Four hours, six hours, ten hours, twelve hours—do your sanitary pads come with maximum hours of usage limit? Well, they should. One of the fundamentals of sanitary pads usage is how long we wear and how often we change them. This is both a basic hygiene process, and a way to keep you down there clean and healthy.
But before we put a number on it, let’s take you through some basics.
Risks, and Complications of Not Changing Sanitary Pads Before They Are Due
Be it sanitary pads, or contact lenses—all products that are in direct contact with your skin or body should be regularly changed and certainly not used beyond their time limit. Even the best sanitary pads usually last only between 4-6 hours, and should not be used for longer. What happens if you abstain from changing the sanitary pad?
- Odour: This is one of the most common problems. Blood exiting the vagina is usually mixed with bacteria, mucous and other body fluids. This when trapped in the pad for too long can result in damp, wet smells; or even rotten smells.
- Rashes: Sanitary pads brands usually make pads with a plastic net top. Called a dry weave cover, this helps the pad quickly absorb the blood and keeps the surface dry and clean. However, when worn for too long the pad can chafe against the skin. The surface is also wet and warm. As a result of this, users may experience redness and rashes.
- Risk of infections: Wearing the same pad for too long can result in the growth and multiplication of bacteria that are emitted alongside blood. Due to the wet, warm condition, the pad can also experience fungal growth. Such bacteria and fungi can lead to yeast infections, Urinary Tract Infections or other such canal-related conditions. If you are seeing thick white discharge, have an urge to constantly itch or have strange rash-like growths visit the doctor immediately.
- Serious Concerns: If ignored infections can lead to serious issues such as infertility, cervical cancer, pelvic inflammatory disorder and even death.
How Often Should You Change Your Sanitary Pads
According to most experts, you should change your sanitary pad every 4-6 hours. Those with heavy flow periods may have to change more frequently as most sanitary pads are not made for heavy flow and may fill up, spill or leak if overused. RIO heavy flow pads are customised for heavy flow users. RIO Pads are longer, sturdier and pack more superabsorbent polymer—the chemical that changes blood to gel form and holds it in. RIO pads also come with side leg guards and double wings. The side leg guards are raised structures along the side of the pad that prevents blood from leaking out and trickling down the side. Double wings make sure the pad remains stuck to the underpants—both from the centre and at the back, where pads often fold over and get stuck between the bum.
Yet, despite their superior absorbency, even RIO sanitary pads for heavy flow should be changed every six hours. This helps maintain hygiene and safety.
Those with low flow, or on the last day of one’s period one may be tempted to keep pads for long but this should be avoided at all cost. Sadly due to compulsion many of these mandates are ignored.
“We wear pads for 10-12 hours because they don’t have adequate toilets, or facilities to change pads. Or because the pads are too expensive,” says Mandira, a mill worker. “We don’t get long breaks, so when to change a pad? If the flow is light we can use it for a long time.”
Mandira and her colleagues were educated about the need to change pads more often. A few principles to remember are as follows:
When to change pads?
- Every 4-6 hours
- If there is a smell
- If the pad feels too wet.
- If the pad is not fitting well.
- If the pad is leaking.
- If there is any sort of irritation in the vaginal area.
Frequent Sanitary Pad Swapping Challenges
Apart from at night, the use of sanitary pads must not extend beyond 6 hours. Even the best period pads come with various challenges. Some of these are:
- LACK OF TOILETS:
The number one reason for girl children leaving school, the lack of toilets, continues to haunt our country. With broken infrastructure, inadequate disposal mechanisms or the simple lack of toilets in schools, public places and workplaces, menstruators are forced to manage. “I used to have to travel from Pune to Mumbai every month,” says Preeti. “On the way, there were no clean toilets. So I would wear three pads hoping nothing would leak during the five hour journey.”
- COST OF PADS:
The cost of the best period pads continues to be high. RIO Heavy Flow pads are available at INR 179 for 12 pads, while our regular flow variants are at INR 3 per pad. It is our constant endeavour to reduce prices so that more menstruators can easily afford pads. The issue is not with the cost, though, says RIO pads founder Kartik Johari. Every day, you see the same families purchasing alcohol and gutka. Pads are not seen as a need, women are expected to manage and not spend on themselves—not even the 40-odd rupees it will take to get through one period cycle. Priorities need to change,” he explains.
- MALE WORK ENVIRONMENTS:
Surekha works in a mill. There are only three female employees at the mill. In any case, the men make fun of us for having a separate toilet. Now if I have to take a break and go to the toilet to change a pad, it will be embarrassing. So I wear a diaper on period days,” she says. Similar environments where male bosses are unable to relate to the problems their female employees face, or women do not feel comfortable confiding in them create toxic workplaces for menstruators.
To summarise, using pads for longer than 6 hours can lead to infections, disease and more harm than good. Try planning trips well, using heavy flow pads that absorb completely and maintain good hygiene! :)