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The association between menstrual hygiene, workplace sanitation practices and self-reported urogenital symptoms in a cross-sectional survey of women working in Mukono District, Uganda.

Borg SA, Bukenya JN, Kibira SPS, Nakamya P, Makumbi FE, Exum NG, Schwab KJ, Hennegan J

  • Journal PloS one

  • Published 20 Jul 2023

  • Volume 18

  • ISSUE 7

  • Pagination e0288942

  • DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0288942


Women worldwide experience challenges managing their periods. Menstrual and genital hygiene behaviours have been linked to negative health outcomes, including urogenital symptoms and confirmed infections. However, evidence testing this association has been limited and mixed. This study aimed to (1) describe the menstrual care practices and prevalence of self-reported urogenital symptoms among working women in Mukono District, Uganda, and (2) test the associations between menstrual and genital care practices, and urogenital symptoms.

We undertook a cross-sectional survey of women aged 18-45 working in markets, schools, and healthcare facilities in Mukono District, with 499 participants who had menstruated in the past two months included in this analysis. We developed an aggregated measure of menstrual material cleanliness, incorporating material type and laundering practices. Associations with urogenital symptoms were tested using the aggregated material cleanliness measure alongside the frequency of changing materials, handwashing before menstrual tasks, and sanitation practices.

Among our sample, 41% experienced urogenital symptoms in the past month. Compared to women exclusively using disposable pads, using appropriately cleaned or non-reused improvised materials (PR = 1.33, 95%CI 1.04-1.71), or inadequately cleaned materials (improvised or commercially produced reusable pads) (PR = 1.84, 95%CI 1.46-3.42) was associated with an increased prevalence of self-reported urogenital symptoms in the last month. There was no difference between those using disposable pads and those using clean reusable pads (PR = 0.98; 95%CI 0.66-1.57). Infrequent handwashing before changing materials (PR 1.18, 95%CI: 0.96-1.47), and delaying urination at work (PR = 1.37, 95%CI: 1.08-1.73) were associated with an increased prevalence of self-reported symptoms.

Prevalence of self-reported urogenital symptoms was associated with the type and cleanliness of menstrual material used as well as infrequent handwashing and urinary restriction. There is a need for interventions to enable women to maintain cleanliness of their menstrual materials and meet their menstruation, urination and hand washing needs at home and work.