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.
The average length of a period cycle is 28 days, but it can last between 21 to 40 days. A period cycle begins on the first day of the period, and ends one day before the onset of the next period.
The normal duration of a period is between 4 to 8 days. Some amount of period pain is normal – menstrual cramps, pelvic pain and abdominal bloating are common symptoms experienced by women during their periods. However, if menstrual cramps interfere with daily life, or if pain medication provides no relief, consulting a healthcare provider might be helpful.
Periods may sometimes be irregular due to reasons relating to stress, illness or travel. However, it might also be a symptom of poor underlying health
There are myths and taboos surrounding menstruation, which exclude women from attending school, going to temples and entering the kitchen while on their periods. But periods are not ‘impure’ – menstruation is a natural physiological process and nothing to be ashamed of.
Lack of access to menstrual products prevents women from having safe and comfortable periods, and in turn, results in hardship. Here are some menstrual products which can be used to manage periods:
Disposable Menstrual Products – Tampons and Sanitary Pads
Sanitary pads and tampons are hygienic and safe to use, and make it possible for a woman to go about her day as usual while on her period. However, here are some tips to ensure that we are using them properly.
- Wash hands with soap and the vagina with clean water before changing a pad or tampon. Always wash the vaginal area before the anal area to avoid transfer of bacteria from the anus to the vagina. Do note that vaginas do not need to be washed with soap, just water is enough. Washing with soap may affect the pH balance of the vagina.
- Change sanitary pads or tampons at least 3-4 times a day. A sanitary pad or tampon worn for too long can cause itching, irritation and infection. Be careful not to forget to remove tampons, this can have disastrous consequences. With tampons, there is a risk of developing toxic shock syndrome.
- Sanitary pads and tampons are not safe to be reused.
- Never flush sanitary pads or tampons in toilets. Sanitary pads and tampons should be wrapped with paper and properly disposed in a dustbin.
Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads
- Commercially made reusable pads made from absorbent fabrics (like cotton or hemp) are cheaper and produce less waste in the long run. They can be used for years if well taken care of.
- Unlike disposable products, they need to be washed with detergent and dried in sunlight after use to make sure they are properly sterilized. This may pose difficulties, but is essential for safe usage.
- Menstrual pads made using leaves, husks and cement bags are not hygienic and should not be used.
- Menstrual cups made from silicone are reusable. These may be used for years if well taken care of and are cheaper in the long run.
- Menstrual cups need to be inserted. This process can be difficult to learn and it may take up to one or two menstrual cycles. But after learning how to insert them, menstrual cups can be very convenient and comfortable to use.
- Proper care for menstrual cups is essential. While on your period, menstrual cups only need to be changed once or twice a day. The blood needs to be emptied out and the cup properly rinsed with clean water before reinsertion.
- After your period as well as just before the next period, cups should be sterilized by boiling in water for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Cups can be stored in a clean cloth bag in a dry and hygienic place.