Menstruation is a taboo topic and hence, awareness about menstrual hygiene is also considered to be a taboo subject in most parts of the world. In fact there are numerous myths surrounding menstruation hygiene all over the world. But when it comes to India, myths such as not showering during menstruation to avoid taking a head bath during periods are some of the common hygiene related myths which are strictly followed.
Due to lack of menstruation awareness and the importance of proper hygiene during periods, women in many parts of India, use old cloth during menstruation. These include used bedsheets, sarees, or undergarments which are washed and reused many times before throwing it away. The fact that there are no proper hygiene facilities or water available in most of the places indicate that these cloth pads are used for days at a stretch in some areas.
Studies have shown that more than 77% of girls and women in India use an old cloth, which is often reused during menstruation. In rural India, there are more than 88% of women who resort to other means during menstruation. These include the use of ashes, newspapers, husk, sand or dried leaves during periods to aid the absorption of period blood. This is only because of the lack of menstruation awareness and hygiene products which are currently available.
These hygiene issues relating to girls and menstruation can impact the overall health of the girls. Due to poor protection and inadequate washing facilities, there is an increased susceptibility to infection. Lack of proper hygiene and sanitation can increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infection along with risk of infection spreading to other parts of body and low immunity.
Also, the odor of menstrual blood can also put the girls at risk of being stigmatized, which in turn may have significant implications on their mental health. Moreover, the lack of adequate menstrual protection alternatives and/or clean, safe and private sanitation facilities for women and girls, especially in rural areas undermine the right of privacy. These factors are not taken into account when it comes to menstruation awareness and its detrimental effect on the overall health of a woman including her social, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
The first and foremost strategy in this regard is raising the awareness among the adolescent girls related to menstrual health and hygiene. Young girls often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation because their mothers and other women shy away from discussing the issues with them. Adult women may themselves not be aware of the biological facts or good hygienic practices, instead they pass on cultural taboos and restrictions. But the need of the hour is to educate girls and women about the importance of menstrual hygiene through school programs, teachers and communities along with ensuring easy availability of menstrual hygiene products. These include the use of cloth pads, sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups, which are not only easy to use but also provide comfort and safety during periods.
Change sanitary pads at regular intervals such as every 3 to 4 hours.
Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 6-12 hours depending on the menstrual blood flow. Empty the contents of the menstrual cup, wash it with soap and hot water and insert it again. Change tampons every few hours (preferably every 5-6 hours). If you experience rash or itching in the vaginal area, do consult your doctor. Follow these simple menstrual hygiene tips to stay safe and healthy during periods.