Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed on May 28th, highlights the critical importance of proper menstrual hygiene management. The health, happiness, and empowerment of women and girls all suffer as a result of improper management of menstrual hygiene. Menstruation is a natural and normal process experienced by females, yet societal taboos, cultural beliefs, and limited access to resources often lead to inadequate practices. According to the most recent National Family Health Survey (2020-21), more than 30 % of women between the ages of 15 and 24 do not use hygienic methods of protection during their menstrual period.
Insufficient knowledge and poor hygiene during menstruation can result in various health issues. On this day, it is crucial to shed light on the consequences of improper menstrual hygiene management and its impact on women’s health. By raising awareness and promoting proper menstrual hygiene, we can empower women to lead healthier and more confident lives. (Also read: Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023: Date, history, significance, theme, tips for menstrual hygiene )
Consequences of improper menstrual hygiene on women’s health:
Dr. Prajwala Addagatla, Gynaecologist and Medical Advisor at Democratic Sangha, shares with HT Lifestyle, five consequences of improper menstrual hygiene management and tips to improve it.
1. Increased chances of catching an infection
Maintaining inadequate hygiene during the times of periods has higher chances of developing or catching infections which can have a long-lasting impact on the health of a woman. Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections are some of the basic catch that a woman can develop, which result from bacterial proliferation and moisture.
Therefore, it is only important to understand that a woman should be aware that changing a sanitary napkin or product every 4-6 hours is not only necessary but crucial to maintaining her hygiene. If reusable items are used, they must be carefully cleaned using warm water and properly dried, before it is put back to use.
2. Irritation, itching, and rashes in the vaginal area
Another thing that a woman should be educated on is that longer use of a napkin or any sanitary product can develop itching, rashes, and skin irritation. Redness and pain can result from rubbing your skin against a damp surface. In addition, poor-quality sanitary products with inadequate ventilation and absorbency can invite fungal infection.
Therefore, it is mandatory that the right awareness should be separated from time to time, educating a woman on picking the right sanitary items with adequate absorbency and breathability, which can help in avoiding skin discomfort. Additionally, maintaining cleanliness may be achieved by practising proper personal hygiene, which includes bathing the vaginal area with mild soap and water during menstruation time.
3. Reproductive health issues
A pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or endometriosis can develop as a result of infections, brought by improper management of menstrual hygiene, that extend to the reproductive organs. These ailments can result in long-term repercussions such as persistent discomfort, problems with fertility, and others. Menstruator need to put good hygiene practices to use if they want to protect their reproductive health. In addition, they ought to get medical help right away if they experience any signs of discomfort or feel issues, like excruciating pelvic discomfort, odd bleeding, or strange/ abnormal discharge.
4. Regular hand hygiene
It is very much important to understand that maintaining clean hands is essential, not only during the time periods but for your general health as well. You must be sure to thoroughly clean your hands for at least two minutes, both before and after using/ changing a period product, to avoid the risk of yeast infection or Hepatitis B.
5. Causes disturbances in daily routines and tasks
Improper menstrual hygiene management can hinder women’s daily activities, both at personal and professional levels. The fear of leakage or embarrassment may prevent women from engaging fully in their regular routines, leading to a negative impact on their overall well-being. To ensure active participation, women should be aware of carefully selecting menstrual products that suit their needs and preferences. It is also essential to provide adequate sanitation facilities, including clean toilets with running water and disposal systems, in workplaces, schools, and public spaces.
Talking about inadequate menstrual hygiene practices in India, Brahmachari Chaitanya, Founder of Democratic Sangha (an NGO dedicated to breaking taboos and promoting menstrual hygiene), shared with HT Lifestyle, “In India, women, especially in the rural areas, lack essential services like access to clean washrooms or the easy availability of menstrual products that are affordable. Plus, these women due to lack of awareness, also seldom pay attention to maintaining basic hygiene, which means many go without using proper sanitary wear, during the times of periods. Talking about menstruation is still frowned upon in rural Indian villages and therefore, many women still shy away from discussing personal matters, which makes it even more difficult for them to learn about it. Promoting period positivity among people is therefore obvious in this situation.”
“The inability to manage menstruation hygienically can lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment, and low self-esteem. Moreover, societal taboos and inadequate knowledge about menstruation can contribute to the stigmatization of women during their periods. To address these issues, it is crucial to promote awareness programs, making both men and women aware of it, thereby breaking the silence around menstruation. Creating supportive environments where women can openly discuss their menstrual health and providing access to affordable and hygienic menstrual products can help alleviate the psychological distress and social stigma associated with menstruation,” concludes Brahmachari.