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From period shaming to menstruation hygiene: 9 tips you should swear by

Not changing sanitary pads for a long time may cause UTI. ©Shutterstock

It is essential to stay clean during your menstrual cycle, to protect your genitals from infections. Here, we talk about ways to maintain hygiene during your period as our country unites to erase the stigma around menstruation.

Written by Shriya Sinha |Published : January 10, 2019 2:49 PM IST

In our country, menstruation is still a secretive affairassociated with a lot of stigma and taboos. Though India has come a long way from treating menstruating women like untouchables to the PadMan Challenge where thousands, including stars like Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar posed with sanitary napkins in their hands to erase the stigma around this natural biological process, period shaming is a truth that our country still lives with. Remember the 13-year-old girl from Joseph Matriculation School in Chennai, who committed suicide in August 2017, after her teacher scolded her for revealing a period stain? Or, the warden of Kasturba Gandhi Residential School, Muzaffarnagar, who literally forced 70 girls to strip in order to figure out who was menstruating? Even in the so-called progressive urban circles of our country, women are shut out of kitchens and prayer rooms during those days of the month. In a scenario like this, it is but too natural that menstruation hygiene is nowhere in the public radar. But unhygienic clothes, often used and reused during the menstruation cycle, not changing sanitary pads for hours, are factors that can lead to vaginal infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), etc. So it is imperative that we make conscious efforts to ensure hygiene during periods. Here are the steps you need to take.

Change your pad regularly:

Irrespective of your blood flow menstrual blood gets contaminated after meeting the body s innate organisms. The damp and moist sanitary pad when used for a long period of time, contains your genital sweat which will have organisms germinating themselves and other harmful bacteria. These can increase your risk of contracting urinary tract infection, vaginal infections, and skin rashes. "Ideally, a sanitary pad should be changed after every 6 hours, even if it not completely soaked. On heavy flow days you can change your pads more quickly," Dr. Duru Shah, Scientific Director, Gynaecworld & Gynaecworld Assisted Fertility Center. Apply an antiseptic ointment after a bath and before bed if you have got pad rashes. In severe cases, medical advice is required. You should apply the same rule while using tampons. "If not removed on time, a tampon can cause severe medical problems like sepsis and infection which can spread further," says Dr. Shah.

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Choose your methods of sanitation judiciously:

[caption id="attachment_639089" align="alignnone" width="675"]Sanitary napkins Cotton pads are less likely to give you rashes. Shutterstcok[/caption]

You can use a tampon, a sanitary napkin, or a menstrual cup during your menstrual cycle. "When using a tampon, select a narrow one. The narrower it is, the easier will it be for you to insert it and pull it out after the tampon absorbs blood and swells up. This becomes more of a concern for a girl with intact hymen," says Dr. Shah. "If you are using a sanitary napkin, opt for cotton pads instead of the ones with net or nylon at the top. Cotton pads are less likely to give you rashes as they are more absorbent," she adds. Stick to one brand to understand whether it's comfortable for your or not. When using a menstrual cup, do wash it nicely in boiling water, pat it dry and wrap it nicely before reusing it. It can invite UTIs. Therefore, be very careful and maintain the cup's hygiene properly

Clean yourself properly:

Wash your genitals frequently during the menstruation days. The area in and around your genitals should be washed thoroughly to clean the blood staining the area. This will ensure proper genital hygiene. Wash your vagina and labia (the projecting part of the female genitals) before changing into a new pad and keep it dry.

Avoid using vaginal hygiene products:

Your vagina has its own cleaning mechanism which helps to maintain its pH balance. Cleaning it with soap and vaginal hygiene products can rip it off of the good bacteria making it easy to develop infections. All you need is some lukewarm water to flush your genitals clean. Do not use soap or hygiene products inside your vagina or vulva. Just clean the external parts with it.

Use the right washing technique:

While washing, the motion should be from the vagina to the anus. If you do it in the opposite direction, germs from the anus may crawl into the vagina leading to UTI.

Stick to one method of sanitation at a time:

Do not try and use two methods of menstruation methods together. Using two pads or one pad and a tampon will make you feel the blood flow is less which can keep you from changing at regular intervals. This can result in rashes, infections and TSS (Toxic shock syndrome, a rare bacterial infection).

Avoid using two pads at a time is it may keep your clothes from staining but can lead to a very bad rash and high level of irritation.

Bathe regularly:

[caption id="attachment_639091" align="alignnone" width="675"]shower Bathing relieves menstrual cramps and backache. Shutterstcok[/caption]

There is a myth that that women should not bathe during periods. This notion was woven consciously, keeping in mind that women used to take baths in common water bodies. However, the truth remains that it is essential for women to take shower, especially during this time. Apart from cleaning, it is also known to relieve menstrual cramps and backache. Just turn on your geyser, stand stand under a shower of warm water and direct the water towards your back and abdomen. Bathing boosts your mood too.

Dispose your pads properly:

Discard your used pads and tampons properly by wrapping them in a waste paper as they can also spread infections. Do not flush your napkin or tampon. Keep the toilet clean by clearing off blood spots. Also, it is very important to wash your hands well after discarding the pad or tampon. Use a hand sanitiser after washing your hands.

Be prepared for your periods:

Always keep extra sanitary pads or tampons in a clean pouch or paper bag. Have these in your bag: Wipes, soft towels, a hand sanitiser, and a snack that gives you your energy back in case you feel weak.

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