Menstruation, also known as a period, is a healthy biological process whereby vaginal bleeding occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle.
Menstrual hygiene management practices vary depending on a woman’s socio-cultural context, religious or educational background and economic status.
Maintaining proper menstrual hygiene is vital to the health, well-being, mobility, and productivity of women and girls.
How to maintain hygiene during menstruation
- Take a bath at least once a day, use clean underwear and change pads or tampons regularly. Keeping pads for too long will lead to chafing, skin infection and vaginal infections.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing, rather than jeans or tight-fitting during periods. This will ensure air flow around the sensitive areas as well as prevent sweating to a large extent.
- Make sure that you wash your hands with warm water and soap after changing your pad/tampon/menstrual cup.
- Always pat the vaginal area dry after every wash to reduce the risk of irritation.
- Always wash or wipe the genitals from front to back. This is important because cleaning in the opposite direction can make way for bacteria from the anus to enter the vagina and urethral opening, leading to infection.
Importance of menstrual hygiene
1. Reduces the risk of infection
Using damp and dirty menstrual clothes or using a sanitary towel for longer than 4 hours can act as a perfect environment for growth and multiplication of harmful bacteria and yeasts leading to infection in the urinary tract.
Keeping tampons too long inside the body can cause a condition called TSS or toxic shock syndrome – a severe infection that can send your body into shock. It requires immediate medical attention.
2. Reduces incidences of rashes
Changing your sanitary pad regularly will prevent prolonged wetness which leads to skin irritation or infection. If sanitary pads are not changed regularly, it can also cause the skin around your vagina to be infected with bacteria or fungus leading to painful rashes.
3. Promotes good reproductive health
Reproductive tract infections that result from poor hygiene during menstruation can lead to damage of the uterine walls, ovaries or fallopian tubes. This can adversely affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant or having a safe delivery.
4. Continuity of normal life
In many Kenyan communities, menstruation is associated with a lot of stigma among women and girls (stress, fear, embarrassment, and social exclusion) due to their inability to manage their menstruation.
With training on proper hygiene practices incidences of school absenteeism among school going girls, incidences of bad odour and staining of clothes can be prevented.
5. Minimizes the risk of cervical cancer
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – a sexually transmitted infection – which causes cervical cancer can be spread through unhygienic handling of menstrual waste. Some of the instances it can be spread include sharing of reusable sanitary pads or cups, not washing hands after changing sanitary pads etc.
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