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Period hygiene​ questions answered

heeral-patel-bio

Reviewed byHeeral Patel

Woman in underwear holding hands on abdominal area forming heart shape around navel
The do’s and don’ts of your cycle, including how to avoid infections and deal with common wellness issues

Summary

1Can I get infections from my period?

Before we tackle this we need to talk about pH levels – that's the indication of how acidic of alkaline something is...

2Does smelly period blood mean I’m infected?

No, not necessarily. In fact, the menstrual flow normally has a slight smell and typically...

3What if I forget a tampon or pad change?

The best thing to do if you’ve forgotten to change your tampon or...

There’s nothing unclean or embarrassing about periods: fact. However, there are some hygiene rules you should follow to keep yourself feeling well and comfortable.

It may be a regular(ish) fixture in many of our lives, but that doesn’t mean we don't have to think about it at all. Poor menstrual hygiene can have some health implications, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections.1 It can also lead to itching or rashes in the perineal region, bad odour, and sometimes even complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and toxic shock syndrome.2

Don’t worry if this is news to you – we’re here to put your mind at ease and help you know more about looking after your vulva during your period.

What if I forget a tampon or pad change?

The best thing to do if you’ve forgotten to change your tampon or sanitary pad for a while is to remove it as soon as possible. It’s recommended to wear a tampon for no longer that eight hours at a time.

If menstrual blood sits against the vagina in a pad or tampon for an extended period, your vagina becomes less acidic, so it’s important to change pads and tampons frequently.6

If you forget to remove your tampon, it can turn sideways or may become compressed at the top of your vagina. This can make it difficult for you to pull it out. If you think you've left a tampon in and you can't get it out, go to your GP or nearest sexual health clinic. They can remove it for you.17

But don’t panic if a tampon gets stuck inside you. It's not possible for a tampon to get lost inside you, it’ll stay in your vagina after you've inserted it.18

How do I get blood out of my clothes?

Leaks happen, but luckily you can use common household items such as vinegar, lemon juice, or hydrogen peroxide as effective stain removers. These are especially good for tackling stains that have dried and set-in on your bedsheets. Always test a small area first.

How to remove period stains naturally:19
Having a few comfy pairs of pants for when you’re on your period is also a good tip; pants that you don’t mind discolouring, or chucking out if they get stained!

The final say

Our vulvas are as individual and unique as we are and knowing how to best care for them will prevent poor period hygiene.

Understanding your body’s norms and what to expect is how you can spot if something changes, so stay tuned to your body each month. For more, find out how to support your health at each stage of your menstrual cycle.

Check with your GP if you notice anything unusual.

This article is for information only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services.

Sources

1. The World Bank. Menstrual Health and Hygiene [Internet]. World Bank. 2022. Available from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water/brief/menstrual-health-and-hygiene#:~:text=Poor%20menstrual%20hygiene%2C%20however%2C%20can
2. Kumar G, Prasuna J, Seth G. Assessment of menstrual hygiene among reproductive age women in South-west Delhi. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2017;6(4):730.
3. Lin YP, Chen WC, Cheng CM, Shen CJ. Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis. Diagnostics [Internet]. 2021 Oct 27;11(11):1996. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618584/
4. Carr PL, Felsenstein D, Friedman RH. Evaluation and Management of Vaginitis. Journal of General Internal Medicine [Internet]. 1998 May 1 [cited 2021 Nov 10];13(5):335–46. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496957/
5. David A. Eschenbach, Soe Soe Thwin, Dorothy L. Patton, Thomas M. Hooton, Ann E. Stapleton, Kathy Agnew, Carol Winter, Amalia Meier, Walter E. Stamm, Influence of the Normal Menstrual Cycle on Vaginal Tissue, Discharge, and Microflora, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 30, Issue 6, June 2000, Pages 901–907, https://doi.org/10.1086/313818
6. Lin YP, Chen WC, Cheng CM, Shen CJ. Vaginal pH Value for Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment of Common Vaginitis. Diagnostics [Internet]. 2021 Oct 27;11(11):1996. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618584/
7. NHS Choices. Thrush in men and women [Internet]. NHS. 2019. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/thrush-in-men-and-women/
8. National Health Service . Urinary tract infections (UTIs) [Internet]. NHS. 2020. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/
9. National Health Service. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) [Internet]. NHS. 2020. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-tract-infections-utis/ 
10. NHS. Toxic shock syndrome [Internet]. NHS. 2019. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/toxic-shock-syndrome/
11. NHS. Toxic shock syndrome [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2017. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/toxic-shock-syndrome/#:~:text=Toxic%20shock%20syndrome%20(TSS)%20is
12. Douching | Office on Women’s Health [Internet]. www.womenshealth.gov. [cited 2024 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching#:~:text=Doctors%20recommend%20that%20you%20do
13. Ness R. Douching in relation to bacterial vaginosis, lactobacilli, and facultative bacteria in the vagina. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2002 Oct;100(4):765–72.
14. Period Blood Colour and Smell: What Does it Mean? [Internet]. www.bodyform.co.uk. [cited 2024 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.bodyform.co.uk/break-taboos/discover/living-with-periods/period-blood/#:~:text=Menstrual%20flow%20normally%20does%20ha
15. About Menstruation [Internet]. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/. Available from: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/menstruation/conditioninfo
16. CDC. Menstrual Hygiene [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/hygiene/personal-hygiene/menstrual.html
17. NHS. Starting your periods [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2018. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/starting-periods/
18. What if I forget to remove my tampon? [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2018 [cited 2024 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-if-i-forget-to-remove-my-tampon/
19. How to Remove Period Blood Stains [Internet]. www.bodyform.co.uk. [cited 2024 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.bodyform.co.uk/break-taboos/discover/living-with-periods/removing-period-stains/#:~:text=Soak%20a%20sponge%20in%20vinegar
 

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