What is menstrual hygiene and why is it important?
What is menstruation?
Every month, your body prepares to get pregnant. Your ovaries release an egg. Hormones rise and fall. This is your menstrual cycle. It starts on the first day of your last period and ends on the first day of your next period. Though the average cycle is 28 days long, anything between 21 and 45 days is considered normal.
How long your period lasts also varies the time from the first sign of blood to the last is usually in the 3 to 5-day range.
If the egg your ovary releases every month isn’t fertilized, the lining of your uterus sheds through your vagina. This is your period. The amount of blood that comes out of your body is called your menstrual flow.
Some months your breasts may feel tender when you have your period. Other months you may notice bloating around your abdomen or mood swings. Other normal menstruation symptoms: Acne Cramping in the lower abdomen and back etc.
What does menstrual hygiene entail and why is it very important?
Poor menstrual hygiene and the obvious lack of enlightenment about menstrual health is a problem that puts women and adolescent girls at a disadvantaged position economically, politically, socially and otherwise when compared to their male counterparts.
Globally, at least 500 million women and girls lack proper access to menstrual hygiene facilities. Several factors influence difficult experiences with menstruation, including inadequate facilities and materials, menstrual pain, fear of disclosure, and inadequate knowledge about the menstrual cycle (World Bank 2018).
According to UNICEF, the subject is generally not taught in schools and not discussed openly. Moreover, disposable sanitary products are very expensive and often unavailable.
In Ethiopia nearly 75% of women and girls don’t have access to the menstrual supplies and an average of 1 in 10 girls miss school during their menstrual flow. It is worse in Uganda, where 1 out of 2 girls report missing one to three days of school per month due to menstruation.
The social stigmas and taboos surrounding menstruation often prevent people who menstruate from attending work and school and even when they attend, the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, sanitation infrastructure (especially water) and menstrual hygiene education can prevent them from reaching their full potentials, make them prone to diseases and spread of diseases.
Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is defined as ‘Women and adolescent girls using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstruation period, using soap and water for washing the body as required, and having access to facilities to dispose of used menstrual management materials’.
Menstrual Hygiene and the annual celebration of menstrual hygiene day raises the awareness to these problems. It is very crucial to the empowerment and well-being of women and girls globally.
Menstrual Hygiene Day
The numerous problems faced by menstruating women promoted WASH UNITED, a German non-profit advocacy and education group to launch MENSTRUATION HYGIENE DAY- a day dedicated to breaking the silence around periods.
The day takes place on 28th of May every year. This date was chosen because, the average duration of a menstrual cycle is 28days and, on average, women and girls menstruate for five days per month.
THIS YEAR’S THEME
MH Day recognises that periods do not stop for pandemics in light of the coronavirus crisis. Thus everyone should use the hashtag #periodsinpandemics.
Written by Dr Murphy-Akpieyi ofeoritse