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India, a land of culture which is developing at a very fast pace in every field, be it education, employment, economy, IT sector, still to this day lacks behind in giving access and knowledge to everyone about menstrual hygiene and care. In many parts of the country, menstruation and everything related to it is still a taboo and women are treated differently when on periods. This is the reason why several menstruating females in India don't have access to proper menstrual hygiene products. It is quite concerning as it makes women prone to many severe and fatal diseases because of poor menstrual practices.
According to studies, poor menstrual hygiene is responsible for almost 70 per cent of reproductive illnesses in Indian women. If sufficient hygienic precautions are not taken, one can experience serious health hazards like:
Soiled menstrual blood products serve as breeding grounds for pathogens such as Salmonella, Staphylococcus and E. coli. These bacteria can proliferate quickly in the reproductive system, beginning with the cervix and progressing higher. They can enter the circulation immediately through the very permeable mucosal barrier. This can result in sepsis and other complications. Dangerous bacteria can also infiltrate the vaginal system and produce Reproductive Tract Infection. Not changing sanitary napkins on a regular basis can increase moisture retention and hasten the growth of hazardous bacteria.
The pH of the vaginal area can be altered by a contaminated substance. This alters the microbiology of the region, raising the risk of bacterial vaginosis. Women suffering from RTI commonly display vaginal itching, back discomfort, stomach pain, pustules over genitalia, and abnormal genital discharge.
UTI is very prevalent among women who practice bad menstrual hygiene due to any reason. In periods when cleanliness is impaired, it is one of the most significant health dangers. When hazardous bacteria enter the urinary system, they can irritate the mucosal area and cause infection. If left untreated, it might progress to a severe problem.
UTI during menstruation is caused by improper cleaning of external genitalia, washing with merely water, washing genitalia from back to front, and using unsanitary absorbents.
Improper menstrual hygiene can cause Candidiasis, a type of yeast infection. Nearly every woman at some point in her life is affected by Yeast infection. It is a fungal infection. Vagina has its own biome with healthy bacteria to keep the balance, but when your immunity is insufficient, fungus strikes and outgrows the rest of the organisms, resulting in an infection.
Poor menstrual hygiene like neglecting to wash hands after changing your pad can lead to spread of infections like hepatitis B and also thrush. Therefore, it is important to properly wash hands with soap and water after and before replacing sanitary pads.
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix or uterine opening caused mostly by the Human Papillomavirus. Every year, 132000 Indian women are diagnosed with it. Although it is a rarity, unhygienic menstrual practices can lead to cervical cancer as increased incidence of UTIs and RTIs can make you susceptible to it.
Maintenance of proper menstrual hygiene can protect women from several health issues. There is a serious need to make menstrual hygiene products accessible to all women in the country and creating awareness around menstrual hygiene.
Living under shame and suffering in silence all because of a process which is very natural and gives women the power to reproduce, should not be done. All women should know the importance of menstrual hygiene and using good quality sanitary products to ensure their wellbeing.
The article is written by Dr. Swetha M.P, Consultant - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, HRBR Layout, Bangalore.
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