Wings or no wings, applicator or super-absorbent, the technology of women’s menstrual products has given us options we didn’t even know we desired. Less well publicised are reusable products that aim to reduce health risks and environmental concerns.
By invitation, the wonderful women at Lunapads.com have written a guide to reusable menstrual products:
Lunapad’s Guide to Reusable Menstrual Products
It is estimated that every person who menstruates would need roughly 15,000 disposable pads or tampons in their lifetime. These products can take hundreds of years to decompose, clogging landfills and washing up on beaches all over the world. Perhaps you are already in the habit of recycling things like paper, bottles and cans and using reusable shopping bags to cut down on waste, but what about your menstrual products?
The trouble with disposable pads and tampons
In addition to having a negative effect on our environment, disposable pads and tampons can also affect your health. Most disposable products are bleached to make them white, a process which produces a by-product chemical called dioxin. Dioxin has been linked to cancer and other health problems. Since tampons are inserted into your body, traces of dioxin and pesticide residues get absorbed into your bloodstream and can build up in your body over time.
Disposable pads contain a host of chemicals designed to make them more absorbent, as well as plastic backings to make them waterproof. With all those chemicals and plastics sitting next to the body all day long, it’s no wonder disposable pads have been linked to skin conditions like contact dermatitis.
Sometimes tampons, especially if they are left in for too long, can separate and shred upon removal. The leftover ﬁbres can remain in the vagina for weeks. Tampons can also be very drying, taking away your natural, essential moisture and making it painful to insert and remove them.
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare but potentially fatal condition that has been linked to tampon use. Symptoms of TSS include dizziness, nausea, weakness, fainting and body rash. While you can protect yourself from TSS by choosing the lowest absorbency level to meet your needs and changing your tampon every 4-6 hours, there are safer alternatives. For more information about TSS, check out you-are-loved.org.
The average woman can expect to spend at least £2000 on disposable menstrual products in her lifetime. Reusable products only need to be purchased once every 5 years or so, but sometimes last even longer. They pay for themselves in just a few months!
Once you know more about the issues surrounding disposable menstrual products, you’re probably wondering what your options are when it comes to natural menstrual products? Without further ado, let us introduce you to…washable cloth pads and menstrual cups! Cloth pads are worn in your underwear like a disposable pad, while menstrual cups are inserted internally, like a tampon. The great thing about reusable products is that you only have to buy them once and then you’ll always have what you need on-hand for years. Here’s the low-down on how they work:
Cloth pads are made from layers of cloth to make them absorbent and some even have water-resistant materials in them to help prevent leaks. Cloth pads come in all shapes and sizes, just like disposable pads so you can choose the right ones for you; and they have the added fun of a choice of colours and prints. Cloth pads are soft and comfortable, easy to use and just as effective as disposable pads. Cloth pads snap around the crotch of your underwear and can be removed and replaced throughout the day just like disposables. The only difference is that instead of tossing them in the bin, you wash them and use them again. If you need to change your pad while you’re out of the house or at school, just carry a small waterproof pouch in your bag to carry the used pads in until you get home.
Cloth pads can be washed in the machine with your other laundry, simply rinse or soak them ﬁrst in cool water to remove the majority of the menstrual ﬂow. With proper care, most cloth pads will last around 5 years.
If you’ve ever worn a disposable pad, you probably know how sweaty they can get, which sometimes makes them smell a bit. This is not such a problem with cloth pads which don’t contain any plastic, unlike disposables, and allow your body to breathe better.
Reusable menstrual cups are worn inside the vagina to catch your menstrual ﬂow. They are usually made of healthcare grade silicone or latex rubber and can be reused for many years. When you follow the simple instructions to insert it correctly, you can’t feel the cup and it can’t fall out or tip over; and it is just as easy to remove. You don’t need to worry about “losing it” inside as the vagina is a closed space; there’s nowhere for it to go. Once inserted, the cup can be left in for up to 12 hours -that’s all day long! If your period is heavier you might need to take it out and empty it more often, but many people can just insert it in the morning and empty it before bed and then re-insert. If you have to empty it in a public washroom, just bring some wet paper towel into the cubicle with you to wipe the cup out with, before reinserting. Easy-peasy!
Cups are available in different sizes depending on your age and whether or not you’ve given birth. You can wear a menstrual cup while you are swimming, playing sports, dancing or doing yoga. Although menstrual cups can look a bit intimidating at ﬁrst, most users get the hang of using them with just a little bit of practice and ﬁnd them to be far more comfortable and effective than tampons.
Lunapads International is a women-owned and operated social mission-based business based in Vancouver, Canada. Our goal is to help individuals have healthier and more positive experiences of their menstrual cycles, and by extension, their bodies overall. We believe that using natural menstrual products is a creative and empowering way to honor and care for ourselves and the planet. Since 1993, Lunapads has been making their signature collection of menstrual products, Lunapads and Lunapanties.
Thank you, Lunapads. I have used each one of the products mentioned here, ﬁrst switching to reusables when a girl in my class suffered and survived toxic shock syndrome. As a competing gymnast I wish I’d known that teenagers could use menstrual cups though. However, something I was always able to take for granted was that my life would not be majorly interrupted by my bleeding time. Not so girls in Africa, who miss school for lack of adequate menstrual supplies. Pads4Girls supplies donated washable pad kits to girls in developing nations.