by Dr. Liza Ramoso-Ong
Many women are not aware that during menstruation, they are at increased risk for women’s infections and sexually transmitted diseases.
When a woman is menstruating, the cervix, which is normally closed, is now partially open to allow blood to flow out of the body. However, this situation also makes it possible for bacteria to enter the cervix and infect the uterus and pelvic cavity. Moreover, the pH changes, making women more susceptible to yeast infections.
Hence, women should be extra careful with their hygiene during their period. Here are my advice:
Wash your private part regularly.
During menstruation, the blood tends to soak the skin and enter tiny spaces in-between the skin folds of the vagina. This may lead to a foul odor from the dried blood. Hence, it is important to wash the outer genital area thoroughly before applying a new sanitary pad. Wash your hands before and after cleaning yourself.
Don’t use soap to wash the internal parts.
The best way to wash your private part is to use your hands and warm flowing water. If you don’t have access to flowing water, then use a wet toilet paper to wipe yourself before changing into a new pad. The female genitalia actually has its own cleansing mechanism and harbors good bacteria. Don’t put soap or shampoo inside the vagina because this will harm the good bacteria, and make you prone to infections. However, you may use a mild soap for the outer parts of the vagina and perineum. Another option is to use a specially-designed feminine wash available locally.
Wash with the right technique.
Make sure that you wash in the right direction. This means using your hands to wash in a motion that starts from the vagina down to the anus. Never wash starting from the anus up to the vagina, because this can cause invisible fecal material to enter the vagina. Some cases of urinary tract infection develop this way.
Yes, you can take a bath daily. It will not harm you.
In some cultures, they believe that a woman should not take a bath during menses. This myth was perpetuated generations ago when women cleaned themselves in the river. However, since we now have access to clean water, then you should definitely take a bath daily for hygiene purposes.
Moreover, taking a warm bath helps relieve menstrual cramps, bloating and back pain. It will also refresh you and improve your mood. As a home remedy, try directing the warm shower at the abdomen and back area to relieve aches and pains.
Choose a good sanitary pad made of cotton.
The best sanitary pads are made with pure cotton. This pad is cooler and gentler to your sensitive skin. Avoid pads with plastic linings because, with the constant rubbing, this can cause skin irritation and rashes.
Change sanitary pads every 4 to 6 hours.
For your comfort and health, you should change your sanitary pad every 4 to 6 hours. During heavy flow, you may change more often. Leaving a pad with menstrual blood on has potentially dangerous consequences. The blood may be contaminated with bacterial organisms, and can cause vaginal infection, urinary tract infection and skin rashes. Even if you have low flow, you should still change every 6 hours to reduce contact with these bacteria.
Be careful with tampons.
Generally, the sanitary pad is safer than a tampon. Using a tampon for a long period, without changing, can increase your risk of developing a deadly infection called toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Blood and bacteria get stuck inside the vagina causing it to enter the cervix, infect the pelvic organ and enter the bloodstream. If untreated, toxic shock syndrome can lead to death. If you want to use a tampon, you should change it every 2 hours.
Discard your used sanitary pad and tampon carefully.
A used sanitary pad (or tampon) contains blood clots and possibly infectious microbes. Hence, used pads and tampons should be wrapped carefully before throwing it in a wastebasket. Never flush a pad or tampon down the toilet since this will clog the pipes and cause the toilet to back up. You should also wash your hands thoroughly after handling a used pad.
Avoid getting a skin rash.
During times of heavy flow, your pad may get wet for a long time. If you don’t change it often, the skin around the genital area gets soaked in blood. When you are moving about, the constant rubbing of the pad between thighs can cause the skin to break and develop a rash. To prevent this, change your pad more often. For mild cases, you may apply zinc oxide cream to the rash.
Wear loose pants.
During heavy menstruation days, avoid wearing tight pants and jeans. Try wearing a skirt or loose pants. This will ensure more ventilation around the genital area, and prevent sweat from building up.
When traveling, be ready with extra pads.
If you are working or traveling, you should keep these items handy. Bring extra sanitary pads, tissue paper, a small paper bag and a hand sanitizer.
For moms, please teach your teenage girls on these hygienic tips while they are still young. Make cleanliness a habit. Stay safe everyone.