Menstrual Hygiene Management

Dr. Sapna Gupta
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) is an annual awareness day celebrated every year on 28th May across the globe with exhibitions, film screenings, workshops and gatherings. It was initiated by German based NGO WASH in 2014. Selection of this date has symbolic meaning that May is the 5th month of the year and women menstruate an average of five days every month and the menstrual cycle repeats after every 28 days (so, 28th May).
The main AIM of this day is to publicly recognize the right of women and girls to hygienically manage their menstruation and to acknowledge that menstruation is a normal human process and a sign of good health. Menstrual Hygiene Day confronts the stigmas attached to menstruation with collective advocacy, education and action.
Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is defined as women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect menstrual blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of a menstrual period using soap and water for washing the body as required and having access to facilities to dispose off used menstrual management materials. It is an essential aspect of hygiene for women and adolescent girls between menarche and menopause. Despite being an important issue concerning women and girls in the menstruating age group, MHM is often overlooked.
Importance of MHM
* Good personal hygiene will keep you confident about yourself & your body
* Important for your wellbeing & overall development
* Ensures that your everyday life is not interrupted
* You can continue with your daily routine such as going to school, going to work, doing household chores.
* Prevents against various infections, local itching & bad odour
* Sanitary napkins – most preferred
* Cloth
* Menstrual cup
* Tampons.
Sanitary napkins manufactured by multinational companies like Stayfree, Carefree, Whisper, Kotex etc are available in the market. They come in different shapes, styles, absorbencies for light and heavy days of menstrual bleeding. Choosing the “right” pad is really a personal preference and not determined by age. Many girls do prefer to use thin and ultra thin pads because they are thinner and more discreet than thick ones. They may prefer wings variety with super absorbent gel too.
Advantages of sanitary napkins
* They can be used and disposed off in a much easier way as compared to cloth
* They have absorbent material layer which provides a dry feeling
* They decrease the chances of infections
* Helps in mobility and ease of doing daily routine work
They should be changed after every six to eight hours, at least once a day and in case of heavy bleeding, after every four to six hours.
Disposal of the napkins is also important. They should be wrapped in a newspaper and then thrown in the dustbin (not in toilet particularly water closet as it may clog and cause plumbing problem). If not disposed properly, it will be a sore sight, will attract flies and insects and will lead to transmission of Hepatitis B and C.
If cloth is to be used
* It should be dry, soft, absorbant and clean
* It must be washed thoroughly and dried in private but sunny place
* After drying it should be ironed and stored in clean and dry place
* After multiple use ( say three months), it should be disposed off
* Do not share this cloth with anyone
General hygiene measures that should be followed are:
* Take bath daily as taking a warm water bath would ensure that there is some relief to the aches and pains associated with menstruation
* Ensure that undergarments and sweat drenched clothes are changed regularly
* Cotton undergarments are preferred over synthetic ones as synthetic ones do not absorb moisture and heat, making it a breeding ground for bacteria
* Change the napkins regularly
* Wash the genital area after each use of the toilet, also after urination
* Keep the area between the legs dry to avoid soreness and chaffing
* Drink plenty of water for good amount of urine
* Do not hold back urine when you want to urinate, as it causes stasis in the bladder and promotes infection
* A balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is required
* Adolescent girls have high needs of energy and require diet rich in iron (green leafy vegetables, cereals, nuts, lever, meat) and calcium as calcium helps to prevent premenstrual syndrome
* Foods to be avoided during periods are carbonated drinks, processed food, fried foods, refined grains, high fat foods, caffeine and high salt
* Eating a small quantity of high quality chocolate (>65% of cocoa) is advocated as chocolate contains magnesium which can help alleviate the cramps and increases energy. It also contains endorphins or happy hormones which can improve your mood
* Keep to a regular sleeping schedule, consistent sleep and wake times can help control excessive fatigue and insomnia
* Get a moderate amount of exercise , brisk walk, yoga or meditation as they all release endorphins
Some tips to prevent vaginal infections
* Keep the vagina clean by washing regularly with a gentle, mild soap and warm water
* Never use scented soaps and feminine products or douche, avoid sprays and bubble baths
* Always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection
* Avoid overly tight clothing, wear 100% cotton undergarments
* Change tampons and pads often during periods
* Use mild soaps/ detergents for cleaning undergarments
* Avoid irritants like dettol/savlon for cleaning
* Talk friendly with your doctor about any odds
Key message
Menstruation is a periodic event and therefore dealing with it hygienically by sanitary napkins or clean cloth is important to prevent reproductive tract infections (ultimately leading to PID, infertility and ectopic pregnancy) and urinary tract infections.
(The author is gynecologist and pharmacologist, Asstt. Prof., Pharmacology, GMC, Jammu.)