Women all over the world are at risk of infection. During menstruation, bacteria grows and can overgrow, and odors are apparent leaving women to over-clean. Using feminine perfumes and douching can strip away not only bad bacteria but good bacteria as well. Women’s bodies need a balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria to maintain a proper PH balance.
Lack of basic sanitation methods such as being able to shower and use the restroom privately also can cause infection in women. According to Days for Girls, a charitable organization for women, over 500 million women around the world are affected by period poverty. Period poverty is the lack of knowledge of menstruation and the inability to access necessary sanitary materials. Without access to clean water, showers, private toilets, and proper education women are at risk of infections such as UTIs and RTIs. Women that don’t change their tampons or pads frequently or in a time mannerly are also at risk of getting these same infections. Poor menstrual hygiene and over cleaning put women at risk for developing infections that can risk their mental and physical health.
What is a UTI?
Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, is an infection in the urinary system. The urinary system is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The main function of the urinary system is to create urine and filter blood. UTIs occur when there is an overgrowth of bacteria that enters the women’s urinary tract through the urethra. Women all over the world lack access to proper menstrual hygiene and sanitation methods. Without access to water, women cannot properly perform basic sanitation methods such as taking a shower. This can cause bacteria to grow, in result women can get UTIs.
Bacterial overgrowth can also occur when women don’t change their sanitary pads or tampons frequently or in timely manner. Women should change their menstrual tampons every 3 to 5 hours and they should change their sanitary pads as often as needed but remember leaving a pad on too long can also result in bacterial overgrowth.
Symptoms of a UTI:
Women experience a few different symptoms when they get a UTI. Some of the symptoms are, and are not limited to:
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Strong persistent urge to urinate
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Strong smelling urine
- Pelvic pain
Risk of leaving a UTI untreated:
UTIs tend to resolve themselves within a week, if it doesn’t resolve itself women should seek medical help. If a UTI is left untreated then women risk getting a kidney infection. A kidney infection occurs when bacteria continue to grow up the urethra and into one or both kidneys. Signs that you may have a kidney infection can be, chills, abdominal pain, back, side or groin pain, and fever. If you believe you have a kidney infection, seek medical attention.
What is an RTI?
Reproductive Tract Infections, also known as RTIs, include three types of infections, sexually transmitted diseases, endogenous infections, and iatrogenic infections. Of those three infections, the infection that can be caused by menstruation is the endogenous infection. An endogenous infection is an overgrowth of organisms that are typically present in the genital tract. A common endogenous infection is bacterial vaginosis, also known as BV.
BV is vaginal inflammation caused by an overgrowth of bacteria which can upset a women’s PH balance. Women’s vaginas need a balance of good and harmful bacteria, when it is imbalanced, this can also result in BV. During menstruation, your Ph balance elevates temporarily.
When women don’t have access to proper menstrual hygiene, such as pads and tampons, or don’t practice healthy menstrual hygiene, an odor can occur and it can result in women showering more often, using products with perfumes, and douching. This can cause your PH balance to get imbalanced resulting in bacterial vaginosis which is the most common female reproductive tract infection.
Symptoms of an RTI:
- Lower abdomen pain
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Vaginal itching
- Foul vaginal odor
- Burning while urinating
Risk of leaving an RTI untreated:
RTIs do not go away on their own. If you believe you may have an RTI please seek medical attention. If left untreated women risk getting pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer, having an ectopic pregnancy, chronic infections of the uterus and fallopian tubes, and puerperal infections. Women must get treated and tested for all forms of reproductive tract infections even if symptoms aren’t present. Women can be asymptomatic, which leaves women not knowing whether they may have an RTI or not.
Without proper knowledge and access to menstrual sanitary methods and proper education on menstrual health women all over the world risk getting infections. Cristiana Sandor, CEO of Stetho Health Systems, states that “From UTIs, RTI’s, and even morbidity, young girls, women in different parts of the world need to be educated on how to take care of their health & hygiene.”
Lack of access to menstrual products results in women changing their sanitary products less and without access to clean water women cannot properly clean themselves which results in the growth of bacteria. Bacteria can also grow when women don’t change their menstrual products frequently.
Though our bodies need good and bad bacteria, overgrowth of bad bacteria can be harmful to women’s physical health. When women strip away all the good bacteria in their bodies this can also result in infection and can cause an imbalance in their PH levels. With proper education and access to menstrual hygiene products, we can help limit the number of infections that women get around the world.
Women must educate themselves and others on proper menstrual health and hygiene, it is also important that women invest in the right menstrual brand and products. Ava: Women Health and Hygiene introduced by Stetho Health Systems is one such brand that helps aid in the reduction of infection. Through Ava: Women Health and Hygiene, “We are dedicated to solving the existing issue that women everywhere face with innovative and fresh products for Menstrual Health & Hygiene.” Cristiana Sandor added.