It is an annual awareness day observed on May 28 to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management. It was initiated by a German-based NGO WASH United in 2014 and aims to benefit the women and girls across the world.
Menstruation is an important event in the life of a girl, both biologically and emotionally. Adolescent girl of ages 10-16 years starts getting their menstrual cycles which continues for a major part of their life, till 47-52 years of age. It is a normal process where every girl bleeds for 3-5 days and experiences different body aches, pains, and mood swings. But it is considered a taboo in maximum places all over the world and people do not talk openly about it. As a result, no access to menstrual hygiene is the fifth biggest killer of women in the world.
In India, 23 million women drop out of school once they start menstruating due to the unavailability of proper sanitation facilities in the schools. A 2014 UNICEF Report pointed out that 79% of girls and women in Tamil Nadu were unaware of menstrual hygiene practices.
The release of Akshay Kumar starrer Padman in 2018, further awareness spread between men and women in the society. Still, India has a long way to go as several thousand women still use rags, leaves, and other unsanitary substances during the periods to check the flow of blood.
Here are some tips which every woman should follow to maintain menstrual hygiene:
CHANGE YOUR PAD EVERY FEW HOURS
If you are using a sanitary pad during your periods to check the flow of blood, remember to change it often. When the flow is heavier, during the first two days, try changing your sanitary pad every four hours. After the flow reduces, do not wear the same sanitary pad for more than eight hours at a stretch. Remember to change it.
CLEAN REUSABLE PADS THOROUGHLY
There are many pads available in the market which are reusable. If you use these, remember to clean them thoroughly after every use to eliminate any source of germs or infection of any kind. Do not use these pads after the said number of uses and follow the instructions to the core.
KEEP YOUR VAGINAL AREA CLEAN
It is extremely important that you keep your vaginal area clean, more so during periods because of the flow of blood. To wash the area, use warm water and diluted soap. There are many vaginal washes available in the market, use them to keep your vagina healthy. These washes are not necessary for most women as the vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism.
NEVER USE TWO PADS SIMULTANEOUSLY
Some people believe that wearing two pads is better than one. Women with heavier flows, generally, tend to do this to control the flow and prevent the staining of clothes. This is a bad idea as it can result in infections around the vaginal area. Try sticking to one pad at once and keep changing it if the flow is more.
WEAR CLEAN AND COMFORTABLE UNDERWEAR
Wearing comfortable and clean underwear is as important as changing sanitary pads frequently. Underwear made of such fabric in which you cannot breathe or tight thongs can also lead to infections. Try wearing cotton knickers that will not stick to your skin.
DISCARD THE SANITARY NAPKIN PROPERLY
The disposal of sanitary pads and tampons is an important step. To make sure that the bacteria and infections do not spread, wrap the pads properly before throwing them away. Do not flush the pad as it will block the toilet and cause the water to back up while spreading infections all over the toilet seat. After you have wrapped and discarded the pads and tampons, wash your hands properly since you are likely to have touched the stained areas while wrapping.
BEWARE OF PAD RASH
You might experience a pad rash during heavy flow days. It usually happens when you have not changed the pad for a long time and therefore when the wet pad chafes against the thighs, rashes occur. To prevent this from happening, change pads regularly, and stay dry.
HAVE A BATH REGULARLY
Bathing regularly will help you maintain personal hygiene. It is also helpful in relieving menstrual cramps, backaches, and helps in the improvement of the mood and will make you feel less bloated.
88% of women do not have access to the basic forms of menstrual protection like sanitary napkins, tampons, and menstrual cups. Using old clothes and other traditional unsafe methods to deal with menstruation hampers the mobility of women and their day to day activity. It results in them missing out on work, schools along with other daily commitments.
To provide women low-cost sanitary napkins, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has taken positive steps and integrated Menstrual Health Management (MHM) into its schemes. It has motivated several businesses to develop machines that can produce low-cost sanitary napkins.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has introduced a scheme for the promotion of menstrual hygiene among girls of 10-19 years of age in rural areas. The scheme aims at increasing the awareness of menstrual hygiene, making sanitary pads available to all the girls and women and finally, ensuring their safe disposal in an eco-friendly manner.
To ensure that awareness is widespread, the mothers should be made aware first as they are one of the first people with whom a girl comes in contact during her first period. If a girl child is made aware of the facts relating to periods since the very beginning, it becomes easier for her to maintain menstrual hygiene.
Schools also must start awareness for their children. They should teach their students about what is menstruation and it’s biological procedure. This education should be given to both boys and girls as it is necessary for both to be aware to make a healthy society.
On a final note, the entire society should come up as a whole and try to talk about menstruation more openly to remove this societal taboo associated with women. All the mothers should take initiative to educate both the girls and the boys about menstruation so that no girl feels awkward about her biological process. We should pledge that we will not let any girl drop out of education at her menarche and will create a safe and secure environment for them.
I find my solace in reading and trying my hand at writing.