Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Things you may not know about menstrual protection

Hi everyone.  This post is mostly for the ladies, although I'm sure there are some men who would be interested from a scientific viewpoint.  It's a post about different forms of period protection, and I promise I will try to talk about myself and about actual periods as little as possible.  Hopefully.  I really don't plan these things.
Period protection has come a long way as can be seen here and there are many different forms currently available on the market.  Most women use disposable sanitary products, such as disposable pads of various kinds, and tampons, but reusable forms of protection are also available.
I'm going to be honest, when I first heard about reusable pads, my first thought was "Ewww!" even though it's clearly much better for both the environment and the woman's body, not to mention much cheaper over time.  This prompted me to do some research.
Disposable pads
There are pros and cons of every form of sanitary protection.  I believe a major "con" of disposable pads is the amount of plastic used.  Not much in one, but most women will need over 11,000 in her lifetime.  That's a lot of plastic.  That's a lot of non-biodegradable plastic sitting in landfill. I have worn some disposable pads that were so "plasticy" I could hear them rustling when I walked, and although I feel that nobody should ever feel embarrassed for being a woman, plastic rustling is not pleasant personal theme music!
Another negative is the amount of chemicals that one would not even think about, such as bleach, which is used to make the pad whiter, and therefore look "cleaner".  This bleach is in contact with your body.

It is worth noting that there is also the option of chemical-free biodegradable pads, such as these from Natracare and many others.

Tampons are often thought of as being a better choice from an environmental standpoint, as they have no plastic backing, but they do contain a surprising number of other chemicals, including, once again, bleach, and they can contain polyester, which is still a form of plastic!  Some are, of course more natural than others, some kinds are made from pure cotton and there are some completely natural, chemical-free, plastic-free biodegradable options, which are better for both the environment and also your body.  If you choose to use tampons, look into organic cotton, such as these from Jolie and others.  Always read carefully, it is amazing what is considered alright to put into tampons, and therefore inside a woman's body.

Reusable pads
There are so many kinds of reusable pads it can be a little overwhelming!  Reusable pads were usual and normal until fairly historically recently, disposables becoming more common for the same reason that disposable nappies (diapers) became so popular- convenience.  Reusable pads need to be washed and made not just clean but sterile, preferably without the use of harsh chemicals.  There are many kinds, but they can be loosely grouped into "bought" and "home made".
I found some patterns for home made reusable pads here, and I imagine that some of those would be very comfortable, but choice of fabric would be very important, as fabrics can be very chemical also.
For bought reusables, just do a web search and you will find many brands.  Some of the websites I found look a bit "hippie", but so do I, and I'm perfectly lovely, of course!

Menstrual cups
These strike me as the best option environmentally, but I'm not sure about the idea of rinsing it out - although I do think rinsing the cup out would be more fun than washing reusable pads, although that's just me.  I found the FAQ section on the Mooncup website very informative and well put together.  I read through the questions and answers and am actually thinking about purchasing one for myself, but I think I need a little longer to fully come to terms with the idea.  There are also testimonials and reviews on the site which I will look into.  There are also other companies that produce menstrual cups, but I like that Mooncup is colour-and-chemical-free.  I think it's the idea that the flow is collected in a cup rather than absorbed that makes me feel unsure, but at the same time it's not drying to the walls of the vagina like tampons are, and doesn't collect the blood outside the body  and allow it to develop an odour like pads can.  There are no dangerous chemicals used in the manufacture and chemicals are not required to clean it, and again there's the point that 11,000+ pads and tampons would be kept  from landfill.
Honestly I'm still not sure.  I know, bad hippie!  I think menstrual cups are a great idea for any woman who can handle the thought of them, maybe me, maybe not.

I hope I have given you all a few things to think about, I know I'm thinking about a few things myself!
Love to you,
Cassandra Louise


  1. Extremely interesting post. I have never heard of the cups before! And as for reusable, I have only ever encountered them in books. I have never even thought of the environmental impact of our disposable mentrual products, but the landfill stats are pretty darn confronting. Great read!

    1. Thanks Sarah! This is where I come to think, and I hit publish in case there's someone else who might benefit from my thoughts. I'm glad you learned something new here! :-)

  2. Hi Cassandra, I just wanted to comment about the menstrual cups.

    I have one of the moon cups which I bought about two years ago. I'm on a disability pension, and bought one for financial and environmental reasons. They are made from medical grade silicone. Imagine an egg cup made from the same flexi stuff that new muffin tins are made from and you've roughly got an image of a menstrual cup.

    I bought mine from the internet, as in Australia the Medical community hasn't done enough testing on them yet to approve them, although they have been used around the world for over eighty years. Apparently we need to re-do all the testing that the rest of the world has already done before anything is declared medically safe for use in Australia...which is a pain because it takes so long for things to be approved, and companies must justify the expense before they enter the Australian market.

    I have average flow and used to use 3-5 tampons per day during my period. I have a large cup which they recommend you to use after you've started having sex. I need only empty it 2-3 times per day (This is great for me because I hate having to take time out of my day to do this when I don't need to go to the loo that often otherwise). Emptying it is just a matter of pulling it out when you're at the loo, the blood runs out and if you wipe it with loo paper it's no more gross than wrapping up an pad before putting it into a bin.

    During my period I wash it once a day with soap and water (or more accurately I use the residual anti-acne face soap on my hands after I've finished washing my face, as it is also anti-bacterial). During the rest of the day I usually just empty it and wipe it out with loo paper. I find this routine keeps it from smelling. Then at the end of my period I put it in a glass of water with a babies bottle teat steriliser tablet, before storing it away for next could also just steam/boil it with water in the microwave same as they do with baby bottle teats.

    The cost of the cup was about the equivalent of six months worth of tampons, and can last up to six-ten years if well cared for. I have found that it has discoloured slightly with use, but really not much more than the average babies bottle teat does. I find that I feel well protected whilst wearing it at night and while exercising. Although I recommend that if you need to empty your bowel, you remove and reinsert the cup to ensure it's correct placement, so that you get no leakage. Insertion is no more difficult than inserting a tampon, you just fold the cup in half, slide it up and let it spring back to it's open state. It is very flexible, so it causes no discomfort when correctly just need to trim the tail to fit with your body (this is what you use to remove the cup, the same as a string on a tampon). I recommend trimming it so that it sits just inside your vagina opening for the best comfort.

    It has the convenience and security of tampons but is so much nicer to use. My vagina feels happier (less dry), I feel happier, my bank account feels happier, the environment feels happier. So it's a win-win all around.

    I figure that if a girl started using cups as a teenager and used them till menopause (approximately 400 periods), and mistreated them she would still only ever need buy 5 or 6 cups...compared to approximately 12,000 pads or tampons she would otherwise need to use.

    I hope this explains a little more about the menstrual cup.
    Thanks Kate

    1. Thank you so much, Kate! It was wonderful to hear from someone who has actually used the product.

  3. Great blog post again. Thank you