Having a period each month not only starts to cost us a fair amount, but the amount of disposable pads and tampons clogging up drains, landfills, oceans and beaches are starting to create a scary amount of waste. It is estimated that a menstruating woman will go through around 15,000 pads or tampons in her life, costing her around £2000! Gross on the environment and on our bank accounts. BUT we rarely ever hear about the nasty side affects our periods have against our health. Is your period literally poisoning you?
Yesterday marked the first day of the first ever Reusable Menstrual Products (RMP) Week. From 12th- 18th of October 2015, Go Real are helping to spread the word about ditching the disposables for a more eco friendly (and purse friendly) way of facing our monthly bleeds.
What’s Your Poison? Cloth Sanitary Protection (CSP)
CSP is growing in popularity very quickly. Women are seeing and feeling the benefit of switching to cloth protection and many of us may well know a woman who uses CSP monthly, even if she does not admit to it!
Cloth pads are shaped almost identically to disposable pads, and fix into place with poppers on the wings of the pad. They tend to be made from around layers of absorbent fabric, and are less prone to leaks. Unless you have seen a reusable pad you may the inclined to think that they are thick and bulky, and would make you feel like you are wearing a big cloth nappy. Far from the truth! The first time I got my hands onto a pad I was surprised by how thin the pad was. Not much thicker than a disposable, it didn’t rustle when touched, and it felt 100x softer… and of course it would, it was made of cotton, not plastic!
Cloth pads are relatively inexpensive, and last a very long time. You will certainly notice a saving when using cloth pads over a very quick period of time (no pun intended!). Cloth sanitary protection also reduces the amount of nasty chemicals that you expose your body to monthly.
Many disposable pads now contain perfumes (just walking down the female hygiene aisle in a supermarket you can smell the perfumes radiating from the packets- made from carcinogen’s BTW). Your skin is the largest organ of the human body, it is also the thinnest. It absorbs the chemicals that it comes into contact with. Those chemicals enter your bloodstream and can cause significant harm to your overall health. Worryingly, the companies that manufacture sanitary pads are not required to disclose the ‘ingredients’ that they use in manufacturing these pads. It has been widely reported that a couple of Always Infinity reps stated that 2 of the ‘ingredients’ were foam (not shaving foam, but more sofa foam) and a patented chemical called infinicel. Infinicel is a material that absorbs and holds 10x its weight in moisture. Why any woman would want to avoid changing her pad until that much blood had been expelled, beats me.
We all know that exposure to plastics such as BPA’s increases the chances of developing cancers and heart disease, which is why many of the plastics that contain our food must state if they are BPA Free. But we still continue to put these plastics against of bodies, and on very sensitive parts of our bodies. We are advised to only wear cotton underwear because the use of synthetic materials can increase the chances of getting yeast and bacterial infections, and many women report getting thrush when on their periods or just after. I wonder if many women realise the link between a plastic, non-breathable pad against their vulvas and thrush occurring around the same time? Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
When you looks at a disposable pad, the centre is lovely and white. What do you think makes that plastic white? Usually Chlorine Bleach. I don’t know about you but the thought of putting bleach on my vagina makes me feel really uncomfortable… literally.
So not only do pads contain mostly plastics and bleaches, but they also contain crazy moisture absorbing gels (soak a pad in water then cut it open. That jelly sh*t is against your skin. WTAF. It’s also in your babys nappies, but that’s a whole different blog post!), sticky glues, disgusting smelling perfumes and heaven knows what other undisclosed chemicals. That you expose yourself with day and night once a month for a whole week. constantly.
CSP contains none (or at least very minimal, depending what brands you buy) of these chemicals. They are washed in the machine just like your clothes, and reused. The amount of toxins you expose your body to is drastically reduced and many ladies who previously reported heavy and painful periods have been relieved of their symptoms with lighter, less painful bleeds and even shorter bleeding times. It really does make you wonder what these chemicals are doing to our bodies.
You can buy many pretty cloth pads from companies such as Moon Times or Cheeky Mama. There are starter sets for those who are wanting to give them a go for the first time, and lots of pretty designs available. There are panty liners, regular sizes, night pads and even post-partum pads designed for the first few weeks after giving birth. Once you start to explore the world of CSP you will find many ladies who make beautiful pads for all budgets and tastes.
Getting the poison deep inside of you. Cups and Sponges
If you are not a fan of pads, and cloth doesn’t appeal to you, you can explore the world of menstrual cups, natural sea sponges and even crocheted tampons! Anything is possible. All serving the same purpose as the cloth pads; saving money, your health and the environment.
Disposable tampons are normally made from cotton or rayon, or often a blend of both. The cottons used in tampons are not pure, unbleached cotton, but rather a cotton grown from pesticides, and bleached for that pure white colour. Rayon is made from wood pulp, and also contains a cocktail of chlorine gasses to purify the pulp during manufacturing. Far too many chemicals or my vagina’s liking! These chemicals you are literally inserting directly into your body. Nice.
Menstrual cups are not a new invention. Cups have been around for years, and much like CSP they are gaining popularity quickly. Worn internally like a tampon, they sit over your cervix and collect your blood. They can be worn internally for up to 12 hours, and when you need to empty you just simply remove the cup, rinse out and refit. Made from medical grade silicone, menstrual cups are not quite as eco friendly as cloth pads, but considering it is estimated that a woman will use around 16,000 tampons in her menstruating lifetime the environmental impact by using a cup will be significantly less, while just 1 menstrual cup will last the user for around 5 years before replacement is needed.
Because cups collect blood rather than absorbing it, users of cups report less vaginal dryness and irritation than using tampons. Tampon users also carry a risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a rare but life threating bacterial infection. By removing tampons from your life you can significantly (almost entirely) reduce the risk of developing TSS, which says something about the effects of tampons and your wellbeing. Much like disposable sanitary towels, tampons also contain a cocktail of chemicals and bleaches that really should not be in contact with the body, and unlike pads, tampons are worn inside of the body meaning that even more of these chemicals are going to be absorbed by the thin walls of the vagina.
Another alternative to tampons, is a natural sea sponge. Yup, the sponges that grow in the sea and more often used for washing your body in the tub are also great for your period! These natural sea sponges, when dampened, go so soft and are easily inserted into the vagina. They absorb menstrual flow, and contain absolutely NO chemicals. They are picked from our oceans (try to choose a sustainably sourced sea sponge for peace of mind), washed and worn over and over again.
The use of menstrual cups, such as the Moon Cup, and natural Sea Sponge’s like the Jam Sponge have been found to have no health risks if used correctly, unlike tampons. No reports of TSS have ever been linked to the use of menstrual cups or sea sponges.
Why Risk It?
So, why risk it? Why spend money on something that could potentially really hurt you? Women bleeding is a multibillion pound industry. These companies want us to keep bleeding, for heavier and for longer, so why would they not lace their products with chemicals that make our bodies do just that? We need to ditch the taboo of talking about periods and start realising the massive health benefits we can gain but just making a few simple changes. We need to learn that our bodies are beautiful and not dirty, Periods are not a curse. Start loving your body that little but more, and looking after it. After all, it’s the only one we are given when we are born. Who knows what damage we shall start seeing from using these disposable poison-infused products in the near future. We teach our daughters not to smoke, or take drugs, we teach them to eat healthy and keep active with sport. So lets start teaching them to stop using chemicals that are now sadly seen as ‘essential’. Afterall, the top-dogs won’t care what happens to our vaginas, as long as they get paid.