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.
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.
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!
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,