Visit your local pharmacy for your menstrual hygiene issues

By Tichatyei Alison Mhazo; Pharmacist

Introduction

Your body prepares for pregnancy every month. It does the preparation by building the lining of the womb. If pregnancy does not occur, the womb sheds its lining. When this happens, you see a flow of blood through your vagina, a natural process called menstruation or period. On top of the blood flow, it is normal to have stomach cramps, lower back pain, increased appetite and headache.

Other people can notice a change in their mood. All of this is normal -there is no need to worry. It is however important that you take care of the blood flow, get professional advice on your menstrual health and get medicines to control the pain or discomfort that may be associated with your period. This is where your local pharmacy comes in.

Why you should visit a local pharmacy for your menstrual health issues

Reason # 1: It stores products that absorb your blood flow.

A pharmacy is a reliable source of safe products to manage your flow. If your period flow is not controlled it can stain your undergarments, dress or skirt. This can be very uncomfortable. Moreover, your period is a matter of your own body; though it is natural you want to keep it to yourself.

Your local pharmacy stores approved products that can absorb your menstrual flow so that you neither spoil your clothes nor reveal to everyone that you are on a period. Sanitary pads and tampons are the most widely used products to absorb the menstrual flow.

Reason # 2: You will get professional advice about menstrual health

A pharmacy is managed by a pharmacist who is a highly trained professional. When it comes to your menstrual hygiene, a pharmacy does not only store sanitary pads and tampons. The pharmacist gives can give you professional advice on menstrual health.

Therefore, feel confident to walk into a pharmacy and ask a pharmacist about your menstrual health issues. Pharmacists do not discuss your menstrual health issues with anyone else so you can trust them with your information.

Reason # 3: You will get medicines to control some discomfort or pain associated with your period

It is common to feel some pain and discomfort either before or during your period. The pain can limit your daily activities or even make you absent from school. The good news is that menstrual pain can be effectively controlled using common Over The Counter (OTC) medicines.

The pharmacist will assess your circumstances and recommend the most appropriate pain killer or any remedy to relieve your discomfort. A pharmacist can also assess your situation and refer you to a doctor for further management.

A very common question directed to a pharmacist is on whether to use a tampon or a sanitary pad. Below is a brief description of tampons and sanitary pads, their advantages and disadvantages followed by an overall comparison.

Sanitary pads vs tampons

Sanitary pads are put under your underwear to absorb your flow once it leaves the body. Unlike sanitary pads that you stick outside the vagina, tampons are inserted inside the vagina to absorb the blood before it leaves the body.

Advantages of and disadvantages of a sanitary pad
Advantages Disadvantages
No insertion required They can be visible
Reduced chances of infection Less freedom e.g swimming
Safe to use overnight Can make noise when changing
Prevents staining
Advantages of and disadvantages of a tampon
Advantages Disadvantages
Prevents staining Requires insertion
You do not feel that you are putting it on You can forget to remove it
You do not see your blood at all More likely to cause infections
More freedom of movement You can get the size wrong
Making a choice

There is no overall winner. Both tampons and pads do an awesome job in managing your flow. Both have some drawbacks too. Tampons are for you if:

  • You do not want anything to physically reveal that you are on a period
  • You value freedom of movement
  • You want to avoid the ‘discomfort’ of seeing own blood

On the other hand, go for pads if:

  • You are not very much concerned with insertions
  • You prefer a longer wear

Conclusion

The pharmacy plays an important role for your menstrual health and hygiene. It stores sanitary pads and tampons, it is a source of professional advice and it sells Over The Counter (OTC) pain killers. Pharmacists often get asked on the choice between sanitary pads and tampons. There is no overall winner. Depending on your choice and circumstances a pharmacist will recommend a suitable option for you. In the end you are in the best position to choose what works best for you.

Tichatyei wrote this article for Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe. He is a World Bank Scholar and Health Policy, Planning & Financing Specialist trained at London School of Economics/ London School of Hygiene & Tropical medicine. He is a UZ-trained pharmacist with 9 years of public health experience. He worked at hospital level & at Ministry of Health HQ as a national officer and also worked for USAID funded projects as an advisor to government of Zimbabwe on health systems strengthening focusing on pharmaceutical supply chain. He is currently a technical advisor to the government of Malawi's National TB programme.