Every Day is Menstrual Hygiene Day!
“Menstrual blood is the only source of blood that’s not traumatically induced. Yet, it’s the one that’s hidden the most.”
Menstrual hygiene is as important as everyday hygiene. Something as simple as this is often neglected, and not only on an individual level. Globally, at least 500 million womxn lack proper access to menstrual hygiene facilities. The lack of information about menstrual hygiene, as well as materials themselves, creates a culture of taboos and misinformation about menstruation and potential health risks. A simple vaginal infection is enough to cascade into a series of problems. Susceptibility to cervical cancer is increased due to reproductive tract infections and UTIs. Unhygienic practices also make womxn prone to becoming infertile.
As we strive for issues like gender equality, it’s essential to recognize the challenges that still surround periods. Whether it’s shame or stigma, price or pressure, many of us have suffered as a result. On a social level, education and access are crucial.
First up, education. Periods can be everything from funny to annoying, so why not talk about it all? With campaigns like WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) having a huge impact, awareness about MHM (menstrual hygiene management) will normalize managing periods safely and hygienically, with dignity and privacy. Breaking negative social norms and giving way to education will help womxn talk about it and make informed decisions. This doesn’t just transform their prospects- it transforms prospects of families, communities and nations. Correct information will also aid to fill in the knowledge gap surrounding men and periods, clearing up any misconceptions they have and leading to more open conversations.
On a personal level, instead of enlightening you with the most obvious ways to maintain your menstrual hygiene- like changing your pads/washing your cups at regular intervals, and discarding your products wisely- let’s look at some of the lesser highlighted ways:
Do not use vaginal hygiene products: It would be a good idea to use them normally, but they are a complete game changer if used during your periods. Your vagina has its own cleansing mechanism, and you don’t want artificial products to hamper that, thus leading to infections.
Stick to one method of sanitation: Combining two techniques (pads+cloth) or using two pads at once is an efficient way to deal with heavy flow. But that only causes blood to be accumulated for a longer time, inviting bacteria and everything else with it. Also, frequent switching between brands can make you uncomfortable since brands are as unique as you, they suit everyone differently.
Wash right: Always clean the area from front to back. Washing in the opposite direction can cause bacteria to lodge in the vagina and urethral opening. We know bacteria is never good news.
Beware of pad rashes: This could be the result of a heavy flow. To avoid this, stay dry during your periods. If you have a rash, apply antiseptic ointments or consult your doctor.
Practice sustainable menstruation: Plastic rules modern life, and menstruation is no exception. The amount of plastic waste generated from pads and tampons is huge. While they are the most mainstream feminine hygiene products, they are not environment-friendly. There is also a good amount of risk to infections due to absorption of toxic menstrual fluid accumulated down there. Menstrual cups, on the other hand are reusable, non-toxic and planet-positive! So, if you’re considering a shift, try for yourself and choose wisely.
Here, we move on from education to the next super important part: access.
As we see a wave of progress towards eradicating period poverty, there are still countries that hold on to the ‘tampon tax’. Sadly, this ‘luxury’ is something only womxn need, only womxn are taxed on, and only womxn can’t do without. I have heard people argue that men-only essential products are also taxed, so it’s an even playing field. But it’s not, really. If a man can’t afford condoms (for example), or refuses to pay the tax, he can find other methods of contraception. Menstruating in tax-free peace is a fantasy at this point. And that is not just unfair, it’s unconstitutional. This makes us wonder which one’s harder to wash: the stain on our dress or the stain on their minds?
Everyone should be able to have access to affordable menstrual products, a clean place for disposal and the language to discuss their experiences.
To sum it up: access to adequate menstrual products is a basic human right, not a privilege.
While Menstrual Hygiene Day is recognized each year on May 28th, it should not be limited to this day. Continual efforts for better menstrual hygiene management is the path to better health, dignity and business, thus empowering womxn to rise.
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by Joanna Lin