Special Story: Breaking silence on menstrual hygiene

Gynaecologists say most of the girls are not aware of their bodies and menstrual cycle

Menstrual hygiene is an important issue that needs to be maintained for better health. Most women go through periods very secretively and don’t really bother to figure out if practices are hygienic or not. Around the world women have developed their own personal strategies to cope up with menstruation hygiene, which vary with woman to woman and also depends on their economic and educational status, personal preferences, traditions and cultural beliefs.

“Menstrual hygiene is the most important thing which every woman should keep in mind. Poor menstrual hygiene leads to fungal infections. Many women have recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) due to poor menstrual hygiene,” said Dr Ganesh Shinde gynaecologist and dean of RN Cooper hospital.


A recent study published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) too emphasised on the need for strengthening of menstrual hygiene management programmes in India. It said that education on awareness, access to hygiene absorbents and disposal of menstrual hygiene management items need to be addressed. Gynaecologists say that most of the girls are not aware of their bodies and menstrual cycle.

“Educating girls about menstrual hygiene is as important as education. Simple steps like cleaning the body and private parts with water should be taught to girls. Water is the best solvent to clean your body and private parts. Woman should use PH balance wash as soap contains alkaline which is not good and causes infection. Sanitary products should be changed every four hours to maintain hygiene,” said Dr Kiran Coelho, gynaecologist, Lilavati hospital.

In India, through its National Health Mission programme, the government is trying to reach out to people on the importance of puberty education for menstrual hygiene.

“While menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) is celebrated in some regions of India, for majority of girls, menstruation poses a huge physical and psychological burden. Girls are mostly caught unaware by menarche.  Feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, dirtiness and anger are common among girls when it comes to menstruation,” said Dr Rajshri Katke, medical superintendent and gynaecologist at Cama and Albless hospital.

Coelho said menstrual hygiene is more of a problem in rural area than urban. “Woman in rural area should wash clothes on a daily basis and use new clothes each day. After using public toilets woman should wash hand and then use sanitary products, it prevents them causing infection. While washing private part it should be washed from front to backwards and not back to front. Woman should keep the private parts dry and clean,” Coelho added.

The major health problem associated with menstrual hygiene is urinary tract infection (UTI).

“UTI can cause permanent damage to the kidney.  Any pain felt in the kidney area indicates the infection has reached the kidneys and needs immediate treatment. It can cause Pyelonephritis. Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney tissue which can also cause death” said Dr Shrirang Bichu, nephrologist on Bombay hospital.