Menstrual Hygiene – A Complete Guide

Menstrual hygiene refers to the practices and behaviors that females adopt to manage their periods in a clean, healthy, and dignified way. Maintaining proper hygiene during periods is not only essential for physical well-being but also contributes to increased comfort, confidence, and overall peace of mind. On the other hand, neglecting menstrual hygiene measures can result in significant discomfort, increased risk of infections, and potential exclusion from social activities.

Menstrual hygiene includes various aspects, including the availability of sanitary products, proper disposal methods, handwashing, personal hygiene, and environmental cleanliness.

Menstrual hygiene guide

Maintaining good menstrual hygiene is important for the overall health of females. Here are some tips you can follow for hygiene during periods:

Choose the right menstrual product

There are various types of sanitary products available, including pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. It is crucial to choose a product that is comfortable and provides the required protection. Selecting the right sanitary products during menstruation is essential for maintaining good menstrual hygiene.

Properly chosen products can prevent leaks, reduce discomfort, and help prevent infections. Conversely, using the wrong products can lead to irritation, rashes, and other health issues. It is important for the sanitary product to fit well and prevent leaks, which can cause embarrassment and discomfort. Some of the most popular menstrual products are:

  • Pads: They are made of cotton, polymer, or other breathable materials that efficiently absorb blood. There are two types of pads: reusable and disposable.
  • Tampons: Tampons are small tubes that sit in the vagina and absorb blood before it leaves the body. They are used internally and offer significant advantages over other products, such as allowing for unrestricted physical activities and being invisible.
  • Menstrual cups: They are folded and inserted into the vagina to collect blood. Menstrual cups can be emptied and reused after a few hours.
  • Other products include sponges, sanitary napkins, and panty liners.

Change menstrual products regularly

There is an utmost requirement to change menstrual products after a few hours or earlier if bleeding is heavy. If not changed at regular intervals, the absorbed blood and warmth create an environment for the growth of bacteria. Bacteria can cause a number of infections, such as skin infections. It can also ascend the urethra and lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs), as well as cause reproductive tract infections in females.

Pads need to be changed every 4 to 6 hours, while tampons should be changed within 8 hours or earlier, especially when using less absorbent tampons. Menstrual cups should be emptied and sterilized every 8 to 12 hours, as they come into direct contact with the body.

Proper disposal of used products

The appropriate disposal of menstrual waste is important to prevent infections, contamination, and environmental hazards. Sanitary products can contain harmful bacteria and viruses, posing a risk of infection if not disposed of correctly. Moreover, these products take several years to decompose and contribute to environmental pollution. Therefore, it is essential to adhere to proper disposal practices to minimize the impact of menstrual waste.

When disposing of sanitary products, always wrap them in toilet paper or other disposable materials. Never flush them down the toilet, as they can cause plumbing blockages. Instead, dispose of them in a designated trash can.

When using public restrooms, it can be helpful to carry disposal bags to discreetly and hygienically dispose of used sanitary products.

Wash your hands thoroughly

Washing hands is an essential aspect of menstrual hygiene as it helps prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and infections. Hands can carry various types of harmful bacteria, and washing hands before and after changing sanitary products is crucial to prevent the transmission of these germs.

Menstrual blood can sometimes produce a strong odor, and regular hand washing can help reduce this smell. This is particularly important for individuals who work closely with others or engage in frequent social interactions during menstruation.

Practicing regular hand washing is also a vital component of overall hygiene. Good hand hygiene practices not only help prevent the spread of other illnesses and diseases but also contribute to women feeling more confident and comfortable during menstruation.

Intimate hygiene

In addition to changing menstrual products, it is important to take steps to keep the genital area clean to minimize the risk of infections. When cleaning the external genital areas, also known as the vulva, use mild soap and water. It is crucial to clean in the direction from front to back to avoid the transfer of bacteria from the anal area to the vagina.

Conversely, avoid washing inside the vagina, as it is a self-cleaning organ. Flushing water or using intimate washes for the vagina can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vaginal flora. This disturbance can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria, resulting in conditions such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. Therefore, it is best to allow the vagina to maintain its natural cleaning process without interference.

Wear comfortable and loose clothing

Wearing comfortable clothing is an effective method for maintaining menstrual hygiene. During menstruation, the body can experience physical discomfort such as cramps and bloating, as well as emotional stress. Wearing tight or uncomfortable clothing can intensify these symptoms. To relieve discomfort, it is advisable to wear loose and comfortable clothing that allows for easy movement.

Tight clothing or fabrics that lack breathability can cause irritation and chafing, particularly during menstruation. It is important to choose clothing made from natural materials, such as cotton, that allow air to circulate and prevent irritation. Opting for loose-fitting garments can enhance comfort and minimize discomfort.

By prioritizing comfort in your clothing choices during menstruation, you can enhance your overall well-being and promote better menstrual hygiene.

Ensure hygienic storage

To maintain good menstrual hygiene, it is essential to store all menstrual products in a clean and dry place, away from sunlight. Proper storage helps prevent the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Moisture can create an environment optimal for bacterial growth, which can lead to various complications and infections.

Evaluate your Menstruation Hygiene

Picture showing different menstruation products

Stay hydrated

It is important to maintain proper hydration during menstruation. Drinking an adequate amount of water is beneficial for flushing toxins from the body and keeping the urinary tract clean. Unhygienic practices during menstruation can increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

Staying well-hydrated throughout the menstrual cycle is important because the body loses fluids and blood during this time. By drinking enough water, the body can replenish these fluids and prevent dehydration, which can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, bloating, and constipation.

Avoid using scented products

It is important to avoid using scented or fragrant pads, tampons, or any other products for the genital areas. Scented products may contain chemicals or additives that can cause irritation, allergic reactions, or other discomforts.

The genital area is sensitive and maintaining its natural pH balance is important for overall vaginal health. Using scented products can disrupt this delicate balance, leading to infections, inflammation, or other complications.

Keep track of periods

Tracking your menstrual cycles and keeping a check on them with period tracker tools allows you to anticipate your upcoming periods so you can plan accordingly.

Tracking with Menstrual Portal: You can also track your periods with the Menstrual Portal period tracker. It predicts precise ovulation, fertile window, and period dates.

Maintain personal hygiene

It is important to take care of overall general hygiene during periods. Bathe or take a shower regularly, wash your hands every time after using the toilet, and change your underwear repeatedly.

Maintaining personal hygiene can help regulate your body temperature and reduce cramping by relaxing the muscles in your uterus. It can also contribute to the production of cervical mucus, which is important for fertility.

It is recommended to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day during your menstrual cycle to stay properly hydrated. If you are exercising or sweating a lot, you may need to increase your fluid intake to compensate for the additional fluid loss.

Take regular baths

It is important to clarify that bathing during menstruation should not be avoided. On the contrary, taking regular baths is essential for maintaining personal hygiene and overall well-being during your periods. Bathing helps keep your body clean, provides a refreshing feeling, and can even help relieve menstrual discomfort such as cramps.

Take care of yourself

Along with proper menstrual product usage and hygiene practices, it is equally essential to prioritize rest and self-care during menstruation. The menstrual cycle can be physically and emotionally exhausting, leading to fatigue, mood swings, and cramps. Therefore, getting enough rest and taking care of yourself is important during this time.

You can also evaluate your menstrual hygiene using our expert-reviewed questionnaire.

Importance of menstrual hygiene

Prevention of infections

The pH of the vagina keeps changing during menstruation, making it more susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections. Poor menstrual hygiene can contribute to the growth of microorganisms, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), reproductive tract infections, and yeast infections.

Skin problems

Failing to change sanitary products regularly or neglecting to clean the genital areas can trap moisture and irritate the skin, leading to rashes, redness, and itching.

Odor control

Regularly changing your menstrual products helps prevent the production of unpleasant odors caused by blood.

Mental wellbeing

Periods are already physically and mentally draining. Ensuring good hygiene during periods helps individuals stay comfortable and confident. Practicing good hygiene also boosts self-esteem.

Reducing discomfort and anxiety

Maintaining good hygiene during periods can help reduce discomfort and anxiety associated with menstrual bleeding. Feeling clean and fresh can contribute to a sense of well-being and alleviate some of the physical discomfort that often accompanies menstruation.

Consequences of unhygienic menstrual practices

If you do not follow hygienic measures and do not pay heed to cleanliness, it can result in many complications. Some of the consequences of unhygienic menstrual practices are:


If menstrual products are not changed at proper intervals and are kept for long periods, it can cause bacterial growth. Additionally, the wetness and materials of pads can irritate the skin, leading to dermatitis. Improperly stored or contaminated pads or products that come into contact with the skin can also cause inflammation. Symptoms of dermatitis include rashes, itching, redness, and swelling.

Reproductive tract infections

Using unclean menstrual products such as pads, tampons, or underwear can introduce bacteria to the genital area. Not properly cleaning the genital areas can result in the accumulation of menstrual blood, bacteria, and moisture, leading to reproductive tract infections.

Prolonged usage of products can also increase the risk of infections in the reproductive tract. Reproductive tract infections can also enhance the risk of infertility.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) have similar causes to reproductive tract infections. Any unhygienic measure that promotes bacterial growth can cause bacteria to travel up to the urinary tract and result in an infection. Prolonged UTIs can even reach the kidneys and cause damage. Maintaining proper hygiene is extremely important to prevent the risk of UTIs and reproductive tract infections.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is characterized by abnormal white discharge from the vagina. While white discharge is not solely caused by vaginosis, it can be a sign of it. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance in the bacterial flora of the vagina. Lack of proper cleaning, use of scented products, and extended usage of the same products can contribute to the development of bacterial vaginosis.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

TSS is a rare but serious condition caused by toxins produced by certain strains of bacteria, most commonly associated with tampon use. Leaving a tampon inserted for too long or using super-absorbent tampons increases the risk of TSS. Symptoms can include sudden high fever, rash, muscle aches, dizziness, and confusion.


Also known as a yeast infection, candidiasis can occur when the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. Poor menstrual hygiene practices, such as not changing pads or tampons frequently enough, can contribute to the development of candidiasis. Symptoms include itching, burning, and a thick, white discharge.

Challenges in menstrual hygiene

In underdeveloped and developing countries, millions of women suffer due to hindrances in the way of hygiene practices during periods. These challenges impede the management of menstruation and affect the health, mental well-being, education, and dignity of women globally. Some of the main challenges faced by women are:

Lack of availability of menstrual products

In many countries and rural areas, proper sanitary products are not available. Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygienic facilities, waste management, or some combination of all of these. It affects around 500 million females worldwide. The inaccessibility of proper products forces women to use leaves, clothes, rugs, and many other inappropriate things, all of which cause complications and increase morbidity in such females.

Poor sanitation facilities

Another significant challenge is the inadequate availability of clean and private toilets. Many households, particularly in rural areas, lack proper toilet facilities, forcing women to use unhygienic and unsafe alternatives. Additionally, the absence of clean water in some areas further exacerbates the challenges faced by women during menstruation.

Limited awareness and knowledge

Menstruation is still surrounded by social taboos and stigmas in many societies, leading to a lack of open discussions and education about periods. This limited awareness gives rise to myths and misconceptions about menstruation, causing shame and embarrassment among women. To overcome this challenge, it is important to promote menstrual health education and destigmatize menstruation, emphasizing that it is a natural and normal bodily process.

Addressing these challenges requires collaborative efforts from governments, NGOs, and communities to ensure the availability of affordable menstrual products, improve sanitation facilities, and promote comprehensive menstrual health education. By doing so, we can empower women, enhance their well-being, and enable them to manage their menstruation with dignity and comfort.

When to seek medical advice?

While some mild discomfort and change in physical sensations can be expected during the menstrual cycle. If symptoms such as persistent itching, burning, redness, or unusual discharge occur, it’s important to seek medical advice, as these may indicate conditions like dermatitis, bacterial vaginosis, or candidiasis.

High fever, rash, sudden dizziness, confusion, and muscle aches are serious symptoms and may indicate toxic shock syndrome, which requires immediate medical attention.

Menstrual Portal also offers free online consultation, regarding all your menstrual health concerns.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use multiple sanitary products?

Yes, you can use multiple sanitary products. You can alternate between pads and tampons or others, depending on your comfort and satisfaction.

Can I use a more absorbent product and change it less frequently?

Yes, you can use a highly absorbent product for days with heavy bleeding, but you still need to change it within 8 hours.

Is it safe to wear a pad and a tampon at the same time?

Yes, it is safe to wear a pad and a tampon simultaneously if you require extra protection, such as during heavy flow days or for overnight use.

Can I use menstrual products overnight?

Yes, there are menstrual products specifically designed for overnight use, such as overnight pads or extra-absorbent tampons. Alternatively, you can consider using a menstrual cup, which can be safely worn for up to 12 hours, including overnight.

What should I do if I experience irritation or discomfort from using sanitary products?

If you experience irritation or discomfort from using sanitary products, it is advisable to try different brands or types to see if that helps. If the problem persists, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance and advice.

Can I use natural or homemade remedies for menstrual cramps?

Yes, there are natural remedies that can help alleviate menstrual cramps, such as applying a heating pad to the lower abdomen, taking a warm bath, practicing relaxation techniques, or using herbal remedies like ginger or chamomile tea.

Last medically reviewed on July 31, 2023.