Photo: Elizabeth Crego / 123rf
In many cultures, menstruation is regarded as mysterious or taboo, despite it occurring in half the world population. Even today, myths about menstruation still prevail. Here are five contemporary myths that you can probably relate to – and the facts behind them.
MYTH 1: You should rest and avoid too much activity during your period.
FACT: Unless associated with painful disorders like endometriosis, regular periods are a natural occurrence, not a debilitating medical condition. So, while menstrual cramps and discomfort may lower your energy levels, there’s no real reason to avoid regular physical activity during your period. In fact, light exercise could very well ease those aches.
Some women may find that physical activity causes uncomfortable chafing around the intimate areas. This is normally due to a combination of heat, moisture and friction.
However, wearing the right sanitary pads and changing them once every 3 to 4 hours will keep your skin dry. Try to wear loose clothing to increase ventilation in that area and you should still be able to go on with your regular physical activities with little friction.
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MYTH 2: It’s normal to feel itchy, sore or irritated down there during your period.
FACT: Even though itchy, sore or otherwise irritated skin is a common “side effect” of periods, skin irritation is not something you have to live with. When you wear sanitary pads, in general, a lot of moisture and heat gets trapped around the genital area, which may lead to heat rash and other types of skin irritation.
If your skin itches, resist the urge to scratch – it might break the skin, leading to possible infection.
You can prevent skin irritation easily by switching to quality pads that are absorbent and reduce moisture on the surface. If you have sensitive skin, go for sanitary napkins that have cotton surfaces that are softer to the skin instead of plastic mesh top sheets, which might cause abrasion and irritation.
Pads with skin-friendly surface design that help to reduce contact points to the skin are recommended as they minimize friction and rubbing against delicate skin.
Also, look out for labels that state that the sanitary pads are dermatologically tested, which is an indication that the napkins are of high quality. One such brand is Laurier Ultra Gentle, which makes sanitary napkins that are clinically proven to relieve skin irritation. With a wavy surface design that is skin-friendly, Ultra Gentle napkins increase breathability and relieve stuffiness and itchiness at the delicate area.
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MYTH 3: You should douche or wash your genital area more frequently during your period.
FACT: The vagina is known to be self-cleansing and generally does not require any sort of washing, soaping or douching. In fact, doing so may upset the delicate balance of “good” microbes that keep it clean and its pH at healthy (acidic) levels.
The skin outside the vagina – the vulva – can be washed as necessary. However, as the skin here is very thin and sensitive, take care not to over-wash, which can strip your skin of its natural oils and lead to irritation. Avoid hot water and chemical-laden soaps, which are harsh on the skin.
Instead, the kindest way to wash your intimate area is a simple rinse with lukewarm water. If necessary, you can use a small amount of mild soap (fragrance-free is best) to help wash off any dried blood or discharge. During your period, there is no need to wash more frequently or more thoroughly than usual. Take note that during period days, this area is more prone to inflammation as it gets more sensitive, so extra gentle care is needed.
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MYTH 4: Menstrual blood has an unpleasant odour.
FACT: Menstrual blood – or, more accurately, menstrual fluid – is blood mixed with mucus, tissue and vaginal secretions. Unless you have a vaginal infection such as a yeast infection, the fluid itself should not have a particularly strong smell.
However, it is true that when menstrual pads trap heat and moisture, this humid environment is conducive to bacterial growth, which leads to an odour. (Don’t worry though – you are the only one who can smell it!)
If it bothers you, simply change your pad more frequently. About 3 to 4 hours is a good guideline for day use.
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MYTH 5: You should apply talcum powder to stay dry and comfortable during your period.
FACT: Some women apply talcum or baby powder on their genital areas during their period to keep the area dry, but such powders may do more harm than good, especially if the powder is made with talc. Studies have linked this ingredient to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
While there are talc-free alternatives on the market – cornstarch-based powder, for example – a better method would be simply to get higher quality sanitary pads with high absorbency as it will help to keep your skin dry and comfortable. Wear underwear made of absorbent natural fibres like cotton, and stick to loose clothing during your period for better ventilation.
So now you have the facts! Simply maintain good female hygiene, take gentle care of your skin and choose high-quality products. It’s easy to #LoveYourSkin and still lead an active and healthy lifestyle during this natural monthly affair.
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This article was first published on The Straits Times' Brand Insider section.