Understanding some of the preconceptions and doubts about menstrual hygiene, shared below is a guide for every woman in doubts.
Disposable sanitary napkins or pads: These come in varying shapes, sizes and fabrics. Cotton pads have an absorbent cellulose core. They keep the area dry, cause less skin irritation and avoid rashes. Gel pads have a liquid polymer that turns into gel. Plastic or Synthetic pads have harmful effects as they contain a chemical called dioxin, which gets released on bleaching of rayon, a synthetic absorbent. Silicon or latex content of the pad may cause skin allergies or rashes. It is advisable to change pads every 6 hours or earlier, if the flow is heavy for good hygiene.
Reusable sanitary napkins: They can be washed and reused for approximately 2 years. Additionally, these are less irritating for the skin as they are made from layers of cloth. Further, these options are more economical and easily disposable.
Tampons: They have the same mechanism as pads. Tampons need to be worn inside the vagina, as they absorb blood before it flows out of the body . One should change them every 6 hours or earlier. Tampons can be used by young adolescents too, if comfortable with insertion, especially those engaged in sports. However, they can be disastrous when forgotten inside, as they cause staphylococcal infection if not changed frequently. To minimise risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) avoid wearing a tampon while sleeping at night and post delivery.
Menstrual cups: These are made of silicon rubber, and need to be placed inside the vagina. It collects the blood rather than absorbing it. The cup needs to be emptied every 12 hours or earlier depending upon the flow. After emptying, wash with soap and water and reinsert. These might be difficult to use in a public toilet where the sink is in an open space rather than inside the cubicle. They are easy to store and reuse. After a period, the cup needs to be washed with soap and water followed by sterilisation in boiling water and then stored till the next cycle. One cup can be used safely upto 5 years. Finally, these can be used by IntraUterine Device users too and are not associated with expulsion.
Pads and tampons should be placed in disposable bags and put in a bin. Do not throw or flush down the toilet as they can cause clogging of sewage systems. The sanitary waste ultimately lands up in landfills. Plastic synthetic pads are not biodegradable and lie in the landfill and may take over 500 years to decompose.
1. Myth -Menstruating Women are Impure
Factual Explanation- The feeling of being ‘ impure’ has to be removed. There is a lot of misogyny prevalent in society. Women should be educated about cultural taboos and stringent traditions.
2. Myth – Cannot bathe or wash hair
Fact- Women should be encouraged to bathe daily. Hair wash does not reduce the flow of the menstrual period.
3. Myth – Use of pads or tampons reduce the flow
Fact- No, they do not affect an individual’s flow.
4. Myth -There is a need to kill bacteria on the pads
Fact – Pads need to be clean and women should maintain cleanliness during usage.
5. Myth- Reusable pads smell
Fact- If not changed frequently then a soggy pad can smell. Pads when changed frequently do not trap moisture and let the skin breathe.
Periods are normal, so should be the discussion around it.
Dr Alifiya Bapai Dholkawala, Obstetrician Gynaecologist and Laparoscopic surgeon, Saifee hospital