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What is menstrual health and why is it important? According to the National Library of Medicine, menstrual health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle. Good menstrual health and hygiene practices can prevent infections, reduce odors and help maintain comfort during your period. Here are some essential tips on hygiene, period product options and what you should know about menstruation.
Know the facts about menstruation
Good menstrual health involves knowing the signs of possible issues. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of common menstrual health issues, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a group of symptoms that happen just before your period and often including mood swings, food cravings and fatigue; menstrual cramps; irregular periods, when menstruation happens early, late or not at all; and heavy menstrual bleeding. Understanding these issues can help you identify abnormalities and know when to talk to your doctor.
Menstruation hygiene tips
Maintaining good menstrual hygiene is essential for preventing infections and promoting overall health and wellness. During menstruation, regularly changing your menstrual products is vital. “Whether you use pads, tampons, menstrual cups or another product, change them according to the product’s instructions,” said Nicole Ward, APN at Inspira Medical Group. “Leaving a menstrual product in too long can increase the risk of bacterial growth and infection.” Also, always wash your hands before and after changing menstrual products. Washing thoroughly with soap and water can help you maintain proper hygiene and prevent the spread of germs.
It’s also necessary to clean the genital area properly, especially during menstruation. Use gentle, unscented soap and warm water to cleanse the area, and avoid using harsh chemicals or fragrances that can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina. Doctors do not recommend douching because it may alter the vagina’s natural pH balance and increase your risk for infection.
“Tight-fitting underwear and pants can trap moisture and increase your risk of infection,” said Ward. “Wear clean underwear made of breathable materials like cotton, and change your underwear regularly during menstruation.”
Several menstrual products are available, so choose the type that suits your comfort and lifestyle. One of the most popular options is a menstrual pad, made of absorbent material and worn in your underwear to collect menstrual blood. They come in various sizes and thicknesses, and some are designed for different flow levels.
Tampons, which are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood, are another option. They come in different sizes and absorbency levels, so select the right size for your body and flow. Tampons must be changed every four to eight hours during use to prevent the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but life-threatening complication of some bacterial infections.
Menstrual cups are reusable silicone or rubber cups inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. They are eco-friendly, cost-effective and with proper care, can last for several years. Menstrual cups require cleaning and sanitation after each use to avoid infection.
Another option is period panties, underwear designed with built-in, absorbent layers to collect menstrual blood. They are reusable, comfortable and eco-friendly. Period panties come in many styles and absorbency levels, making them a popular option for those who prefer an alternative to pads, tampons or menstrual cups.
“Menstrual hygiene is a fundamental aspect of health that should be prioritized to maintain overall well-being,” said Ward. “By following proper hygiene practices, choosing suitable menstrual products, educating yourself about menstruation and seeking medical care when needed, you can have a safe menstrual experience.”
Inspira offers specialized care for women at any stage of life through a robust network of physicians, women’s health specialists and certified nurse midwives with offices conveniently located throughout Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.