Written by Monali Bordoloi and published on 25 June 2021.
Thanks to the Akshay Kumar-Sonam Kapoor starrer 'PadMan', conversations about women's menstruation are no longer taboo. It's time we bust the myths around periods
After 12-year-old Jyotika got her period for the first time, her grandmother imposed certain restrictions. On the days when Jyotika was on her period, she was not allowed to enter the pooja room as well as the kitchen, she couldn't touch her father and had to sleep separately. Overwhelmed and frightened by all these new restrictions, Jyotika refused to go to school and her tennis class for fear of stains. Thankfully, her mother stepped in and explained that menstruation is a natural biological process and with the right care, there is no need to restrict her movements on those days. It took a few more days to convince her grandmother that such misconceptions around menstruation are not valid.
Like Jyotika, many young girls go through shame, stress, confusion and fear due to their inability to manage their menstruation.
Due to a lack of awareness about menstruation, many school-going girls skip their classes, which impacts their education. So, it's important to educate young girls on proper hygiene and sanitation during their menstrual cycle.
As the movie Pad Man rightly depicts, even in this age, many women in remote villages and smaller towns are still using unhygienic cloth rags to manage their periods because of the high cost of sanitary napkins and non-availability. In fact, improper care of sanitary products could lead to conditions like skin rashes and infection.
According to Dr Kavya Krishnakumar, a leading gynecologist from Chennai, "The onset of puberty is a step towards womanhood. It is important to maintain hygiene during periods. Mothers should teach basic hygiene and how to use sanitary pads effectively to their young daughters."
* Adapted from UNESCO for educational purposes
Dr Kavya shares some tips on how to take care during periods and stay clean and hygienic:
Disposable sanitary pads are convenient and preferred by many as a method of sanitation during periods. According to Dr Kavya, "Synthetic sanitary pads sometimes cause rashes and skin irritation. In that case, one can look for another available option." These days, other sanitation methods like cotton pads, tampons, menstrual cups and cloth pads are also becoming popular. "You can decide on the type of pads you want to use based on your lifestyle and comfort level, but the important aspect is that it should help you stay comfortable, clean, dry and, prevent staining."
It will take time for young girls to get used to using pads or other methods of sanitation. However, they can always find out which one suits them best.
Whether you are using synthetic pads, cotton pads or tampons, it is mandatory to change it regularly, within two to four hours. However, changing time also depends on the flow. Those with heavy flow need to change more often. Dr Kavya says, "Keeping the pads for too long will lead to chafing, skin infection and vaginal infections."
Keeping tampons too long inside the body can cause a condition called TSS or toxic shock syndrome (a severe infection that can send the body into shock). It requires immediate medical attention.
Before you change into a new pad, it is important to wash your private parts. Dr Kavya says, "You can use a tissue or toilet paper to wipe the areas before you change when water is not available. This will also help in preventing bad odor in private parts." Only plain water should be used for washing. Frequent use of harsh soap, disinfectants like Dettol, and harsh chemicals can kill good bacteria.
It's important to dispose of used sanitary pads correctly as they can spread infections. Used pads or any other used sanitary product should be wrapped in waste paper and discarded in the dustbin. It should not be mixed with wet waste and kept separately. Dr Kavya says, "Remember to wash your hands well after you change your sanitary pads or tampon."
Some women may experience skin rashes due to the extended use of sanitary pads. This could lead to chafing in the thigh region, which could be prevented by staying dry during periods. Dr Kavya says, "Rashes due to pads can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. Changing your pads regularly and staying dry will help in dealing with skin rashes. If that does not help, you can switch to cotton pads or a menstrual cup. If rashes are frequent and do not go away on their own, you should visit a doctor."
Most women complain of discomfort and pains during their periods. For some, it could be severe cramps and for others, it could be slight discomfort. However, there are several ways to deal with the pain without popping any painkiller pills.
Even today, there are lots of misconceptions about menstruation. The focus should be on proper hygiene as menstruation is one of the vital processes of a woman's body.