Panty liners: Are they good or bad?
It took about two months for a 24-year-old woman to realise that she was using the wrong type of panty liner. It caused her irritation, red rashes and severe itch in the vaginal area. Panty liner is a thinner version of a pad used by women to absorb vaginal discharge and spotting to maintain fresh and clean underwear.
Deepika Gowda (name changed), a chartered accountant from Bengaluru says she started using panty liners when her vaginal discharge increased last year. “I was feeling uncomfortable with the bad odour and dirty underwear whenever I stepped out, especially at work. My friend suggested I use panty liners,” she said. She chose the scented panty liners without knowing its ill effects.
Women often experience vaginal discharge. It is a natural phenomenon. The texture, composition and intensity of a vaginal discharge varies, says Dr Astha Jain Mathur, Consultant – Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Indore.
When to use a panty liner?
Panty liners protect the underwear from soiling and maintain a dry, fresh and clean underwear throughout the day, says Dr Chetana V, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru. She lists out the cases where panty liners can be used.
- When there is heavy vaginal discharge
- Before or after menstruation to avoid spots
- Presence of light urine leaks
- To prevent stains while using a tampons or menstrual cups
- During postpartum period to absorb lochia (postpartum bleeding).
Why do panty liners cause irritation?
Panty liners should be used only when the vaginal discharge is heavier than usual, says Dr Mathur. “Women experience irritation and rashes while using panty liners when it’s not changed every three to five hours. This can create an environment which is ideal for bacteria to thrive in, leading to bacterial vaginosis,” says Dr Mathur. She adds that this can lead to symptoms of irritation and rashes near the vulva (female external genital area which includes the clitoris, labia and urethra).
Scented panty liners can cause irritation due to the chemicals released around the vagina and vulva, says Dr Chetana. They can also rub against the labia (fleshy folds at the entrance of vagina) causing redness, irritation and itching.
“When you experience symptoms such as persistent itching, redness and unpleasant sensations in the vaginal region, it indicates an allergic reaction,” says Dr Mathur.
According to Dr Mathur, when panty liners are used for a prolonged period, it may increase the risk of vaginal infections such as contact dermatitis. It is a condition where women experience a red, itchy rash in the vaginal region caused by direct contact with an irritant.
Dos and don’ts
Using panty liners regularly along with a synthetic-fibre underwear prevents air circulation and may affect the airflow required in the vaginal region, says Dr Mathur. She adds that women must keep changing the liners at regular intervals and ensure that their vaginal area is clean.
Besides this, it is equally important to wash hands before wearing a new pantyliner to avoid transferring bacteria, says Dr Mathur.
Dr Mathur lists out the below points to remember:
- Make sure the pantyliner is breathable and of good quality.
- Choose cotton panty liners as they are better than latex.
- Never use scented panty liners as it messes up the pH balance of one’s vagina.
- Change them within three to five hours, if using them regularly.
Panty liners: Don’t use every day
Using panty liners every day is not recommended, says Dr Chetana as the vagina needs air circulation. She says that if someone must use them due to heavy discharge, they must change it every three hours.
In Gowda’s case, she had heavy vaginal discharge and had to depend on the panty liners as it was difficult for her to keep changing her undergarments every now and then. “I have switched to a non-scented panty liner, and I keep changing it frequently as advised by my doctor,” she said.
The priority for every woman is to ensure that their vaginal area is clean and healthy. They must maintain proper vaginal hygiene with or without a panty liner, says Dr Mathur. She adds that using one is simply a matter of personal choice and preference.
- Panty liners are thin pads used for vaginal discharge.
- It must be changed every three to five hours to avoid bacterial and fungal growth which, in turn, leads to vaginal infection.
- Scented panty liners cause irritation and allergic reactions.
- Using it every day is not recommended.
- Remember to wash hands after changing the panty liners and before wearing a new one to prevent transmission of bacteria.