Menstrual Hygiene “Mahinawari’ in Nepal is a challenge to religious taboos which leads women of the reproductive age group to follow unhygienic and risky practices. Menstruation is also known as a period, ‘rajaswala/mahinawari’ is the regular monthly discharge of blood and mucus tissue from the inner lining of the uterus (female reproductive organ) through the vagina which starts during puberty by the age of 12-15(menarche) and continues till 45-55years(menopause). Clean and healthy practice during menstrual days is extremely essential which includes the appropriate use of absorbable sterile cotton fabric or sanitary pads, tampons, and menstrual cups for the absorption of blood and mucus discharge. Appropriate cleaning, reuse, and disposal also come under menstrual hygiene.
Sociocultural norms in the rural part of western as well as midwestern region surround women to follow ‘chhaupadi pratha’ which is found to be unhygienic and has minimal sanitary concern on the public domain. Despite a ban imposed by the Supreme court on the chaupadi tradition in 2004 it still exists. Even in urban areas irrespective of urbanization, more than 50% of Hindus are following untouchability practices, separate stay practices, and even particular diet restrictions. These circumstances are analyzed as a threat to hygienic menstrual practices in Nepal. Adequate assess to sanitary products, water, and drainage, sanitary awareness, special attention to adolescents during period days, care and support from family, awareness program, appropriate balanced diet, psychological support plays a crucial role in sanitary improvement. Inaccurate and inappropriate knowledge regarding reproductive health and menstruation is a great hindrance to hygienic practice. Education should be a key considerable point regarding the benefits of sanitary pads uses over reusable local fabric pads.
Psychologically and behaviourally educating younger children to actively participate in hygienic awareness programs or educating them within the family by elder aids to appropriate behavioral maturity for hygienic practice. A balanced diet, limited physical activities, adequate rest, and self-care improves the reproductive health of women. Risks for UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), RTI (Reproductive Tract Infection), yeast infection, fungal infection, and vaginal diseases are common threats encountered by women because of unhygienic practice. Cervical cancer is another outcome that has a devastating effect on women’s reproductive health. Lack of access to the sanitary product, poor economical status, cultural and traditional beliefs, misconceptions and negative attitude toward menstrual women is responsible dragging Nepalese society in this issue. Bathing on menstrual days, untouchability, considering women toxic to touch, prohibited to cook or enter the kitchen and religious areas, dietary restriction, chhaupadi pratha are some of the social taboos existing in our community.
As the result, they feel traumatized, subnormal, and even diseased. Sanitary pads, tampons, sterile cotton pads, menstrual cups are preferred by WHO guidelines for menstrual hygiene. Frequent change of used sanitary pads is necessary along with appropriate disposal. Menstrual waste is a part of solid waste and should be disposed of on bins, containers, or by burning and burying. Avoid package of menstrual waste on plastic bags which prevents them from decomposing. Healthy practice in school and work areas required a collaborative approach of management, teachers, and adequacy of facility available. Adequate latrines, water supply, waste disposal, education, support, and encouragement can be practiced by school personnel. In addition, male members of family society can play a vital role by supporting women on reproductive health, sanitation, and eradicating social taboos.
RN Binita Khatiwada
Itahari-9, Sunsari, Nepal