infections,” she says.
6. Know how to wash your intimate areas
Always wash your private parts from front backwards and never the other way around, especially to maintain menstrual hygiene. Also, know the structure of your private parts well. The outer and inner lips which cover your vagina are called the vulva. It is sufficient to clean the vulva with plain water.
“Excess use of chemicals or pH altering products are not needed as the inner vagina is a self-cleansing organ. Stripping it of its natural protective bacteria will lead to frequent vaginal infections and consequently urinary infections,” adds the doctor, explaining the right way to wash the vagina.
Menstruation problems which may need a doctor’s attention
According to Dr Rubina, if you have excessive bleeding in the form of quantity or duration, it is best to consult your gynaecologist to rule out any issue with your uterus. You must do the same even in the case of foul-smelling or off-coloured vaginal discharge. She also recommends a regular gynae check-up with PAP smears to prevent any unforeseen issues.