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The facts about menstrual hygiene you need to know

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2019 marks the fourth year that the world is celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day… yes this is actually a thing! There are multiple myths about menstrual hygiene and simply being on your period in general - and FYI, there is no evidence to show you are more likely to get eaten by a shark.

Considering that globally 2.3 billion people still lack basic sanitation services, we should be taking all the care to ensure we’re looking after our lady parts. 

Image credit: Billie, via Unsplash

 

Let's get changed

The first, most important thing to remember is to change regularly. Tampax recommend changing your tampon every four-six hours and never wearing them for longer than eight. Sanitary towels and menstrual cups should also be changed regularly. Not only is it important to change so as to avoid leaks and overflow but also to avoid nasty infections. Blood is a very favourable environment for bacteria to thrive and the build-up of old blood can become the perfect breeding ground for urinary trapped infections

Washing

Washing whilst on your period is also extremely important. Medical professionals recommend washing your vagina with just warm water and with no perfumed soaps or shower washes. If you would rather use something other than water there are several things available, but make sure that they have no nasty chemicals in. The vagina is amazingly clever and basically washes itself so shower gels just aren’t needed and can lead you to feel itchy and irritated and may cause infections. It isn’t vital to change your washing routine when you’re on your period, other than maybe upping the amount you do wash. You should never wash inside your vagina (also known as ‘douching’) though because this could get rid of some of the healthy bacteria and cause an imbalance in your pH.

You can still bathe

You can also still enjoy a relaxing soak in the bath when it’s your time of the month, something that a surprising amount of people think you should avoid. Having a bath can't really do any harm but Flo Health recommends making sure the tub itself is clean as your “immune system is more susceptible to infection when you’re menstruating.” 

We are the lucky ones

There are still so many countries that have no access to proper menstrual hygiene. In developing countries, only 27% of people have access to handwashing facilities and soap in their homes. Washing your hands before and after changing your pad or tampon is so so important to ensure nasty bacteria stays away. The majority of these people also don’t have access to sanitary products, forcing them to use “rags, pieces of cloth, dried leaves and even old newspapers as absorbents.” Not only is this a huge health risk, but it is morally degrading. It also forces women to stop their daily routine of working or going to school through the shame and inconvenience. 

Clots

Everyone has had the fear when seeing big clots of blood when going to change their sanitary products. But don’t worry, it is totally normal! The NHS says that passing blood clots should only be cause for concern when they are larger than 2.5 cm (roughly a 10p coin). Clots are usually a sign of having a heavy flow and happen to prevent too much blood from escaping, the same as it would in any other part of the body. 

You can cause serious damage

Leaving in your tampon for longer than the recommended amount of time is not only unhygienic but can also cause serious damage to your body. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a very rare but dangerous condition that is linked to tampon use in women. TSS can be life-threatening. It is caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It is a rare condition, however for the sake of changing your tampon, it is simply not worth the risk! The NHS website recommends these steps to prevent TSS:

  • Always use a tampon with the lowest absorbency suitable for your menstrual flow 
  • Never insert more than one tampon at a time 
  • When using a tampon at night, insert a fresh tampon before going to bed and remove it on waking 
 

It stinks!

Having a seriously funky odour when on your period does not mean you’re dirty. It actually means the complete opposite! It is normal for your period to have a slight smell due to what it is, a mixture of unfertilised egg, blood and uterine lining tissues all passing through along with bacteria. ‘Healthy’ periods are said to smell like blood or even have a slight metallic smell. Other smells, like what your gym bag smells like, is also nothing to be concern about. Think about how sweaty it can get when wearing a sanitary towel! However, if you do start to notice a stronger or different smell to what you’re used to it’s best to seek medical advice. 

As women, we’ve been given a huge responsibility when it comes to menstruating and despite the pain and inconvenience, it’s actually an amazing thing that our bodies do each month. We need to honour that by keeping up with our hygiene and noticing changes in our periods. For more information visit the Menstrual Hygiene Day website and don’t be ashamed of your periods! 

 

For more information visit the Menstrual Hygiene Day official website.

Lead image credit: Billie, via Unsplash




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