Periods are a natural part of a woman’s life. Having timely and healthy periods is very important for a woman’s health. However, most women do face difficulties during their periods such as painful cramps and mood swings. Maintaining good hygiene, a good diet, and the correct sanitary products are the cornerstone of a healthy menstrual cycle. Having said that, here are a few things to help you feel better during your period:
Choosing the right menstrual hygiene products
It is very important for women to choose the right menstrual hygiene product, such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups among others. Depending upon the level of activity and type of lifestyle women can choose either of these methods for their periods:
Pros and cons of disposable pads
- They are the most popular products used by women. There is a widespread familiarity around them and that’s where they win
- They are efficient, hygienic, easy to use and they get the job done without much hassle
- They are not exactly comfortable, and the chemicals used to make them can be harmful
- It also acts as a breeding ground for pathogens and causes irritation, which can lead to skin inflammation and infections
Pros and cons of tampons
- They remove all the outer discomfort of using a pad
- With tampons, you may feel freer when you are going about your day and can even participate in water activities such as swimming
- There are a lot of organic and biodegradable tampons available in the market
- Tampons are made of superabsorbent materials, so they run the risk of drying out your vaginal walls if they are in for long
- At times, you may find it difficult to remove them
- When you keep one tampon on for longer than 4-6 hours, it may even become a breeding ground for infections
Pros and cons of menstrual cups
- Menstrual cups are eco-friendly, economical, reusable, soft and sustainable products
- Cups can typically protect for a longer period (6-12 hours depending on the flow) and can even be used overnight.
- It often takes some practice to learn how to insert and remove a menstrual cup, and there is a chance of spillage during the process.
Pros and cons of cloth menstrual pads
- They are cheaper than disposables in the long run
- They are reusable hence, better for the environment
- Cloth menstrual pads are free from irritating materials, so you can avoid unnecessary exposure to the synthetic ingredients in disposable pads and tampons
- Cloth pads are made from soft, breathable fabrics that allow for air flow — this means there’s less sweating, irritation and chafing when you wear cloth pads
- Strict maintenance of hygiene must be followed, including adequate washing of the cloth pad
- They are usually bulkier than many ‘ultrathin’ styles of disposable pads
- Cloth pads can stain
Other than these, women can also take some simple steps to manage their periods better and remain healthy during their menstrual cycle —
Sexual habits during periods: Since the chance of infection is high during periods, it’s crucial to practice safe sex. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sex during periods could lead to increased transmission of sexually transmitted infections, like HIV, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), genital warts and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Menstrual blood may cause skin irritation and inflammation that makes it more susceptible to infection. Therefore, doctors strongly encourage using a condom to decrease this risk.
Exercise and yoga- Simple exercises such as walking, stretching, swimming and yoga are excellent for boosting blood circulation which reduces cramping
Stay hydrated- It is very important for women to drink 8-10 glasses of water every day in order to stay hydrated. They can also go for juices, green tea, and milk. This not only prevents cramping but also fights the bloating.
Have a healthy diet- Women usually have low levels of iron in their body. During periods they lose approximately 50-80ml of blood and along with it, iron too. This might pose a risk of iron deficiency in the body, especially if there is excessive bleeding. Eating iron-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, lentils, beetroot, beans and legumes among others is vital for keeping healthy levels of iron in the body.
Also, having chamomile tea and spices like cinnamon and fennel decreases nausea and helps with painful cramps.
Avoid caffeine, smoking, and alcohol – Caffeine is a substance that leads to a lot of water retention which can cause bloating. Smoking and drinking alcohol have also been identified as a source of cramping during periods. Avoiding alcohol and smoking will make it easier for women to go through their periods.
Heating therapy – Hot water bottles when placed on the abdomen can help with pains and cramping. Similarly, the use of heating pads, taking a hot bath, using warm towels can also help relieve some pain.
With all the choices for menstrual hygiene, it is important that women are educated about their options so that they can manage their menstrual cycle better, rather than being managed by it. If you have excessive pain and extremely heavy bleeding – which forces you to change pads multiple times a day — you should consult a gynaecologist.