The shame and taboo attached to menstruation make it so difficult for women to reach out to clear their doubts about the basic rules of maintaining proper menstrual hygiene.
This is probably why we women end up believing whatever baseless piece of advice that we read on the internet or give in to the hearsay passed on by the females around us, including our mothers and gal pals.
That said, you need to get your facts straight because according to Dr. Ranjana Becon, consultant gynaecologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad any menstrual-hygiene blunder arising from your lack of knowledge about the same can give you a terrible urinary tract infection (UTI), cause irritation, allergy, or infections in your intimate area, and make you more prone to getting cervical cancer.
So, here are the common menstrual-hygiene mistakes that you need to beware of and rectify immediately:
1. You use scented sanitary napkins and tampons
You think you’ll walk past the crowd smelling like a dream because of the scented pad that you’re wearing, turning every head that cannot stop imagining violins playing and doves flying because of the sweet-smelling romance in the air. If you’re not as filmy, you could just feel more confident about wearing a scented napkin that promises to conceal the odour of your period blood and make you feel fresher.
Unfortunately, it’s time to break your bubble now because according to Dr. Becon, scented sanitary napkins and tampons are rather harmful to your menstrual health and hygiene.
“Scented napkins may increase the chances of infection in the genital area as their top-layer is laden with chemicals used to add fragrance to them. When they come in direct contact with the skin, soft tissues, and blood vessels, they may cause irritation, itching and swelling,” she warns.
2. You douche your vagina to ‘keep it clean’
Douching is a lame concept introduced to us by the West and involves introducing a stream of water into the vagina in a bid to clean it up.
However, Dr. Becon explains, “Vagina is a self-cleaning organ. In fact, it can increase the risk of vaginal infections and pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID) that can eventually hamper a woman’s chances of conceiving a baby and cause problems during pregnancy.”
3. You sleep with a tampon in
Surely, tampons are blood-absorbing saviours, especially for women with a heavy menstrual flow. So, sleeping with a tampon inside your vagina can definitely keep you from leaking during your sleep. However, Dr. Becon warns that one needs to change the tampon in 6-8 hours for hygiene reason.
“Set an alarm to wake up for a change or use a sanitary napkin when you sleep,” she says.
Not to mention, there’s always a risk of infection or worse still—death–due to the toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a condition in which bacteria enters your bloodstream—if the tampon is left inside the vagina for too long.
4. You go on without changing your pad/tampon for too long
No matter how hectic your day is, if you stick to wearing one pad or tampon for more than 4 hours, you’re only risking a vaginal infection. If you go longer than that, especially with a tampon in, just pray to the Almighty to spare you the horror of a TSS.
5. You don’t bathe during your periods
It could be due to the fear of worsening menstrual cramps or it could be due to sheer fatigue that kicks in when a woman gets her period—whatever it is that keeps you from bathing while you’re on your period, can backfire in terms of making you feel heavier, unclean, and increasing your risk if getting a vaginal infection as well.
“Take a warm shower if you have menstrual cramps or pain. Not having a shower can make one feel unclean and unpleasant,” states Dr. Becon.
Not to mention, if you skip bathing after a workout, all that sweat and grime can make you even more vulnerable to catching a vaginal infection.
6. You think you can eat anything on your period and get away with it
A bowl of pasta or a tub of your favourite ice cream—there are strange food cravings that menstruating women get. Most of us even give in to these thinking that unhealthy food will have no repercussions on our menstrual health and hygiene. However, Dr Becon explains that even though unhealthy foods may not affect menstrual health directly, eating them can lead to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies, which in turn, can affect your menstrual health.
Hence, she suggests avoiding foods that you may be allergic to; excessive salt, sugar, and caffeine; processed foods, and canned juices and drinks.
7. You have carefree sex on your period
Blame it on the lower chances of pregnancy or simply a higher sexual drive during your periods, you could feel like getting dirty between the sheets while you’re menstruating. And quite literally so.
“However, if the menstrual hygiene of the woman is not maintained, it may cause infection to her and her partner,” says Dr. Becon.
Hence, wash your intimate area thoroughly before and after having sex. And stick to using a condom for added protection against infections.
8. Intimate hygiene washes are your go-to vagina cleansers
An intimate hygiene cleanser comes with the promise of keeping things germ-free, dry, and clean, while making you smell like a Goddess down there.
However, they can disturb the normal pH of your vagina, which is anyway a self-cleaning organ or cause an allergic reaction due to the presence of several chemicals in them.
“For regular cleaning of the private area, water and antifungal soaps are enough. Do not use feminine hygiene products regularly, especially if there is a fungal or a yeast infection down there,” says Becon.
So, ladies, be careful to maintain the ‘correct’ sort of menstrual hygiene and keep your vagina healthy!