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By: Vasavdatta Gandhi, Director at Millennium Herbal Care Ltd.
Feminine intimate and menstrual hygiene market in India has been growing at a CAGR of 14.92% during the 2019-2024 period. It is expected to reach Rs 58.62 billion by 2024. There is a possibility for more growth as a large portion of the market in India, still remains untapped.
Of the 365 million menstruating women in India, 82% living in semi-rural and rural India don’t have access to hygienic menstrual products and end up using things like newspaper, rags, ash, dried leaves etc.
In addition, because women don't have enough information and are afraid of talking to people about it, they tend to not practice intimate hygiene beyond soap and water, which might be more harmful because of dryness.
Lack of awareness and availability of accurate information is the biggest problem that we face as a society.
There is a lot of shame and stigma attached around woman's anatomy. It's only now that urban India has started talking about menstruation and witnessing advertisements of sanitary napkins. Even then only about 18 per cent women have access to sanitary hygiene.
The public toilets are grossly unhygienic. There is no proper system in place to dispose of sanitary products. There is lack of privacy to ensure proper care.
Now with the advent of monsoon significantly increases humidity in the atmosphere potentially taking a toll on our personal hygiene. Combined with the threat of the novel coronavirus around us, it is even more important to keep ourselves clean, disinfected and sanitized all times.
This is also the season, where UTI (urinary tract infection) is rampant among women. Many organisms, including yeast and bacteria flourish lavishly during this wet and humid season and the most common infection is that of the urinary tract in women.
Therefore, maintaining optimum hygiene in your intimate area during this time is especially important. You should avoid anything that increases the retention of heat and sweat, as this can cause growth of bacteria and lead to vaginal infection.
This is a time to be extra cautious by practicing good habit to maintain feminine hygiene, which can help in preventing vaginal itching, irritation or infection, and thus not compromising with your daily comfort.
Warm weather can lead to an increase in the normal amount of yeast in the vagina, resulting in genital / vulvovaginal candidiasis – a yeast infection further causing itching or burning sensation of the vaginal area with foul odour.
Here are 5 useful tips to keep a check for women’s intimate health:
- Keep dry all the time: There will be times where you can get invariably drenched in the rains. It is all the more impinging upon oneself to wear dry clothes, especially the innerwear that tend to get moist due to the added atmospheric moisture, since we tend to sweat a lot during this season. As wearing innerwear or lingerie made of synthetic fabric for long durations may retain moisture leading to irritation and friction, it is important to consciously choose natural and breathable fabrics. Also, if you do get drenched in the rain, make sure you bathe immediately on reaching home and dry yourself properly.
- Avoid tight clothes: Try to avoid wearing skinny jeans and tight shorts, wearing too tight and difficult to breathe bottoms, limit movement and cause more sweat, restricting the air flow and causing friction and a more hospitable environment for bad bacteria. It is better to wear breathable and comfortable dresses. While sleeping, opt for boy shorts instead as they will allow for maximum air flow and minimise the possible irritation.
- Maintain cleanliness and hygiene: Frequently clean your intimate area to keep it free from bacterial infection and odour. It is recommended to clean the intimate area twice a day, during morning bath and before bedtime. In the case of excessive sweating, it is better to clean and pat dry more often. For cleansing intimate area always use specially design intimate wash products that are safe with natural ingredients and free from harmful surfactants like Sodium lauryl sulphate.
- Keep yourself hydrated: Drink plenty of water and liquids to keep the urinary tract flushed and healthy. Water helps to clears out toxins from the body and maintains body pH balance. Due to excessive sweating and inadequate liquid intake, one tends to lose body fluids and salts that could potentially lead to burning sensation during peeing and irritate the intimate area. If not attended to, this could be another reason for urinary tract infection.
- Maintain a healthy food habit: Avoid eating excessive spicy food, as more acidic food can cause pH imbalance and increase bad pungent odour of intimate area.
Increase the intake of food that are rich in pre and probiotics like plain yoghurt, onion, garlic, strawberry and green leafy vegetables, that helps to supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the vagina.
Regular care and preventive measures in vaginal health ensure you stay fresh and clean all the time. While in this season it is important to wash 3-4 times daily and also if you are menstruating, all the more care needs to be taken.
But soap and water may not be your best option, as these tend to dry up the vaginal skin which is very delicate and a PH balance in the range of 3.8 to 4.5 needs to be maintained.
Use of vaginal washes, that balanced the pH is therefore recommended but one must make sure that there are no harmful sulphates or chemicals present. Vaginal washes made of natural solutions that retain the layer good bacteria, which actually protects the vaginal area and kills bad bacteria are most apt.
There are many OTC products fighting for space in the shelves, but it is advisable to be discerning and aware, so that you use the right product for your intimate hygiene.