Menstrual Hygiene In Adolescent Girls

Menstruation and menstrual practices are still clouded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions resulting in adolescent girls remaining ignorant of the scientific facts and hygienic health practices, which sometimes result into adverse health outcomes.

There are some households that believe that the girl is ‘unclean’ during those days. This belief stems from a time when women used old cloth as napkins and often had to wash and reuse them, apart from that they did not have access to running water and the kind of soaps we have today. All this along with a misguided understanding of a woman’s body and its method of functioning has lead to a large number of myths like not going near a holy place, not being allowed into the kitchen to even absolute seclusion during those days of the month. Times have changed and so have we. So, here are some tips to help you stay clean and hygienic during your periods.

As a first step, choose the right method for sanitation which is the most important aspect of a girl’s period, since it helps you stay comfortable, prevents staining and keeps you clean and dry throughout the day. It is important to change your sanitary pad regularly. The standard time for a sanitary pad is once every six hours (for a tampon is once every two hours). You may have to customize the changing schedule to your need like less to heavy flow. Menstrual blood though sterile – once it has left the body – gets contaminated with the body’s innate organisms, which remain in a warm and moist place for a long time they tend to multiply and can lead to conditions like urinary tract infection, vaginal infections and skin rashes.

It is important to wash your vagina and labia (soft flesh projections surrounding the outer and inner area of the genitals) well with warm water before you change into a new pad. When you menstruate, the blood tends to enter tiny spaces like the skin between your labia or crust around the opening of the vagina and you should always wash this excess blood away. If you cannot wash yourself before you change make sure to wipe off the areas using toilet paper or tissue. This practice also tends to beat bad odour from the vaginal region. You can use soap on the external parts but do not use it inside your vagina or vulva. Washing it with soap can kill the good bacteria making way for infections. Always wash or clean the area in a motion that is from the vagina to the anus. Never wash in the opposite direction. Washing in the opposite direction can cause bacteria from the anus to lodge in the vagina and urethral opening, leading to infections. In some cultures it is believed that a woman should not bathe during her periods, based on the fact that in the olden days women had to bathe in the open or in common water bodies like a river or lake. But with indoor plumbing having a bath is the best thing you can do for your body during your periods. Bathing not only cleanses your body but also gives you a chance to clean your private parts well. It also helps relieve menstrual cramps, backaches, helps improve your mood and makes you feel less bloated. To get some relief from backaches and menstrual cramps, just stand under a shower of warm water that is targeted towards your back or abdomen. You will feel much better at the end of it.

It is important to know how to dispose of the pad correctly. Always wrap properly the used product in waste paper so that it does not open and discard it in a dustbin meant for used sanitary products. Most places have this provision, if not discard it in a bin that is available. Do not throw it without a wrapping or bag, do not leave it on the window sill or on the floor of the toilet and finally, never flush it down the toilet. Also remember to wash your hands well after you change your sanitary pad. A pad rash which usually occurs when the pad has been wet for a long time and rubs along the thighs causing it to chaff. To prevent this, try to stay dry during your periods. If you do have a rash, change your pads regularly and stay dry. Apply an antiseptic ointment, after a bath and before bed – this will heal the rash and prevent further chaffing. If it gets worse do visit your doctor who will be able to prescribe you a medicated powder that can keep the area dry.

When you have your periods it is important to be ready. It is important to have extra sanitary pads properly stored in a clean pouch or paper bag, a soft towel, some paper tissues, hand sanitizer, a healthy snack, bottle of drinking water, a tube of antiseptic medication. The soft towel can be used to wipe your hands or face if you wash them. Paper towels are the important to wipe off the excess water after you wash your private parts. Your hand sanitizer is a very important factor here. The snack is a backup in case you feel weak or run down during the day and the bottle of water is to help you stay hydrated throughout the day. It is important to understand that menstruation is a sign of fertility and good health.

After all we need to remember that adolescents with disabilities are adolescents first. Like everyone, adolescents want to be happy. Adolescents with disabilities may not attain all their goals in life, but it is important for them to try, and for them to understand the obstacles they face. As health professionals we can help to provide this knowledge and guidance to make their life from miserable to pleasurable.

Dr. Mrs Prajakta Kaduskar

Consultant in Adolescent Paediatrics


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Dr. Mrs. Prajakta A. Kaduskar


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