When Aditi got back from school, she looked upset. She quietly went to her room and slept through the afternoon. Usually, she talks about the whole day at school to her mother. Later in the evening when her mom tried to talk to her she sounded rude and irritated. This got her mom worried, before she realized that her little daughter had started menstruating. As a mom, she had done her best to warn her daughter about the incoming signs of menstruation. To ease her anxiety, she told Aditi that menstruation is a natural process linked to the reproductive cycle of women and girls. It is not a sickness, nothing to be embarrassed about. But there were many questions troubling Aditi. “ How to manage this sudden rush of blood, mom?”, she asked.
Her mom told her patiently, “Aditi, don't be afraid. It can be scary to see the blood on your underwear, but it is normal and natural. If you experience this at school don’t hesitate to tell your female teacher or a fellow student. In fact, you should feel proud that your body is developing into that of a young woman.”
A caring mom at home, Mrs Sharma was a responsible doctor at work. She had always counselled her patients on the essentials of menstrual hygiene. She went on to tell Aditi how to capture the blood. “Aditi, menstrual periods if not properly managed can result in many health problems. To capture the blood, place a cloth, pad, cotton or tissue on your underwear. Change this every two to six hours or more frequently if you think that the bloods flow is getting heavy. Also, never insert any of these materials inside your vagina.”
Just like Aditi, there are countless girls and women who have unanswered questions of menstrual hygiene and its management. Some frequently asked questions:
What are the potential risks due to poor menstrual hygiene?
- Unclean sanitary pads/materials may cause local infections.
- Changing pads infrequently can cause skin irritation & infection.
- Wiping from back to front following urination or defecation makes the introduction of bacteria from the bowel into the vagina (or urethra) more likely.
- Unsafe disposal of used sanitary materials or blood poses the risk of infecting others, especially with Hepatitis B.
How to dispose off the cloth, pad, cotton or tissue?
- If you are re-using a cloth, put it into a plastic bag until you can wash it with hot water and soap and then dry it in the sunshine or iron it.
- If you are using a pad, tissue or cotton, or want to dispose of your cloth, wrap it in paper to make a clean package and put it in the bin so it can be burned later.
How to keep yourself clean during your period?
- Every day (morning and evening if possible) wash your genitals with soap and water.
- Keep unused cloths and pads clean (wrapped in tissue or plastic bag) for further use.
- Pat the area dry with a cloth, and put a fresh cloth (such as a kanga, sari or other local cloth), pad, cotton or tissue on your underwear.
- Always wipe from front to back after defection.
- Never douche (washing out the vagina with water).
How to manage the stomach pain from your period?
- You can put a bottle with hot water on your stomach area when you are resting.
- Try to do some exercises and keep your body active.
- You can take painkiller medicines every four to six hours on the most painful days.
When to visit a Doctor?
Although most period problems aren't cause for alarm, certain symptoms do call for a doctor’s visit. This is particularly true if a girl's normal cycle changes.
- When girl hasn't started her period by the time she's 15 years or her period hasn't become regular after 3 years of menstruating.
- Stops getting her period or it become irregular after it has been regular.
- Has heavy or long periods, especially if she gets her period frequently.
- Has very painful periods for more than 3 days.
- Suddenly gets a fever and feels sick after using tampons. (Could be an infection known as Toxic Shock Syndrome).
Some important suggestions
- Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce salt intake (salt can cause water retention) and caffeine.
- Include foods with calcium, which may reduce the severity of PMS symptoms.
- Pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for cramps, headaches, or back pain.
- Take a brisk walk or bike ride to relieve stress and aches.
- Soak in a warm bath or put a hot water bottle on abdomen, which may help relax.
Every girl should know about menstrual hygiene even before she starts to menstruate.
Not only it keeps you healthy, but also it makes you feel confident about you and your body. It should matter to men as much as women, they should take care of their women’s needs during those days.
Dr. Neeraj Pahlajani is an eminent doctor working as an infertility specialist. She is the founder of Raipur IVF and the Past Clinical Secretary of FOGSI Raipur Society. Celebrated for her work as doctor, she believes in empowering women through her excellence in the field of science. She has also been recognized with Women Empowerment Award by PISF (C.G).
Connect to your hero Neeraj at firstname.lastname@example.org