•Ignorance or lack of knowledge regarding menstruation and menstrual hygiene among women and adolescents, leads to poor attitudes and hygiene practices.
•The gynecologist said those who use tampons are at the most risk of getting TSS.
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 puts you at most risk of infection and bacteria breeding during your period.
Kihara says minor negligence might also result in yeast infection, which is caused by the overgrowth of yeast such as Candida in intimate areas.
“It is this poor menstrual hygiene, that increases the vulnerability to reproductive tract infections, which are the causes of UTI and yeast infections and changes in vaginal pH also make yeast infections more likely,” Dr. Kihara told the Star during an interview on Monday.
She attributed this to ignorance or lack of knowledge regarding menstruation and menstrual hygiene among women and adolescents, which then leads to poor attitudes and hygiene practices.
Menstrual hygiene starts with how long you use the same sanitary towel in a day, she explains that one should avoid using a pad or having a tampon in for more than 3 or 4 hours.
“Under normal circumstances, the vagina is acidic in nature. During menses, it becomes less acidic, due to the change in PH, under unhygienic conditions, bacteria are fed, cause infections which can lead to a deadly toxic shock syndrome,” she said.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a life-threatening illness that is caused by certain types of bacteria overgrowth.
The gynaecologist said those who use tampons 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 with 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,” she said.
“There is also risk of infection when having sex during menstruation,” she said.
Kihara noted that practicing good hygiene is most important during menses and how the kind of undergarment you are wearing is also key.
“Wearing tight clothes could lead to more sweating and thus, promote the growth of bacteria. Do not wear skinny jeans, tight shorts, or tight underwear continuously for long duration,” she advised.
She advised women to avoid wearing tight clothes, which combined with humidity can cause rashes, vaginal infections, and UTIs.
“Always go for breathable cotton underwear, and comfortable clothes,” she said.
Kihara associated frequent episodes of such infections leading to consequences such as difficulty conceiving, increased risk of preterm delivery and the potential to affect the entire reproductive career of a woman.
Showering twice a day with lukewarm water and unscented soap when having periods was also recommended. This will keep you clean, fresh, and will prevent body odour and infections.
“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 in addition to the free pads that 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.