As women, we’ve heard and come across all sorts of period-related tips at various stages in our life. While we were made aware of some vital hygiene practices at times, friends and relatives would also pass hacks that helped them better their relationship with periods at times. Later in life, we also got exposed to the many mediums of period care products that exist – think tampons, menstrual cups, period panties and more besides the usual pads. Though a menstrual cycle is one of the most normal, natural and basic phenomena to exist in a woman’s body, in my opinion, I don’t think one should ever stop expanding their knowledge about it – it will always help. Now, we’ve all been following certain period care practices for years together, but do you know why you do what you do? Dr Tanaya Narendra, a doctor and digital content creator who’s here to destigmatise conversations about period and sex like never before, seemed like the most approachable candidate (a.k.a friendly doc) to help us make sense out of these trusted period hygiene practices.
Change Your Pad Every 4-6 Hours
We’ve all heard this, done this and continue to diligently do this. And, if you’re being lazy about this, here’s why you shouldn’t. “The reason why it’s said to change the pad every 4-6 hours – which can, btw, go upto 8 hours too – is because you can have the growth of toxic bacteria that can lead to toxic shock syndrome. This is likely to happen if you use the same pad for more than 8 hours. And, this applies across any and every menstrual product that you use, except a menstrual cup which can be used for 12 hours,” reveals Dr Tanaya. It’s important to note that toxic shock syndrome can be fatal; hence, don’t procrastinate that change.
Stay Away From Soap-based Intimate Washes
We’ve all come across advertisements and commercials that position a vaginal wash or intimate cleanser as the ultimate level of hygiene. So much so, that you begin to perceive it as a necessity. But, what about the high level of harsh soap that goes into it? Also, does that mean our mums and grandmas perpetually had not-so-clean vulvas? I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – your vagina is a self-cleaning part. Let it enjoy its independence and self-reliance unless it’s seeking help. Dr Tanaya affirms, “Firstly these washes are meant for the vulva, not vagina. Now, the problem with soap-based washes is that the soap can cause a lot of dryness on the vulva, leading to the development of irritation or skin conditions. Ideally, for my patients, I recommend warm water or normal water, there’s no need for a cleanser. And, if you absolutely must, use a soap-free cleanser.”
Sterilize The Menstrual Cup Thoroughly
With more and more people jumping onto the menstrual cup bandwagon, understanding the A-Z of the product is important – from pre- to post-treatment, you must be cognisant of how to deal with the insertable at every stage of your period. After all, it’s going into your body and gets exposed to one of the most sensitive parts. Just like any other reusable, caring for the cup in the right manner is of paramount importance. “It’s really important to sterilize the cup thoroughly since it’s something you’ll be inserting inside yourself for a while. Regular rinsing will not completely disinfect it. This is also one thing we’ve learned during COVID – fully disinfecting anything is a must. So, boiling by raising the temperatures high is the best way to kill any bacteria that might lead to any infection. Every time you take out the cup, rinse it; you can wash it with soap too. And finally, once you’re done with your cycle, you’re supposed to boil it and later secure it in a cotton bag safely,” advises Dr Tanaya.
Opt For Cotton Pads
A while after many shifted to pads (ask your mother about it), suddenly cotton-based pads emerged as the saviours. Natural, softer and better – everyone thought cotton pads are a safer option. While I personally prefer ‘em too for the comfort, convenience and hygiene purposes, Dr Tanaya believes whichever pad you use is ultimately the best. “For some people, they can experience irritation when using cellulose or rayon-based pads but it’s not necessary to stick to cotton pads,” she cites. “But using (any) pad is always better than settling for a piece of cloth or simply refraining from apt period hygiene that still prevails in the society.” So, if you have a sensitive skin down there, and have the privilege of making a choice – go for cotton-based pads.
Also read: 5 Homegrown Brands That Are Changing The Landscape Of Menstrual Hygiene