The 7 menstrual hygiene mistakes you’re probably making, according to doctors
It’s no secret that most women have experienced pain during their periods, ranging from mild to debilitating. But as Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed on May 28th, aims to point out, what we do and how we care (or don’t care) for ourselves during our periods can cause health problems and pain to arise during other times of the month as well.
The goal of Menstrual Hygiene Day is to raise awareness about the importance of menstrual hygiene and the role it plays in enabling girls and women to reach their full potential at school, work, and in all other pursuits. Poor menstrual hygiene = poor health, and poor health means missed opportunities.
Though most of us in the U.S. have access to clean water and an array of hygienic menstrual products, there are some mistakes we menstruating humans make that we need to be aware of. So! To improve all of our lives, HelloGiggles spoke with two OB-GYNs, Dr. Codi Wiener and Dr. Carolyn DeLucia, about the most common menstrual hygiene mistakes they’ve observed.
1Using scented tampons and pads.
Wiener told HelloGiggles that scented tampons, pads, and toilet paper can cause skin irritation and even burn-like symptoms. “Make sure all products are fragrance-free and do not contain additives like aloe,” she advised, noting that organic products may be the best option for some women because they don’t contain pesticides or other chemicals.
Douching and washing the vagina and vulva too thoroughly throws off the area’s pH balance and leaves you more vulnerable to yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, Wiener explained. If you think you are prone to these infections, she suggested using a feminine oral probiotic like Femdophilus or IsoFresh.
"Remember that vaginal discharge will change throughout your cycle and throughout your life. Sometimes there will be more or less. It is not always an indicator that something is wrong," Wiener said. "You should rinse the vagina and vulva with water only. The groin can be washed with a perfume-free natural soap."
3Not changing your tampon frequently enough.
Wiener said that, ideally, you should change your tampon every three to four hours — and never leave it in for more than eight hours. Leaving a tampon in for too long puts you at risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening infection that spreads to the bloodstream. It is most common with “super” tampons that are very absorbent.
4Not changing your pad frequently enough.
“If you wear the same pad all day, there is no ventilation, and bacteria breed on the old blood,” DeLucia told HelloGiggles. Change your pad several times throughout the day in order to reduce the chances of bacterial infections and unwanted odors.
5Using a tampon that’s too strong for your flow.
During a light period, it can be tempting to use a super tampon so you don’t have to worry about when and where to change it. But DeLucia said it’s important to change the strength of your tampon to meet your flow in order to reduce the risk of infection.
"The problem with using tampons that are too strong is that when you pull it out and it feels dry, like you are pulling your vagina inside out, you are unsuspectingly leaving small pieces of cotton behind on the vaginal wall," she explained. "They'll breed bacteria and may cause vaginitis or vaginal infection."
6Not showering daily during your period.
DeLucia told HelloGiggles that it’s important to shower daily during your period. Doing so gently cleans the vagina and vulva to be free of blood remnants, which reduces the chances of bacterial infection.
7Sleeping with a tampon in.
Instead of sleeping with a tampon in, DeLucia said women should remove it before bed and use a pad during the night to “help flush out any bacteria that may have gotten stagnant.”
Additionally, leaving a tampon in for seven to eight hours is as big a mistake at night as it is during the day. Doing this can cause bacterial overgrowth, which in itself is dangerous and can also lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Luckily, all of these changes are pretty easy to make if you’re not already doing these things. Happy (healthy) menstruating!