While growing, did you ever wonder how babies came to be? And when you came across an adolescent or a woman with menstrual products, I am sure you thought within you: “why is she wearing pampers?” The growth process continued, and sooner than you thought, the need for the use of what seemingly looked like ‘pampers’ to you became clearer. You became acquainted with the name- Menstruation, formally or informally.
Over the years, people have coined different coded names for periods/menstruation such as ‘Visit from Aunty Flo’, ‘Checking into the Red Roof Inn’, ‘Moon time’, ‘On the Rag’, ‘National Anthem’, ‘Mr. Red’, and so on.
So, what exactly is Menstruation, and why is it important to maintain Menstrual Hygiene?
Menstruation, otherwise known as a period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Every month, the woman’s body prepares for pregnancy, and if no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining and releases blood via the vagina. The menstrual cycle, on the other hand, is the monthly hormonal cycle a female’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. A typical cycle is 28 days; however, it varies from woman to woman. Your period is still regular if it comes every 21-35 days. Menstrual hygiene is a hygienic practice during menstruation that can prevent women from infection in the reproductive and urinary tract. It is of great necessity to uphold hygienic practices during menstruation, as they may increase the risk of Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs). Lack of awareness and proper education on menstruation and menstrual hygiene practices leaves women/girls with adopting poor practices that can, in turn, be detrimental to their health.
The following are common effects as a result of poor menstrual hygiene practice:
- Irritation of the skin that may result in dermatitis
- Introduction of bacteria into the urethra causing urinary tract infections. This may also get into the bladder and may also cause kidney damage if it is not properly treated.
- Alteration of vaginal flora may put you at risk of bacterial vaginosis. Although bacterial vaginosis (BV) isn’t necessarily harmful in itself, a woman who experiences this is at higher risk for more serious infections like human papillomavirus (HPV), and herpes simplex virus.
It is therefore important to note that when episodes of these infections occur, they can have a resultant effect on conceiving, increased risk of abortions, and preterm delivery. In other words, not maintaining proper menstrual hygiene can negatively alter the reproductive journey of a woman.
Routine practices to achieving optimal menstrual health:
- Regular change– sanitary materials should be changed regularly within 4-6 hours. This is the central rule to initiate vaginal hygiene. Menstrual blood naturally attracts organisms that can multiply in the warmth of blood, thereby causing skin irritation, rashes, or even urinary tract infections. And as such, frequent change of sanitary towels can help to curb the growth of these organisms.
- Proper wash– proper wash and frequent change of materials are independent of each other. The vagina should be carefully washed after changing each sanitary material. In addition, the washing must be done in the right order from vagina-to-anus and not vice versa. Washing from anus-to-vagina can allow for the transmission of bacteria from the anus into the vagina and urethra which can result in urinary tract infection.
- Avoid soaps and vaginal hygiene products: while the idea of vaginal hygiene products is commendable, the vagina naturally has its cleaning mechanism which comes into play during the menstrual cycle. Therefore, the use of soaps/products can alter the PH of the vagina which can then be in favor of bacterial growth.
- Proper waste disposal- it is wrong to remove sanitary pads, towels, or tampons without proper disposal. Wrap up/roll up used materials from one end to the other and enclose them in another paper or nylon to contain the odor and bacteria. It is also wrong to flush used pads because the water from the closet claps back, allowing for a spread of bacteria all over. It can also block toilet plumbing. You can as well get special waste nylon for your used sanitary. On a final note, wash your hands properly and with soap and water after disposing of used materials.
In conclusion, for women and girls, menstruation is a life-long subject matter, and gradually the roles we pick up in handling our hygiene become a lifestyle. It is therefore of necessity to adhere strictly to hygienic practices as they, in turn, play crucial roles in our reproductive life.