Go With The Flow

Menstrual Hygiene Management – How to Break The Toxic Cycle of Taboos

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Menstruation is the natural biological process that occurs every month in a woman’s body to release blood and mucous tissues from the inner uterus lining to maintain reproductive health. Even though this phenomenon is common, the topic of periods always attracts heavy avoidance and is brushed under the carpet at every mention.

A toxic culture of taboos and misinformation about menstrual hygiene and potential health risks has stemmed from the conspicuous silence around menstruation.

We bring you this RIO special guide to help you achieve optimal menstrual hygiene and break the taboos surrounding menstruation.

Menstrual Hygiene Management - Overview

Poor Menstrual Hygiene Management is one of the critical issues affecting women’s personal health across the world.

Surprisingly, a high percentage of women in India belonging to the rural villages and towns still turn to use cloth rags, hay, sand, and ash, to support them through their periods. The use of these unsanitary substances can severely affect your menstrual health.

Menstrual health is defined by a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing in regards to the menstrual cycle. Recent quantitative data from medical surveys have confirmed a considerable spike in the concern for menstrual hygiene management and the need for dignity and privacy during menstruation. The key indicators of menstruation hygiene management include:

  • Awareness of menstruation before first menstruation
  • Improvement of WASH facilities through the availability of cleansing materials
  • Use of safe menstrual hygiene absorbents
  • Accessibility to a private place at home to change sanitary pads and wash.
  • Full participation in activities that involve school work and socialising during menstruation
  • Proper disposal of the used menstrual hygiene products

Menstrual Hygiene Management

Menstrual hygiene management refers to the specific knowledge, materials, and facilities which can make menstruation a safe and happy experience. It takes into account the hygiene and health requirements of women during the menstrual cycle to devise adequate measures that are available throughout the period.

Beyond the access to sanitary products and suitable toilets, menstrual hygiene management aims at supporting women in their menstruation without discrimination.

Here are some necessary menstrual hygiene management practices that you must incorporate into your day-to-day routines -

  • Remember to shower or take a bath once daily and wear fresh underwear.
  • Change your pads at regular intervals - One of the best ways to prevent bacterial infections is by changing your sanitary pads regularly, as overflowing pads are a breeding ground for pathogens. The definition of “regular” will depend on the heaviness of your blood flow. If you wear tampons, it is advisable to change them every four to six hours.
  • If you are a menstrual cup user, you must sterilise the menstrual cup before every use and empty it every ten to twelve hours to maintain your menstrual hygiene. The size of the menstrual cup should be able to handle your flow.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands properly before and after changing your pad, tampon, or menstrual cup to limit the spreading of bacteria.
  • Opt for breathable sanitary hygiene products as a thick plastic lining on the pads constantly rubbing against the skin can result in itchiness, burning, boils and rashes.
  • Due to the continuous flow of blood from your body on the days of menstruation, it’s essential to keep the vaginal area clean. However, since the vagina has a self-cleaning mechanism, only the uses of lukewarm water and diluted soap is enough to wash yourself gently. The use of harsh and synthetic intimate hygiene products can kill the good bacteria and disrupt the pH balance down there. And these fluctuating pH levels can further increase your susceptibility to infections. Alongside, make it a point to clean yourself after every toilet use for better hygiene standards.
  • Remember to pat the vaginal area dry after every wash to avoid moisture accumulation and irritation.
  • Do not flush used sanitary pads as that can clog the plumbing mechanism and lead to an overflowing toilet. Adopt proper discarding measures and throw your used menstrual hygiene products only in the garbage disposal.
  • Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes and underwear to regulate the airflow around the sensitive areas and prevent sweating. Tight-fitting garments would stick to your skin, not allow it to breathe, and increase your chances of developing an infection.

Menstrual Hygiene Management - Why Is It The Need of the Hour?

It is the need of the hour to integrate menstrual hygiene into your monthly menstruation routine and meet your body’s needs without hassle. The cost of not maintaining your menstrual hygiene is much higher than you can imagine.

According to research surveys, over 400 million menstruating women don’t have access to necessary WASH facilities (wash, sanitation, and hygiene) and funding for sanitary products to manage their menstrual cycles safely. This inaccessibility coupled with a lack of scientific knowledge and information about menstruation forces the women to resort to unhygienic sanitary practices.

The sudden change in female hormone levels during menstruation lowers a woman’s immunity and triggers an inflammatory response. As a result, it’s vital to pay extra attention to your personal hygiene during the days of your period to protect yourself from all kinds of ailments.

Unhealthy menstrual hygiene puts you at the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and fungal infections. These infections are usually characterised by vaginal itching, burning sensation, discharge and can negatively impact your kidneys if left unaddressed. 

The skin irritation brought about by prolonged wetness on your periods, and the presence of plastic in low-quality sanitary napkins can cause a range of distressing symptoms from swelling redness to blisters, abrasions, and rashes. The progression of these symptoms may even lead to a severe case of dermatitis.

Wearing your sanitary pads for longer than they are meant to can serve as an ideally damp environment with high pH levels for bacterial and yeast growth stimulation. The introduction of harmful bacteria will instantly disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in the genital tract to cause bacterial vaginosis.

Recurring infections are also known to take a heavy toll on a woman’s reproductive health by increasing the risk of pelvic inflammatory diseases, abortions, and preterm delivery during pregnancy. Only proper menstrual health management can keep the reproductive tract infections at bay, which are closely linked with potentially life-threatening health outcomes such as ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and transmission of the HPV and HIV that causes cervical cancer.

Menstrual Hygiene Management and their Associated Taboos

With society looking at menstruation with eyes of shame and discrimination, most girls are not aware of their menstrual cycles until they are surprised by their first period.

The heavily discriminatory practices and age-old norms that strengthen patriarchy reinforce the idea of periods as taboo in young impressionable minds. While both men and women undergo biological changes, only the women are subjected to alienation and isolation as their changes are considered polluting and evil.

During menstruation, women are often forbidden from entering the kitchen, any place of worship, other public places, or even inside the house in extreme cases. Indian women might fall prey to chiding remarks from their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers if they accidentally touch sweets, cooked meals, or pickles. This behaviour is rooted in the irrational belief that a menstruating woman can “spoil” food’s sanctity and sacred value. In different parts of the country, special dietary restrictions are also imposed on menstruating women.

Alongside, women are advised against taking baths or cleansing themselves properly during menstrual periods as they can pollute the water. In reality, not washing themselves results in extremely poor menstrual hygiene and raises their risk of developing infections.

Superstitious structures declaring menstruating women as too dangerous and unfit for participating in society hinders their overall productivity and daily routines. For three to seven days a month, the women stop living life as they know it, as they cannot be spoken to, touched, or eaten with.

Constantly being told that menstrual periods are a condition that is detrimental to all that is healthy around them can instil a strong sense of resentment about menstruation among women.

 Even though the used period cloth or pad is no longer believed to be a potent agent for casting evil eye/magic over others. Women continue to make all possible attempts to conceal their sanitary napkins from the public eye out of embarrassment if not to avoid malicious intent accusations.

With almost half of the rural homes lacking gender-separate toilets, women are forced to travel far away to communal and public toilets on their periods to access WASH facilities and maintain menstrual hygiene, which raises safety concerns.

The ancestral stigma surrounding periods being passed down through generations has also resulted in the dismissal of more than 30 percent of girls from school when they start menstruating.

Breaking The Toxic Cycle of Taboos - Know The Facts

As women are held responsible for upholding the pride of their families, communities, and society - they often fall prey to unhygienic menstrual management practices. This causes poor reproductive health, frequent leaves, and low social connections.

The average age at the onset of menarche has come down to 11-12 years or even earlier in today’s world. Naturally, young girls might find themselves overwhelmed, anxious, and confused as they start to navigate the world of menstruation. This makes it imperative for mothers to normalise conversations on bodily changes at puberty and menstrual hygiene management as early as possible.

Young women must also be prepared for addressing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like -

  • Back pain
  • Headache
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Mood swings
  • Acne
  • Breast pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and diarrhoea

The prevalence of taboos around periods and the fear of ostracisation have severely harmed the ability of women to come out and seek urgent medical attention. The strict socio-cultural boundaries set in place have made it almost impossible for girls to look after their menstrual hygiene. Thus, we must open discussion on menstrual hygiene management and reproductive health issues on mainstream platforms.

It’s high time we advocate for better menstrual hygiene management for every woman out there and help them break the toxic stereotypes on menstruation. Building a safe space for women to talk about menstruation freely will empower them to take care of their personal needs in a better and more informed manner. In addition to the use of smart and safe products, a shift in attitude towards better hygiene plays a vital role in menstrual hygiene management.

Making those around you understand the challenges of menstruation can help contribute to a positive change in the mindset. Encouraging questions and sharing information on menstrual cycles and menstrual health can resolve the stigma around periods to a great extent.

We must take initiatives that enable women to choose for their health, prioritise menstrual hygiene, debunk the myths about menstruation and acquire information on the right menstrual hygiene products.

Studies have found that most women across all age groups have made additional efforts to hide that they were menstruating, as they did not wish to be judged. But this also includes their inability to speak about distressing pain symptoms associated with heavy menstrual bleeding.

The fear of a little red stain severely influences the healthcare community’s proficiency to deal with menstrual health challenges.

To do away with the toxic cycle of taboos and enable women to engage with healthcare providers with their menstrual health concerns swiftly, this is what you should do -

  1. Stop hiding your sanitary pads in black plastic bags and bulk layers of newspaper.
  2. Talk about periods honestly and openly.
  3. Initiate awareness programs that advocate for menstrual hygiene management
  4. Support policies in academic environments and workplaces which affirm that menstruators should be treated with equality and not punished in any way.

Even though we can witness positive development in this journey of rejecting the stigma and taboos associated with menstruation, there is still a long way to go.

With greater access to technology and the internet, inventions such as the period tracker apps have been useful in helping women stay in touch with their body functions and changes. Menstrual cycle tracking can also be carried out manually by maintaining a journal of your monthly period experiences, including your physical symptoms, energy levels, moods, appetite, and food cravings. Research shows that a change in the regular menstrual cycle is often the first symptom of significant health issues in women; thus, tracking your cycle will make sure your conditions can be diagnosed and treated in time.

An irregular menstrual cycle can often be a sign of liver function problems, thyroid, diabetes, or other hormonal conditions. Thus, menstrual cycle tracking is much more than knowing when your next period is on the way. However, there is no need to be alarmed with only one early, missed, or late period. Get in touch with your gynaecologist to better discuss your situation and possible solutions.

Causes of Painful Periods and Effective Ways of Dealing With It

Let’s take a look at what causes painful periods:

  • Medical conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, adenomyosis, and pelvic inflammatory diseases that affect your uterus, ovaries, and cervix are often responsible for increasing the intensity of your blood flow and causing period cramps.
  • Premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder are closely associated with a drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels that increases your likelihood of experiencing menstrual pain.
  • The presence of large uterine fibroids in and around the uterus and other uterine defects can also cause painful periods.
  • The insertion of a non-hormonal copper Intrauterine device (IUD) can have inflammatory effects on the uterus and cause intense abdominal cramps.
  • The most common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy where the fertilised egg gets attached to the endometrium instead of reaching the uterus include pain and bleeding.
  • In the few months leading up to your menopause, the hormone fluctuation can trigger intense pains in your periods.
  • During weight gain, the increase in oestrogen levels can lead to frequent and painful menstruation.
  • Experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding or menorrhagia makes your periods more painful.

Let’s see how to deal with period cramps :

  • Hydrate - For period cramp relief, you must keep yourself hydrated by drinking water, fruit-infused green smoothies, and non-caffeinated warm beverages like herbal teas that stimulate blood circulation.
  • Having a healthy diet and staying away from refined foods will be effective in dealing with period cramps. You must include iron-rich foods like quinoa, eggs, and pumpkin seeds in your diet to prevent anaemia as your body loses iron during the menstrual cycle. For your fix of vital nutrients like calcium, magnesium, vitamins, E, D, and B1, you can take dietary supplements that will help alleviate your menstrual cramps.

     

  • Anti-inflammatory foods like leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, walnuts, pineapples, bell peppers, and fatty fish will help reduce your menstrual cramps.
  • Applying heat to your abdomen and lower back by using a hot-water bottle or heating pad can prove to be beneficial in reducing menstrual pain.
  • Maintaining menstrual hygiene will help remove the excess blood that leads to infection.
  • Exercise such as gentle stretching, walking, and yoga can release the natural-feed good hormones to relax your stomach muscles, help decrease the period pain and have regular periods.
  • Nerve stimulation therapies such as acupressure, massage, and aromatherapy can decrease menstrual pain by helping your body relax. Since stress is a major risk factor for painful periods, you can adopt healthy coping mechanisms like meditation, listening to calming music, and establishing strict night routines.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication can ensure temporary and fast relief by reducing the prostaglandin levels in the body. 
  • Birth control pills and hormonal IUDs can facilitate a light blood flow and regulate your menstrual cycle.

Suppose you’ve tried all the things listed above and still have persistently painful periods. In that case, you must get a physical exam done by a doctor to eliminate the possibility of underlying health issues.

Menstrual Hygiene Management and RIO Pads - All You Need to Know

The popular advertising on sanitary pads misses out on the importance of hygienic use. Poor quality pads and heavy menstrual bleeding are a recipe for hygiene disaster as the pads fail to offer enough protection. One of the most crucial aspects of menstrual hygiene management is the use of hygienic and safe materials to absorb menstrual blood.

While the wide variety of sanitary products available in the market might fail to meet your hygiene expectations, RIO Heavy Flow Pads are your best friend as you embark on the journey to achieve optimal menstrual hygiene management and break the toxic cycle of taboos.

Selecting a pad for regular flow is a complete no-no if you have heavy periods. Even using multiple sanitary pads can lead to a highly messy and unhygienic affair.

RIO Heavy Flow Pads - the best sanitary pads for a heavy flow will ensure maximum comfort and reliable protection.

With the understanding of how debilitating heavy periods can be, we have specially designed pads with Japanese SAP (Super Absorbent Polymer) technology to absorb an enormous blood flow efficiently. The multiple-layer core actively works to convert the soaking liquid into gel form for maximum hygiene standards. Now you can stop worrying about frequent visits to the bathroom, as the heavy-duty RIO pads can help deal with intense gushes and blood clots without any hassle.

Two (front and back) broad wings and side leg guards on the RIO Pads provide extra support to prevent the pad from folding towards the ends and possibly resulting in leakage when you move around. RIO Heavy Flow Pads can contain a heavy flow to ensure that you can sleep soundly through the night without having to wake up multiple times to change.

RIO pads are completely soft and friendly to your sensitive skin due to the absence of any artificial chemicals and fragrances. The anti-bacterial aloe-vera enhanced RIO pads promise to keep you free of all rashes and deadly infections.

Wearing the same sanitary for more than five to six hours puts you at the risk of being mentally stigmatised due to the foul odour of menstrual blood. The odour lock technology in our RIO pads completely seals the period smell from leaving the pad.

Thus, if you wish to keep your hygiene levels high even on the heaviest of flows, make the switch to RIO Heavy Flow Pads today and choose freedom.

We at RIO realise the importance of proper menstrual hygiene management in maintaining the overall well-being, life quality, and mobility of menstruating women and girls.

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