In honour of global Menstrual ‘Hygiene’ Day (MHD) on May 28th, I thought I’d write about why there is a move to change the name to Menstrual ‘Health’ Day…
Spoiler alert!- It’s not just because hygiene is harder to spell.
This year’s excellent MHD theme is: It’s Time For Action! [You can find out more here]
“Over the past few years we have managed to accelerate advocacy and action on menstrual hygiene all around the world. But much more action is needed. Action to change negative social norms and practices, to catalyze progress on MH education, and to ensure everyone has access to products. We need more action from governments, funders, UN agencies and the private sector. Because together we can end period stigma. Together we can make sure all girls are educated about menstruation. Together we can ensure all women and girls have access to hygienic products.”
Note the deliberate and careful wording at the end of this call to action… ‘hygienic products’. This is because, unfortunately, the term ‘menstrual hygiene’ unintentionally reinforces the myth that menstruation is itself dirty.
Obviously, this is absolutely not the intention of the people and organisations behind the establishment of this brilliant global awareness day. But this is why there is a movement in progress to change the ‘H’ to stand for ‘Health’. While nobody is particularly against this change, it apparently takes an awful lot of admin to alter an internationally recognised awareness ‘day’.
So, in the meantime, we are still promoting MHD19, but taking care to be precise in our wording to avoid implying that it is menstruation that is unhygienic, rather than the global lack of access to clean water and/ or adequate menstrual management products for all.
Just as a reminder, here’s some relevant info from a previous myth-busting blog:
 If you are interested in learning more about how ‘period stains’ have been associated with ‘moral stains’ see: Johnston-Robledo, I. and Chrisler, J. C. (2013) ‘The Menstrual Mark: Menstruation as Social Stigma’, Sex Roles. Springer US, 68(1–2), pp. 9–18. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0052-z.
 Sadly, nobody has ever bothered doing a proper clinical comparison… However, we do know that although the bacteria ‘flora’ of the vagina is diverse and variable between individuals, the primary colonizing bacteria are always of the ‘good’ genus Lactobacillus. The lactic acid these bacteria produce is thought to protect against infection by pathogenic species, by keeping a low vaginal pH. Whereas, hands, cash, credit cards, mobile phones, and uncooked meat are known to harbour faecal bacteria (from poo!)- a major cause of illness- check out these pages, if you’re feeling brave! https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19834975 and https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
 Without access to clean water, people are unable to properly clean their hands, or their menstrual products, which can lead to serious vaginal infections. The menstrual fluid itself is not a cause of infection, unless it is unable to leave the body (e.g. in the case of an imperforate hymen), or that individual happens to have a blood-borne disease like hepatitis, or HIV. Used disposable products can also become unhygienic if there is no waste disposal process to get rid of them. Again, this is a problem caused by a lack of access to water, and sanitation infrastructure- not periods.
 While it is normal for menstrual fluid to have a musty/ metallic smell (like any other part of the body or blood), a ‘bad’ smell is an indication of infection. A fishy smell indicates BV. A non-fishy smell plus creamy discharge indicates thrush.
 The UK Health & Safety Executive lists the most common forms of blood-borne infection transmission as; sex, sharing injecting equipment (needles), accidental skin puncture by needles, and childbirth/ breastfeeding. http://www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/blood-borne-viruses/spread.htm