Hesperian Health Guides

Monthly bleeding

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 5: Taking care of your body > Monthly bleeding

During monthly bleeding, most women and girls use pads of folded cloth or wads of cotton to catch the blood coming from the vagina.
illustration of a pad and a tampon.
They are held in place with a belt, pin, or underwear. The pads should be changed several times each day, and washed well with soap and water if they are to be used again.

If possible, after washing the cloths, dry them in the sun, or iron them with a very hot iron. The heat will dry them and will also kill germs and prevent infection when they are used again. Between bleedings, keep the cloths in a clean, dry place away from dust, dirt and insects.

a woman on crutches looking at blood on the back of her skirt.

Some women put something inside the vagina that they buy or make from cotton, cloth or a sponge. These are called tampons. If you use tampons, be sure to change them at least 3 times each day. Leaving one in for more than a day may cause a serious infection.

Wash your genitals with water each day to remove any blood that is left. Use mild soap if you can. If you pass urine with a catheter, pay special attention to cleaning the area around your urine hole when you are bleeding. If you get blood in the tube of the catheter, rinse it out right away. The blood can block the tube and prevent the urine from coming out.

Some women with disabilities may need extra help when they have their monthly bleeding. Do not feel bad if you sometimes get blood on your clothing or bedding. This happens to ALL women sometimes. If you need assistance to pass urine and stool, then your pads can be changed at that time. If it is difficult for you to change pads during the night, sleep with a towel or cloth underneath you that you can wash easily if blood gets on to it.

If you are blind

When you first start to get your monthly bleeding, because you cannot see the blood, it may be difficult to tell when you have it. But after a few months, it will become a regular part of your life, and you will probably have feelings in your body that will tell you. During the time you are bleeding, make sure to change your pads or tampons as often as possible. Wash your hands after each time you change your pads or check to see if you are bleeding. Ask family members or someone you trust to check that you do not have any blood on your clothing. And if you do, ask them to help you make sure you have been able to remove the blood stains from your clothing when you wash them.

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If you help a woman with her monthly bleeding, it is best to wear plastic gloves or plastic bags on your hands to prevent the blood getting on your skin. Although the chance of diseases passing from one woman to another during monthly bleeding is very small, it is a good idea to prevent possible infection from hepatitis and HIV.

Discomfort with monthly bleeding

During monthly bleeding, the womb contracts (squeezes) in order to push out the lining. These contractions can cause pain in the lower belly or lower back, sometimes called cramps. The pain may begin before or just after bleeding starts.

Heat on the belly can help reduce cramps. Fill a bottle or some other container with hot water and place it on your lower belly or lower back. Or use a thick cloth soaked in hot water. If heat does not help, you can take a mild pain medicine such as ibuprofen.

Monthly bleeding can also make your muscles sore, or make you feel more tired than usual. The usual signs of your disability may become worse during monthly bleeding. Some women find that their breasts get swollen and sore during monthly bleeding. And some women have emotional feelings that are especially strong or harder to control.

Heavy monthly bleeding

Some women have heavy bleeding each month. This may be normal for many of them, but for others, it can cause anemia. Monthly bleeding is heavy if your pad or cloth is soaked through in less than 3 hours. If this happens to you, take ibuprofen. This can slow down the bleeding and prevent anemia. If this does not help, or if your monthly bleeding comes more often than once every 3 to 4 weeks, talk with a health worker.