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World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021: History and Importance of Menstrual Hygiene

World Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed each year on May 28. This day aims to diminish the stigmas and taboos surrounding menstruation and hygiene practices.

World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021: History and Importance of Menstrual Hygiene
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(Image Source: Times Of India)

By

Suraj Iyer

Published: 28 May 2021 6:57 AM GMT

Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed all over the world on May 28. This day attempts to de-stigmatize the topic of menstruation. Few organizations such as NGOs and individuals around the world promote the importance of maintaining good menstrual hygiene. The theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 is 'Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health.'

History

Public Health organizations began promoting menstrual health management from the grassroots to United Nations agencies. WASH United, an NGO based in Germany conducted a social media campaign on Twitter in May 2013. WASH stands for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. Their campaign is centered on better menstrual hygiene and health management for women. Given the success of their campaign, the first official Menstrual Hygiene Day took place on 28th May 2014 with workshops, rallies, exhibitions, and more. Menstrual Hygiene Day is specifically observed on May 28th. WASH United described the average interval of a menstrual cycle to be 28 days for 5 days a month. As May is the fifth month of the year, May 28 was chosen.

Challenges

Even today, several social stigmas and taboos are surrounding the topic of menstruation. This prevents many women and girls from going to work or school. However, many women and girls would prefer to attend if it weren't for the lack of sanitation, poor access to menstrual hygiene products, and proper infrastructures such as hygienic private toilets. Opportunities at the workplace, school, or even at home are often missed out on due to the taboos surrounding menstruation. Currently, a total of 410 official partners promote and advocate for Menstrual Hygiene Day by doing campaigns, raising awareness, conducting rallies, and more.

Objective

menstrualhygieneday.org, the world platform for the event reports that "poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education on the issue, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to hygienic menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure undermines the educational opportunities, health, and overall social status of women and girls around the world. As a result, millions of women and girls are kept from reaching their full potential."

Menstrual Hygiene Day brings together individuals, NGOs, media, and other supporting agencies to promote good menstrual health for women and girls. It aims to break the silence around menstrual health and hygiene and has made efforts towards raising awareness and changing negative social norms around the subject. Due to the traffic and engagement it creates, Menstrual Hygiene Day aims to engage decision-makers to increase the priority and take further action for menstrual health and hygiene from grassroots to global levels.

Importance of Menstrual Hygiene

The topic of menstruation in India is surrounded by misconceptions with several restrictions for women. The taboos and socio-cultural restrictions result in a lack of knowledge. Many adolescent girls and women remain unaware of the scientific facts and hygienic health practices that are important towards maintaining good menstrual health and hygiene.

Practicing good menstrual hygiene may decrease vulnerability to Reproductive Tract Infections, also called RTIs. Poor menstrual hygiene contributes to a large number of cases of RTIs in India. Raising awareness, accessibility, and availability to good quality of napkins, regular supply, privacy, water supply, disposal of napkins, reproductive health education and family support are some measures that could change the outlook of menstrual hygiene from how it is viewed today.

According to CKB Hospital, there are a few effects of poor menstrual hygiene.

  • Irritation of the skin causes discomfort and can result in dermatitis – a medical condition in which the skin swells, turns red, and at times becomes sore with blisters.
  • The introduction of bacteria into the urethra may cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). It can happen anywhere in the urinary tract and can be fatal as it can even damage the kidneys if left untreated.
  • Alteration of the pH of vaginal flora can happen. This can lead to change in the environment and an increased tendency to get bacterial vaginosis. It impacts most when women are trying to get pregnant.

CKB Hospital also shared a few ways to improve menstrual hygiene through the following practices.

  • Changing sanitary napkins or tampons within every 4-6 hours can help maintain vaginal hygiene. Menstrual blood attracts various organisms from our bodies which can multiply in the warmth of the blood, and cause irritation, rashes, or UTIs. Regularly changing sanitary napkins or tampons reduces the growth of organisms and prevents infections.
  • Regularly washing your vagina is important as organisms cling to your body after you have removed your sanitary napkin.
  • Vaginas have their cleaning mechanism which comes into play during menstrual cycles. It is best to avoid vaginal hygiene products as they can hamper the natural process leading to infections and growth of bacteria.
  • Disposing of tampons and sanitary napkins properly is important. Wrapping them properly before discarding them is important so the bacteria and infections do not spread. Flushing them will cause the water to back up, spreading the bacteria all over the toilet. Proper handwash is of utmost importance after wrapping and discarding used tampons and sanitary napkins.
  • It is important to stick to a single sanitary method. Using multiple methods can sometimes give a false sense of low menstrual blood loss and prolonged usage of items, leading to increased chances of infection after prolonged contact.


Exercise also tends to alleviate cramps, headaches, or back pain associated with your period and boost your mood. (Image Source: Jonathan Borba/Unsplash)


Exercise during periods - Does it help

Exercise can help reduce the common symptoms of PMS. However, due to fatigue, the nature of exercise should also be low in intensity. Healthline reported the following benefits of exercising during periods.

  • Reduced PMS symptoms: Regular aerobic exercise can reduce the fatigue and mood swings in the days leading up to your period.
  • Endorphin Boost: Exercise gives a natural boost of endorphins which can make you feel better during uncomfortable periods.
  • Improved strength and power: A study found that the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle may allow you to experience greater gains in strength and power due to low levels of female hormones.
  • Reduced pain: Exercise also tends to alleviate cramps, headaches, or back pain associated with your period and boost your mood.
  • Managing painful periods: The symptoms of painful periods or Dysmenorrhea can be reduced by exercises such as light walking may help you decrease these symptoms.

Exercises high in intensity must be generally avoided. Light intensity exercise and regular workouts can help reduce symptoms and still generate the physical and mental health benefits of exercise.

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