Menstruation, periods, time of the month, on-the-blob (sorry – horrible phrase) – whatever you call it, it is not the most enjoyable time for many women, me included. In the UK, we do not celebrate the fact that women have eggs that enable us to make babies and that we become fertile every single month (much better than Pandas who only manage once a year!). But if our eggs are not fertilised, then we lose them and we bleed.
We hide it, make ourselves ashamed of it and suffer a fair amount of negativity in the media, at work, at home or even at play when we are bleeding. Yes, we have mood swings. Yes, bleeding can hurt (a lot at times). Yes, sometimes blood leaks. No, it is not glamorous. Yes we can feel like pants and want to hole up in bed with a hot water-bottle, a chick-lit book and a large box of chocolates. No, we don’t like it when others are negative about it.
And look at the commercial choices of how to cope with the bleeding….
a) A plug made from rayon & other man-made fibres, bleached with chemicals including dioxin and wrapped in plastic. These conventional tampons can shed fibres when wet, possibly causing infection. If there is any cotton in the plug, it will be conventionally grown using loads of pesticides and may be Genetically Modified. Many also have a perfume added which may add to the irritation for many women. And we shove this up our vagina!!!
b) A pad made from the same type of stuff as the plug – perhaps a little better as at least it doesn’t go in us, but it still hangs around next to our vagina for a few hours at a time.
There is a growing amount of literature on the health problems resulting from conventional sanitary products, especially tampons. But in addition to this, think of the environmental problems – we throw the tampons and pads away and most will end in landfill. A woman will use at least 11,000 tampons/pads in her lifetime and that makes a huge addition to landfill. Some tampons will get flushed down the toilet, possibly blocking drains or even ending up in rivers with all their lovely chemicals too!
There is also the cost factor – each month you probably spend £5+ on sanitary products. That does add up over the years.
So what choice do we have?
Well actually more than you may think.
On the more conventional lines Natracare have a whole range of organic cotton, chlorine free and plastic free pads and tampons, including maternity pads. In addition, 95% of the product is biodegradable. These were my first step away from conventional products and I have been using them for about 15 years. However, they still need to be disposed of and still create a monthly cost.
As with reusable nappies, it is equally possible to have re-usable, washable pads. Many women make their own using a variety of materials and I have used these in the past. I have just rinsed before adding them to the usual wash. If needlework is not your forte, then you can buy washable pads too. This option cuts both the disposal issue and the cost issue quite considerably.
Moving to the fairly unconventional is the Mooncup – a reusable cup made from soft, medical grade silicon that you insert into the lower part of the vagina and it collects the blood. It forms a seal with the walls of the vagina and so does not leak. It will last for 4 hours+ when you just empty it into the loo, rinse it out under a tap and reinsert. It can be used during swimming, exercise, overnight in fact for everything except penetrative sex (obviously!). And you only need 1!
I heard about Mooncups a couple of years ago and was rather squeamish about them. It sounded a bit weird, having a little rubbery cup up your vagina, collecting the blood and then having to empty it. But, chatting to a few friends who love them, I decided to give it a try.
I love it. It is so so so much more comfortable than a tampon as there is no tendency to dryness or falling out during a huge coughing fit (this has happened to me, very embarrassing!). At times I had to actively remember whether I had it in or not! Insertion and removal were not difficult at all and even the negative comments from my other-half won’t put me off! He is quite grossed out by the idea, but then he is by the whole concept of periods.
So, that is me sorted for Sanpro for the next X years until Mother Nature decides I should hit the menopause and experience a whole new set of womenly issues!