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14 Important Questions about Hygiene During Your Period

Today, we're answering the most pressing questions about hygiene during periods: washing your genitals, using pads, managing odors, and many more!

Blood can offer a favorable environment for bacteria to thrive, so health care providers recommend rinsing the genital area at least twice a day — morning and evening — while on your period. It’s also acceptable to do this more often if you feel uncomfortable.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ. It’s important to preserve its natural flora, and using regular soap or even specific cosmetic products for intimate hygiene can disrupt them. Health care providers recommend washing the genital area with warm water without soap.

Wash the genitals from front to back. Start by washing your labia and then proceed to the perineum and anus. This will reduce the likelihood of pathogenic microorganisms and traces of fecal matter entering the vaginal area.

The human reproductive system is cleverly organized and doesn’t require additional cleaning on the inside. For that reason, health care professionals strongly advise against using any hygiene procedures aimed at washing away the healthy vaginal flora (such as douching).

Always choose sanitary products with an absorbency level that’s appropriate for your menstrual flow. Changing these products less frequently than once in four to eight hours (four hours for pads and four to eight hours for tampons) may lead to bacterial growth and infections.

Yes, people who are menstruating can safely take baths. Normally, running water is perfectly fine. But if you have any reproductive health problems, it’s a good idea to consult a health care provider before soaking in the tub. If you do choose to take a bath while on your period, follow these steps for the safest experience:

  • Ensure the bathtub is clean, as your immune system is more susceptible to infection during menstruation.
  • Use warm water — not hot. Hot water may provoke heavier bleeding.
  • Wash your genitals before sitting in the tub (for example, rinse off under the shower).

Feminine hygiene deodorants and sprays can trigger vaginitis (its symptoms include itching, redness, and abnormally heavy vaginal discharge).

Any contact between the vulva and the chemicals contained in any sanitary products, including feminine hygiene deodorants, should be minimized. Instead, you can use wet wipes or rinse your genital area with water.

You can replace toilet paper with wet wipes, which are softer and more delicate. Choose products that are free from alcohol and fragrance and have a balanced pH level, as these ingredients can irritate your skin and mucous membranes.

The vagina’s pH is acidic due to the beneficial lactobacilli inhabiting it. They protect against infections and other pathogens.

Many experts recommend washing the genital area with running warm water without any soap, and some suggest using intimate hygiene products with an acidic pH of 3.8 to 4.5 (which is also a healthy vaginal pH).

Hot water doesn’t work well for bloodstains. Instead, wash a fresh stain with cold water using regular (cream-free) soap, and it should fade.

Some sanitary products come in contact with the anal area. As a result, they can get contaminated by intestinal bacteria.

To avoid transmitting any bacteria on the hygiene product to the body via your hands, wash your hands after changing a menstrual product.

When you’re active during the day, your menstrual flow is normally heavier, so the pad absorbs more blood, sweat, and sebum. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria, which is why you shouldn’t wear one pad for more than four hours.

When you are asleep, your bodily functions slow down, and the bleeding intensity decreases, so you can safely wear a pad overnight. However, don’t use tampons for more than eight hours. They’re associated with a risk of toxic shock syndrome, a severe infection.

Roll up a used pad, enclose it in the wrapper of the new one or in toilet paper, and then throw it away. (For tampons, just wrapping them in toilet paper is enough.) This will minimize any smell and prevent the spread of bacteria, which can build up over time.

Flushing even the smallest hygiene product can easily clog a pipe or sewer. If you’re in a bathroom with no trash bin, you can take the used pad (tampon) with you and throw it away somewhere else.

“Period Products: Information about Tampons and Pads.” Center for Young Women's Health, 16 June 2020, youngwomenshealth.org/2013/03/28/period-products/.

“Feeling Fresh (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Larissa Hirsch, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Aug. 2015, kidshealth.org/en/teens/feminine-hygiene.html.

“Douching.” Womenshealth.gov, 1 Apr. 2019, www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching.

“Guide to Menstrual Hygiene Materials.” Unicef.org, UNICEF, May 2019, www.unicef.org/wash/files/UNICEF-Guide-menstrual-hygiene-materials-2019.pdf.
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