HYDERABAD: Ahead of World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), CE speaks to doctors who stress on breaking taboos surrounding menstruation and raise awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management
How often do you hear menstrual hygiene being talked about, openly? Or when was the last time menstruation was even mentioned without a whisper, in those hushed tones? Ahead of World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28), doctors in the city say it is high time we raise awareness about menstrual health and break out of taboos.
Menstruation is a naturally occurring physiological phenomenon in adolescent girls and pre-menopausal women. For them, menstrual hygiene management must be easy and affordable. “It is something as simple as possessing clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials. These are a necessity and a healthcare right,” asserts Dr Bhagya Lakshmi S, consultant obstetrics, gynaecologist & laparoscopic surgeon at Yashoda Hospital, Secunderabad.
Discussions on menstrual hygiene are important for adolescent girls to clarify existing myths and misconceptions around menstruation. “It also reduces the likelihood of infections resulting from poor hygiene practices during menstruation. Providing girls with knowledge and skills on maintaining menstrual hygiene improves school attendance among girls, who otherwise may not drop out of school. Basic understanding of menstruation is essential to begin with, to be comfortable and make choices around it,” Dr Bhagya says, stressing that menstruation is part of every woman’s life and there should be no shame or embarrassment around it: “There is no impurity or pollution associated with menstruation. Menstruation should not be seen as an obstacle to daily activities. Practices such as seclusion or staying away from school must be discouraged.”
The preference of sanitary protection material, docs say, is based on personal choice, cultural acceptability, economic status, and availability in the local market. There are options in this regard such as — reusable and washable cloth pads, commercial sanitary pads, tampons, reusable tampons, menstrual cups, bamboo fibre/banana fibre pads/water hyacinth pads, etc.
Listing some of the most important things for girls and women to keep in mind during their cycle, Dr Bhagya says, “Once wet, the napkin should be changed immediately. If not, it can cause irritation on the inside of the thighs and can lead to infections. Sanitary napkins should be kept in a clean and dry place. If using a menstrual cup, it should always be removed by 12 hours. If it becomes full before then, it needs to be emptied ahead of schedule to avoid leaks. It is essential to wash the body and private parts daily.”
She adds that during menstruation, the outer genitals should be washed from front to back and not the other way round. And finally, safe disposal of sanitary napkins and disposable cups is important. “Where there are facilities for regular garbage removal, girls should be encouraged to wrap the used napkin/cup in an old newspaper and throw them into dustbins which are emptied daily. Throwing away used napkins under bushes or out in the open is not appropriate. Sanitary material, if collected in one place for a long time, begins to emit bad odour, and become a site where bacteria can multiply. They can also block drains and cause problems with sanitation.”
Dr Sarada Saranu, senior gynaecologist at Kamineni Hospitals, King Koti, adds, “Avoid use of deodorants on the external genitalia which can cause change of local pH and predispose to infections which is loose hilting. Use of cotton innerwear helps in absorption of moisture and helps in preventing infections. Also, avoid wearing tint, synthetic material.”
Dr A Shanti, consultant gynaecologist at Global hospital, Lakdikapul says that menstrual hygiene is important to keep several dangerous diseases at bay: “Good hygiene prevents so many problems like Pelvic inflammatory disease, cervicitis, vaginitis and urethritis. All these problems are due to infections which may lead to pain in the abdomen, irregular periods, white discharge and burning sensation. Hence, it’s important we create awareness about menstrual hygiene right from school and college.”