In India, menstrual hygiene management is a major issue that impacts millions of girls and women, especially those from low-income families. Given the lack of conversation about periods, according to one study, 71% of adolescent girls in India are unaware of menstruation until they get it themselves. Over 300 million women in India do not have access to menstrual hygiene products. Around 10% of girls think that menstruation is an illness and 20% of ¬women do not use toilets during menstruation due to cultural taboos and stigma.
Why Indian Women Are Dealing With Menstruation Hygiene?
Out of India’s 355 million menstruating females, only 36% use sanitary napkins, while the rest use old rags, husk, ash, leaves, mud and soil and other life-threatening materials to manage their flow.
The difficulty of accessing sanitary pads is a major issue. Millions of families across India cannot afford to buy menstrual hygiene products. For them, it’s a choice between spending on food or purchasing sanitary napkins. In rural areas, even when women are using sanitary pads, they tend to overuse them and end up wearing the same pad for a period of 14-26 hours which leads to infections and other health crises. There are thousands of such cases in Mumbai and the surrounding districts.
Speaking to TheHealthSite.com, Dr Goldy Kamboj, Senior Consultant- Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Manipal Hospital Patiala said, “Hygiene is very important for good menstrual health and the need for the same increases even more during menstruation. Lack of cleanliness, use of dirty pads/ cloth, and using unclean toilets can lead to several infections and diseases. Moreover, it can lead to vaginal irritation, toxic shock syndrome, and prolonged discomfort that can even affect the mental health of women. Long term presence of these complications can also lead to a permanent impact on the woman’s reproductive health causing infertility and abnormalities in pregnancy. Therefore, women must always use clean pads, change them at least 2-3 times each day and dispose of the same in a proper manner.”
Health Risks of Poor Menstrual Hygiene Practices
The most important part of the whole hygiene part during menstruation depends on how much everyone knows about what may happen if proper hygiene is not maintained. We spoke to Dr Ritika Mahapatra about the health consequences of poor menstrual hygiene. Here is what the doctor wants you to know.
Increase Your Chances of Infection
Poor menstrual hygiene is intricately linked with several risk infections.
Did you know that not washing your hands right after changing your sanitary pads can lead to yeast infection or even Hepatitis B? Yes, so from now, make sure to wash your hands.
Beware of using the same pad or sanitary napkins for too long. It can cause fungal infections. Keeping the same pads on for more than 24 hours can lead to the growth of bacteria in the vagina. This habit may also disturb the pH levels of your genitals.
Urinary Tract Infection
An extremely common, yet scary health hazard associated with poor menstrual hygiene is Urinary tract infection.
Yes, you read that right. Not maintaining proper hygiene during menstruation can also lead to cervical cancer.
Lack of Menstrual Hygiene In India: How To Deal With It?
In order to spread awareness and make people understand the importance of menstrual hygiene, a bunch of people from different cities are working under Project RED. The focus of the project is to present menstruation as a natural step in a girl’s growth and not something to be ashamed of or to miss school for.
Apart from this, the government is also taking initiatives to provide free sanitary pads in schools and colleges (especially in rural India) to ensure no one in those secluded parts of the country is deprived of basic hygiene facilities during those days of the month.
Project RED is a step in the direction of achieving menstrual equity by resolving several key issues like access to sanitary products, proper toilets, hand washing facilities, and sanitation along with hygiene education and waste management. Rotary Club of Mumbai Bravehearts along with local rotary clubs and MUN charitable trust is working to increase the ease of accessibility to reusable sanitary napkin kits and educate women about proper menstrual hygiene.
“Under this project, menstrual kits which contain 5 reusable sanitary pads (2 for heavy flow and 3 for normal flow) are provided free of cost to 20,000 beneficiaries in the age group of 12 to 45 years. The pads last easily for 18 months and are environment-friendly, easy to store, and cost-effective. Reusable sanitary pads will bring a positive change in the lives of these girls. It will improve their health, prevent infections as well as ensure that no work and school days are missed. They will be educated on how to use them. Increased awareness of menstrual hygiene and infection prevention will ease their worries about the same,” said one of the members of the team who is working under the RED Project.
It is time we realise that menstruation is just a biological process and the secrecy surrounding it must go. It is important to normalise menstruation and destroy taboos around this natural process.