When a teenage girl hits puberty, she goes through many changes in her body. Besides physical, there is an extensive biological change that happens inside. This involves massive changes to the reproductive system, which in turn begins the menstrual cycles which continue till the woman has reached menopause.
When she is just starting out, however, there are many questions that may cross her mind. While parents may answer some of them, others remain a mystery till she has figured it out on her own. But it does not have to be confusing. This Menstrual Hygiene Day, we asked a doctor some FAQs on what a teenager ought to know when she is starting her periods. Here’s what Dr Sushma Tomar, Infertility Specialist and Endoscopic Surgeon at Fortis Hospital Kalyan had to say; read on.
“Firstly, we have to tell teenagers that this is not a disease. While previously nobody would educate girls on menstruation, nowadays we go to schools and colleges to counsel them. At around 10 years of age, we have to tell them that some changes in the body are going to start, so they are prepared. We also have to tell them about hygiene, how to use the napkin properly, and that they have to change it every four to five hours,” she said. She added: “We also have to tell them to take care of their undergarments, wear cotton ones, wash them properly and change them twice a day.”
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Dr Tomar advised that during menarche, the mother or any other female family member can educate the teenager on why exactly these things are happening in the body, and what to do about it. “Besides bleeding, they need to be told that just before periods, they will experience back pain and lower abdominal pain, besides some nausea as well. If the pain is mild, they can just take some rest. If it is severe — because many kids experience severe dysmenorrhea in the first two years — they have to be told that this is also normal and they can rest with a hot water bag to relax the muscles. Young girls have to be told about pre-menstrual symptoms also. They need to know why they are feeling irritated. Between 10 and 15 years of age, girls show many symptoms till the cycles get regulated, and for that we need to counsel them,” she explained.
What should a teenager choose between pads, tampons and menstrual cups?
“I suggest they can discuss with their mothers or at school. They need to know that whatever they are using, it should be comfortable. Every product has its advantages and disadvantages. Many girls feel itching and burning sensation when they use synthetic pads. They need to be told that pads have to be disposed every five hours, because blood is the best medium for infection. If they are not using good quality pads, and are instead opting for home-made cloth pads, they are at risk of many infections — like excessive white discharge, foul smelling discharge, itching, burning, etc. Sometimes we see that if they are not bleeding too much, girls tend to continue wearing the same pad from morning to evening.
“Sometimes it is seen that cups are difficult to push inside for a girl whose hymen is not ruptured. So they can use napkins instead, and keep extra ones in their purse or bags,” she advised.
Throwing away sanitary products
Dr Tomar said the best way to discard them would be to wrap them up in a piece of paper and throw them in a dustbin only.
“There is no need to feel shy. Parents and teachers have to make sure girls receive proper education on menstrual hygiene. Even before they begin their periods, they need to be explained about the changes, that when the body grows, the genital system and the breasts grow, too. Every month they are going to produce eggs and will have menstrual cycles. Children are smart, and even if we don’t tell them, they will read about it on the internet and may get misled,” she remarked.
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