MENSTRUAL HEALTH

Importance of menstrual hygiene and why you risk infection

You risk infection having intercourse during menses - Dr. Kihara.

In Summary

•Dr. Kihara explained that one should avoid using a pad for more than 3 or 4 hours.

•“Under normal circumstances, the vagina is acidic in nature. During menses, it becomes less acidic, and under unhygienic conditions, bacteria is fed and can lead to a deadly toxic shock syndrome,” she said.

The menstruation onset is one of the most important physiological changes that occur in girls during their adolescent years. https://bit.ly/2Z3G2gt

FIGO President Elect 2021–2023 Dr Ann Beatrice Kihara,during an interview with the Star on November 16,2021
FIGO President Elect 2021–2023 Dr Ann Beatrice Kihara,during an interview with the Star on November 16,2021
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

The menstruation onset is one of the most important physiological changes that occur in girls during their adolescent years.

According to Ann Beatrice Kihara, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist specialist at Kenyatta National Hospital, it is important for women to practice menstrual hygiene during their menses to prevent infections in both the urinary and reproductive tract.

These two are at the most risk of infection and bacteria breeding during the period.

“It is this poor menstrual hygiene, that increases the vulnerability to reproductive tract infections, which are the causes of UTI'S and yeast infections,” Dr. Kihara told the Star during an interview on Tuesday.

She attributed this to ignorance or lack of knowledge regarding menstruation and menstrual hygiene among women and adolescents, which then leads to poor attitude and hygiene practices.

Menstrual hygiene starts with how long you stay with a sanitary towel in a day.

Tampons and Sanitary pads
Tampons and Sanitary pads
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

Dr. Kihara explained that one should avoid using a pad for more than 3 or 4 hours.

“Under normal circumstances, the vagina is acidic in nature. During menses, it becomes less acidic, and under unhygienic conditions, bacteria is fed and can lead to a deadly toxic shock syndrome,” she said.

A toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a life threatening illness that is caused by certain types of bacteria overgrowth.

The gynaecologist said those who use tampon are at the most risk of getting TSS.

She added that changing sanitary towels regularly helps to curb the growth of the infection causing bacteria, which multiply in the warmth of the blood.

It is possible to get bacteria and yeast infection even in your menses because hormonal fluctuation affect the environment of your vagina.

“There is also risk of infection when having sex during menstruation,” she said.

"Hygiene should be at the tip during menses and this also includes the kind of undergarment you are using.”

A pantie liner
A pantie liner
Image: Courtesy; Pinterest

 

Kihara associated frequent episodes of such infections leading to consequences such as difficulty in conceiving, increased risk of preterm delivery and affect the entire reproductive career of a woman.

“Washing regularly with clean water is important because organisms cling to your body after you remove the pad. Use your hands and clean in motion from the vagina to the anus, not vice-versa, to save you from the infections," she said.

Kihara encouraged proper disposal of used pads by ensuring the napkin is wrapped properly, not to allow bacteria to spread and washing of hands afterwards.

She insisted on the need for menstrual hygiene education even as the free pads are distributed in schools.

The Ministry of Health policy, 2016-2030 on Menstrual Hygiene links strategies of interventions of investments.

The policy aims at filling the current gap in basic information and education on menstruation, adequate access to menstrual products, services and facilities, and safe disposal of menstrual waste.