Don’t be embarrassed to accept the fact that not everybody knows and cares about their vaginal hygiene. Maintaining your vaginal health is the most essential and effortless practice. You don’t require any high-end luxury products or the commercial product where your favourite celebrity is recommending it.
Myth 1: “Use expensive products or cleansing products for your vagina.“
Your vagina has a self-cleaning trait. It contains healthy bacteria which help in cleaning the vagina by itself. Usage of appealing and commercial products unnecessarily alters the pH level of the vagina, which was supposed to be around 3.8 to 4.5.
Myth 2: “Tampons get lost in your body. “
The tampon is placed into the vagina. It shall be further instilled inside based on the user’s comfort and activity, but it cannot pass through the cervix and get inside your body. The diameter of the cervix is small enough, to not let the tampon go inside your body.
Myth 3: “Yeast infections were caused by using scented cleaning products.”
Vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection characterized by thickness, intense itchiness, and inflammatory discharge fluid from the vagina. Generally, these were caused by using products that imbalances the pH of the vagina.
Myth 4: “Don’t use scented products. “
It is okay if you love to choose your fragrance. Some women might not show negative symptoms while using a scented cleaning product. But on prolonged usage, if the user gets an irritation, it is advised to stop using the product to prevent further damage to the vaginal health.
Myth 5: “STD always shows symptoms. “
Well, it depends on the person. But STD or an STI may or may not show the symptoms for a person. Hence frequent testing is advised.
Clean your vagina with lukewarm water once every day. That is enough. It is healthy if it has a clear, whitish discharge with no foul scent. But, if you feel itchiness or sticky discharge fluid, consult your gynecologist and take precautions as advised.
It was a taboo to talk about periods and for men to buy sanitary napkins in public, still it’s a taboo in some parts of the country, but there is a great development in increasing the menstrual awareness among people.
In India, sanitary pads market in India is valued at around usd500 million in FY2021 which shows the increase in usage of sanitary pads and chance of increasing production to meet demand and tap on the market.
But while we were trying to spread awareness of menstrual hygiene, we were also nurturing a potential threat to the environment, i.e. waste generated due to inappropriate sanitary pads disposal.
Menstruation is a process in women which involves periodic discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from uterus. Occurs mostly every month and usually lasts for 2 to 3 days from puberty to menopause.
Disposed sanitary pads generally take around 400 to 500 years to decomposenaturally as 90% of the sanitary pads produced around the world are made of plastic.
Most of the sanitary napkins comprises of super absorbent polymers which don’t decompose and are responsible for soil and water pollution. These also affects the ecosystem and wildlife as these inject toxin in food chain
Most this waste fills the dump yards in the country and leaves us with the of waste management.
Around 40% of the sanitary waste in landfills somehow finds its way into water bodies which will have serious impact on our health. The harmful chemicals and hazardous plastic is released into the environment.
Though we cannot find the solution of this problem and eradicate it, still we can reduce it to the maximum extent by following means and methods:
Creating awareness among both the rural and urban areas of the country. The major focus should be on youth and students as they are the future and have capability of changing the society and bringing sustainable menstrual hygiene.
The most effective method to dispose sanitary pads is to use incinerators which are mostly available in urban areas and more central incinerating facilities should be provided in urban areas and manual incinerators like the electric ones should be available in rural areas.
The environmental friendly/ organic sanitary pads should be encouraged by the people.
Reusable menstrual cups can be used to reduce the amount of waste produced (only if the person is comfortable with it)
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management.The Covid-19 pandemic has further globally widened this barrier and left many extremely vulnerable to period poverty. More than 60 percent of girls, drop out of school during their menstrual cycle because of the cultural shame and shortage of resources as menstrual products and sanitation facilities. This has resulted in a public health crisis all over the world, mainly in developing countries.
Not only the lack of access, Period poverty also includes the taxes and prices printed in the menstrual products. Menstrual products should be freesince it’s not an acquired thing. Everyone from all the family classes should be able to afford the sanitary products without deducting other necessities from their monthly wages.
CAUSES FOR PERIOD POVERTY?
The root cause is the Menstrual taboo. In the pharmacy stores, where they sell the sanitary products were wrapped in a newspaper to cover the label and hide it from the public. This scenario is seen especially in India.
The second cause shall be the lack of awareness, access, and menstrual hygiene. Menstrual hygiene is a non-existent word in slum and third-party countries. Most women and girls don’t speak about their periods since their tongues are tied. This eventually leads to a lack of awareness and guidance on the application of sanitary products.
In this contemporary world, where the prices are rocketed every day – the low/loss of income in the middle class and underclass families can also lead to period poverty. The family would choose necessities like shelter and food and neglect the menstruation requirements.
Scotland’s government is the first to give access to free sanitary products to girls and women of low-class households. The UK government also comes forward with a strategy to tackle the menstrual taboo and also improve the accessibility of free sanitary products.
The major effect includes the drop in school attendance.Girls worldwide miss 10-20% of school days per year due to lack of menstrual supplies, inadequate sanitation, toilets, period pain, or social stigma, according to the World Bank.Girls who have missed many school days as a result of their period fall behind in school and too often drop out altogether. In addition to this being a massive loss of human potential, girls who have dropped out of school are more likely to be trafficked, forced into child marriage, or have an unplanned pregnancy.
Social stigma or period taboo, rooted in gender inequality, and discriminatory, patriarchal norms about women’s and girls’ status and place in society, cause women and girls to feel persistent shame and fear during periods.As a result of social stigma, girls and women are often expected to refrain from normal activities.
Women’s and girls’ health, safety, and well-being may be put at risk due to lack of and cost of menstrual supplies. Lack of supplies forces many girls in underserved communities to use unhygienic materials which can cause urinary tract and other infections.
All over the world, menstruating women and girls are often regarded as unclean, dirty, moody, or as powerful pollutants to be restricted. This can result in being prohibited from daily activities, from eating certain foods, or from engaging in rituals and religious practice. One severe social menstruation-related sanction called chhaupadi is an ancient tradition practiced in Nepal involving banishing menstruating women and girls to mud-huts for the duration of their period because they are deemed impure.
Efforts have focused on removing tampon taxes or providing free products, but stigma and society’s attitudes towards menstruation also need to change. No girl or woman should be held back just because they bleed.
A period is an un-noticed guest for us girls and women. Luckily, we live in a world where menstrual products are one stop away. There’s a wide range of products available but it all comes down to one, based on your preferences and factors considered. This article gives you an overview of the products available and their significance.
Menstrual products are classified based on factors as cost, ease of use, time efficiency, physical activity level, and sustainability.
These are widely known but less preferred. FDA-approved tampons are made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of both along with the absorbent fibers that are bleached and are free of chlorine. A tampon is inserted into the vaginal canal and absorbs the menstrual blood. In general, women prefer tampons rather than sanitary pads, as they are more discreet. Though they are many health precautions on the usage of a tampon, they give more comfort and are a good substitute for athletic women. A major health consideration everyone fears, by using a tampon is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). It is a rare condition occurred due to its absorbent nature as it also absorbs the vaginal natural lubricant and bacteria. It’s a rare syndrome yet a fatal condition. You can prevent this by choosing a low absorbent rate possible that suits your menstrual flow.
Probably the most commonly used and popular menstrual product. Even though the composition is not yet revealed by the producers, the vital components are bleached rayon, cotton, and plastics. A pad is usually attached to the user’s underwear and absorbs the menstrual blood through the layers of its absorbing material, i.e., cotton or rayon. Since its history, they upgraded sanitary pads that are much more comfortable and easier to use. They are also made according to the menstrual flow of the user. When compared to tampons, even though they are not discreet, a sanitary pad is easily available and low in cost than a pack of tampons.
The only drawback of a tampon and a sanitary pad is they are non-biodegradable and not an environment-friendly option. Nowadays, there is the new production of reusable sanitary pads or cloth pads that can be reused multiple times and are also safe for menstrual health.
This silicone or latex cup is folded into a U- shape and inserted into the vagina, where it unfolds and collects the menstrual blood. It takes a bit to practice the application and once mastered the technique, then you wouldn’t have toworry about leakages anymore. Here’s the good part, one menstrual cup can be reused more than 10 times which results in a total less cost than disposable menstrual products, being discarded after a single-use. After using, immerse your menstrual cup in hot water and leave it for 40 mins to 1 hr as required and then you can reuse it for your next menses.
This is the latest menstrual hygiene product that has extra absorbent layers to prevent leakages. These are used externally and are the most sustainable and environment-friendly option available in the market. Period underwear is most suitable for light periods that occur at the end of menses. During menses, they also prevent odour and are also good for menstrual health.
Do you have to clean the vagina or the vulva?
Firstly, the vagina and vulva are two different portions of the uterus. Vagina has its natural bacteria to cleanse on its own. It does not require any external products. When it comes to the vulva, cleaning your vulva must be part of your daily routine. You can choose either dermatologist-approved products that are chemical-free, mild as possible, and fragrance-free or simply use lukewarm water.
Cleaning your vulva, especially during your menses is an important part as it is also a key part of maintaining your menstrual hygiene.
Annually 1.23 billion menstrual waste needs to be dealt with, as many women and girls are discarding their sanitary napkins and tampons by burying or burning, or throwing in latrines. These poor disposable practices are embedded in menstrual taboo and socio-cultural norms related to menstrual blood and menstruation. But menstruation isn’t a taboo. PERIOD.
SHIFTING TO SUSTAINABLE MENSTRUATION;
Sanitary pads and other menstrual products available in the market contain plastic as the vital constituent. Yes, you read that right. A sanitary napkin consists of 90 percent plastic, while the tampon consists of 6 percent plastic. The absorbent core is made of wood pulp, the ‘absorbing gel’ is made of super absorbent polymers, the ‘wings’ have non-biodegradable adhesives to keep them in place, and other materials such as polypropylene and polyethylene are also added. The primary component in all ‘DSN’ is plastic. Thereby, a sanitary napkin takes approximately 500-800 years to fully disintegrate after disposal. Now shall we reconsider our disposal practices and our menstrual health from the use of these conventional menstrual hygiene products.
Nowadays, people are opting for tote bags or cloth bags that are easily reusable and biodegradable, and are safe for the environment. But what do you think we should do about our menstrual products? How can we change and choose non-plastic menstrual products over the ones which are simply available in the market?
This is where sustainable menstrual products come to light. Sustainable menstrual products are those which are reused and easily compostable. Various environment advocacy groups have recognized the problems related to disposable sanitary napkins and tilting towards reusable products. Reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, cotton tampons, biodegradable pads are some of the products available in this category. You may be wondering how a menstrual cup is sustainable and good for menstrual health. Most of its benefits and advantages are covered underneath the myths spread across. But do you know the fact, that one menstrual cup can be reused more than ten times. No, it doesn’t affect your menstrual health but, if you’re worried, you can search for medical-grade silicone menstrual cups in the market. Menstrual cups are safe to use and more hygienic compared to sanitary pads, don’t let the haters get through you.
Plastic tampon applicators are in use excessively by tampon users. After the utilization of these applicators, they were being flushed through even though they were stated explicitly on the packaging itself. This affects the sewer and also disturbs the total drain flow. On that account, Cotton tampon applicators have been produced but, the awareness regarding this is unfortunately low.
ARE YOU DUMPING YOU’RE MENSTRUAL WASTE PROPERLY?
There is ambiguity among the Solid Waste Management (SWM), to consider the menstrual waste a medical waste or plastic waste. SWH in 2016 laid the rules for both consumers and producers regarding the sanitary pad disposal method. It states that the Sanitary napkin waste must be wrapped in a suitable cover or paper during disposal, provided by the brands or the companies involved in the production of menstrual hygiene products. SWH also categorized the menstrual waste as “Dry waste” meaning the waste other than biodegradable products.
In Pune, the cleaning staff (safai-karmacharis) takes part in the segregation of the non-biodegradable waste by hand from a mass of the compostable waste which also includes division of sanitary pads. Eventually, they have complained about the incomplete wrappings of menstrual products and disclosed how the smell and sight of the menstrual waste make them feel nauseous and cause relatable health problems. To combat this, the Pune Municipal Corporation joined with the SWaCH waste picker cooperative to start the Red Dot Campaign. In this campaign, all households should wrap the used menstrual hygiene products completely and mark a red dot on the wrap indicating that this is a menstrual waste. As per studies, 30 percent of households have been following this campaign compared with 0 percent before the campaign. Campaigns like this give waste pickers self-advocacy and return their dignity of labour.
SWH 2016, suggests that all the menstrual waste should be incinerated in one of the 215 large-scale common bio-degradable medical waste incinerators available. However, this requires segregating, transporting the menstrual waste, which adds on a lot of physical effort. The Rules also put the responsibility of managing the waste on producers through the creation of necessary infrastructure or financial support for the same — which are not in place yet. Thereby, this is a solution that holds potential for the future but does not exist currently. The change will not happen overnight. However, it’s not impossible. The battle starts by destroying the menstrual taboo itself and bringing awareness to women and girls in third-party countries.