Everything You Need To Know Before Choosing A Menstrual Product That Suits You

WASH logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #NoMoreLimits, a campaign by WASH United and Youth Ki Awaaz to break the silence on menstrual hygiene. If you'd like to become a menstrual hygiene champion, share your story on any one of these 5 themes here.
A variety of products help deal with period flow: cloth or cloth pads, disposable sanitary napkins, tampons, and menstrual cups. A person may choose a product that they feel is comfortable and affordable. However, with each product, there is a set of measures to follow to stay clean and infection-free.

Cloth Or Cloth Pads

A whopping 62% women in India use cloth as a means to contain the period flow. This is mostly because of the unavailability or the high cost of other feminine-hygiene products. Cloth is good for the environment as no disposable waste is created by using cloth. But, a major challenge of using cloth is to keep the skin around the vulva dry to prevent infections as moisture from the period blood and the warmth of the human body is an ideal place for bacteria to grow.

Cloth must be changed regularly according to the heaviness of the flow. After each use of the toilet, it must be made sure that the genitals are properly washed and dried, so there is no wetness added to the sanitary cloth. When using cloth, it must be ensured that after each use, the cloth is thoroughly washed with detergent and disinfectant, and properly dried in direct sunlight.

Sanitary Napkins

Disposable sanitary napkins that are stuck to the underwear must be changed every four to six hours, even at times when the flow is really light. Even super-absorption pads are breeding ground for bacteria because the chemicals in them react with the period blood on them and wearing these pads for long duration is an invitation for rashes and painful infections.

After each use of the toilet, it must be made sure that the genitals are properly washed and dried, so there is no wetness added to the sanitary napkin.

Tampons

Tampons are disposable menstrual-hygiene products that are inserted inside the vagina to absorb period blood and have a string hanging outside of the vagina (to help pull them out after use). Many women use tampons to avoid the skin irritation that sanitary pads often cause while also catching the period flow without it flowing outside the body.

The rule of changing every 4-6 hours, at any rate, applies to tampons as well. But, for some women, and on some days, the tampon might have to be changed sooner in case of heavier flow.

Tampons must not be worn overnight as leaving a tampon in for too long may lead to toxic shock syndrome (TCS). The risk of TCS is said to be higher with the super-absorbent variety of tampons.

It must also be ensured that the string of the tampon does not get wet or soiled while using the toilet. One must hold the string away while using the toilet or remove the tampon altogether if that is not possible.

Menstrual Cup

Menstrual cups are reusable menstrual-hygiene products that are made of medical-grade silicon and inserted into the vagina. The cup only collects the period blood and does not absorb it. Menstrual cups produce no menstrual waste, unlike sanitary pads and tampons.

A menstrual cup must be disinfected at the beginning and end of each period, by boiling it in water for 10-20 minutes. During your period, a cup can last can last for any length of time depending on the amount of period flow, before it has to be removed, emptied, washed and re-inserted. Cups can be safely worn during the night as well.

When the menstrual cup fills up, it should be emptied into a toilet or sink and washed with clean water. Usually, they come with paper-soap to wash the cup after each use. Since a menstrual cup is worn inside the vagina and no part of it is outside the body, it does not interfere while we are using the toilet.

Disposal Of Menstrual-Hygiene Products

Cloth is reusable and, hence, need only be washed when soiled with blood.

Sanitary napkins and tampons must be wrapped in a piece of paper or the packing paper they come in while disposing them in a dustbin. They must never be flushed into the toilet as this will block the drainage passage.

Menstrual cups are reusable and can last up to ten years. They only need to be emptied and washed each time they fill up. Additionally, they have to be sterilised by boiling them in water at the beginning and at the end of each menstrual cycle.

It is absolutely necessary to wash our hands with soap and water before and after handling any menstrual-hygiene product.

Love Matters and Miss Menses wish all women a happy and safe period on the #NoMoreLimits World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28).

Read more here on Menstrual Hygiene: Top Facts 

Do you have any questions on menstrual hygiene? Ask Love Matters (LM) on our Facebook or consult LM experts on our discussion forum.

Let's ensure that no girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period by making menstrual hygiene education compulsory in schools.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

  • Mobilising young people between the age of 18-35 to become ‘Eco-Period Champions’ by making the switch to a sustainable menstrual alternative and becoming advocates for the project
  • All existing and upcoming public institutions (pink toilets, washrooms, schools, colleges, government offices, government buildings) across East Delhi to have affordable provisions for sustainable menstrual product options

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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