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Hygiene during period - tips on taking care of yourself

Being on period requires a rational and responsible approach to menstrual hygiene. Neglecting certain practices can cause serious health issues and lead to unpleasant infections, which may be easily prevented by using suitable intimate washing products regularly and properly.

4 minreading time • Text: Dominika Olchowik

Hygiene during period illustration by Jarek Danilenko

Illustration: Jarek Danilenko

The science behind periods

During menstruation, the uterus gets rid of blood and additional layers of endometrium through the vagina. It is a natural process and part of the menstrual cycle when a body is getting ready for eventual fertilization and pregnancy. During their periods everyone should pay attention to washing their vaginal and vulva areas and use sanitary products to avoid leaking. Period hygiene is also essential to feminine health as when done properly, it can help to prevent spreading bacteria and save you from many intimate infections.

Unfortunately, poor access to sanitary products (such as tampons or pads) in some parts of the world, not to mention the lack of running water, is very challenging in terms of feminine hygiene. Not only physically, but also mentally — menstruation itself can bring a lot of shame and uncertainty, even for women from more economically developed countries. In certain parts of India, Africa and Southeast Asia, it is very hard to get menstrual products due to the financial crisis. In some cultures, this access can be limited due to religious beliefs and cultural boundaries. For example in Judaism, people who menstruate are thought to be “impure” and need to take a ritual bath afterwards. Similarly to Hinduism — menstruation and fertility are considered “dirty” in India (therefore, women are even excluded from any type of ceremonies and social events while on period, but at the same time they are praised when becoming a mother).

In Europe, we are very lucky to be overloaded with too many sanitary options. Unfortunately, some of them may have a negative influence on health despite very appealing TV commercials. We prepared a little set of hygiene tips, to make you feel clean and pampered during that time. 

What is the best thing to use during periods?

Sisters, hear me out — using pads or tampons is not the only way to take care of yourself and prevent the leaking of menstrual blood! It is very important to tailor your feminine hygiene and protection to your period's traits. Rule number one is to ask yourself: do I have a heavy blood flow? Do I need something suitable for my sporty and active lifestyle? Choosing between a tampon, sanitary napkin, or menstrual cup should be based on personal preferences. Also, you don’t need to pick one and stick with it. For those who are environmentally conscious, there are also some ecological options, such as reusable cloth pads and tampons. These, just like menstrual cups, should be washed with warm water and mild detergents straight after using them. What is important — pay attention to changing any sanitary products regularly to avoid an infection. Keeping a tampon for too long inside your vagina canal can change your body’s pH and speed up the spread of the bacteria which can eventually cause the Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). It can even be a life-threatening condition, so don’t forget to change the product (whether it’s a pad or a tampon) throughout the day. The amount of pads and tampons per day depends on your menstrual flow. It’s good to check it regularly and change the pad at least every 4 to 5 hours, and the tampon — every 4 to a maximum of 8 hours. Keeping it too long inside or near the vagina will expose it to sweat and heat, which is not only a great environment for bacterial growth, but can also cause an unpleasant odor.

Make sure you wash your hands before applying and changing period products!

If you apply a sanitary product with dirty hands, you can accidentally spread germs into your intimate areas. It is also very important to wash your hands with soap and warm water after discarding the used one, to get rid of the bacteria and possibly blood that could stay on your hands after changing it.

Wrap a tampon or a pad in toilet paper and throw it into the trash bin

By doing it, you may prevent spreading the bacteria outside. Also, it keeps eventual odors contained. Remember not to flush used sanitary items down the toilet, as it may easily get clogged!

Make sure you treat yourself with appropriate intimate hygiene products!

Here are some useful tips on washing your intimate parts!

After discarding the used product, wash the vulva and vaginal area properly. Especially during the first days of period, when the flow is heavier — keep up menstrual hygiene and wash the vulva area at least twice a day. Don’t use douches or any scented soaps — they can change vaginal pH and be a fast route for an infection, like Bacterial vaginosis. It is highly recommended not to use any scented products, even toilet paper, as the contained chemicals can change the vagina’s bacterial balance and make it easier to catch some infections. Douches and any other types of internal cleaning products are pointless since the vagina can clean itself with natural lubricants. However, during periods, you need to remember to clean your vulva, as this is the external part of the female genitals. The best choice would be to stick with only water, but you can also wash your vulva with mild gel, like our intimate wash. Remember to clean and wipe from the front (vulva) to back (anus) — don’t do it in the opposite direction. Otherwise, bacteria from the anus can spread and cause infections in the vaginal area.

Feel free to run yourself a good old nice bath — warm water can help and ease your period cramps, but also it will clean your whole body and give you some time for relaxation, which we all know is essential during menstruation!

Why is the topic of menstrual hygiene so important?

Menstrual hygiene is not only about using certain products and keeping your vaginal areas free from infections. The whole topic is raised to proudly fight for women’s dignity and help people all around the world by sharing the knowledge and giving them access to menstrual hygiene products. Because of the lack of these, many young women in India not only are forced to skip school during their periods but also use leaves and mud instead of sanitary napkins.

To spark a change and help spread knowledge about period, foundations like Menstrual Hygiene Day were set up. If you want to help locally — just be vocal! Share your own experience and tips on maintaining health and menstrual hygiene.

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