Today I’m going to be talking about periods and menstrual products. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d been switching to re-usable menstrual products and several readers expressed interest in learning more about this topic. So here we are.
Let’s be real here, periods aren’t the most awesome thing in the world. In fact, they can be downright horrible. For years I’ve struggled with my period. I used to get cramps so bad that they warranted a day off school. I often get migraines around my time of the month and I typically feel lethargic and crabby as well. What joy!
In addition to these symptoms, I have also struggled with irritation and infections associated with my period. For a long time, by the end of each period I would experience rashes, redness and inflammation “down there”. I would also get recurring bouts of thrush, which often occurred after my period. Not fun, I’ll tell you that!
So I started doing a bit of research to find out if there was anything I could do to make my period a more comfortable experience. What I found out was rather shocking. I found a whole bunch of articles that pointed to disposable menstrual products as the cause of my woes.
You see, the vagina is actually a pretty remarkable body part. It is self-cleaning and it has it’s own set of good bacteria that keep things running smoothly down there. But it is also really sensitive. Even the smallest change in ph can disrupt the natural balance in your vagina and cause all sorts of problems.
Disposable pads are usually made with a plastic backing and adhesives, in order to protect against leakage. The plastic prevents your skin being able to breathe and causes heat and irritation. Also, pads generally are bleached and chemically treated, and these chemicals can wreak havoc on your body’s natural balance.
And tampons aren’t much better. They are subject to similar chemical treatments. Also, most commercial tampons contain absorbency agents. On one hand, this is a good thing because it helps the tampon to soak up all the blood and prevents leakage. On the other, it means that the tampon is likely to soak up any moisture in the vagina (including natural lubrication and secretions) which leaves the vagina dry and uncomfortable. It also makes you more prone to thrush.
So, what’s a girl to do? I decided to take a closer look at the products I was using during my period.
My first idea was to check out re-usable pads. These look pretty similar to disposable pads and are used the same way. They are made of lightweight cotton and come in a variety of different absorbency levels and sizes. They have wings that wrap around the gusset of your underwear and clip in place with a press-stud or velcro.
The main difference is that, instead of throwing them in the bin when you’re done with them, you wash and re-use them. They are machine-washable and can be line-dried.
To begin with, the cloth pads are a bit of an investment. I got mine from a store called Pieces of Sungreen and I spent about $50 initially. However, when you consider that I haven’t had to spend any money on sanitary products for an entire year, you realise how cost-effective cloth pads really are.
I was unsure about using the cotton pads to begin with. I am pretty squeamish about bodily fluids and I wasn’t sure how I would handle washing and re-using them. I was also concerned that they wouldn’t be comfortable or as effective.
I was surprised when I realised that I was actually fine with handling and washing the pads. It wasn’t anywhere near as gross as I thought it might be. All of my pads wash well in the machine and so far they all look good as new.
In terms of comfort, I found the cotton pads a lot more comfortable than the disposable pads. They are a bit thicker than the pads I was used to, but after a day or so I didn’t really notice. I found that they didn’t irritate my vulva as much as the disposable pads did.
Also, I am yet to experience a leak with the cloth pads. They are surprisingly absorbent as long as you choose the right thickness for your flow.
Since I started using the cloth pads, I haven’t had a single yeast infection and I’ve had no soreness or irritation with my period. So I’m very happy about that.
I still use tampons during my heaviest days, but once I’ve used up my supplies of tampons I’m planning on buying a menstrual cup.
If you’re interested in learning more about re-usable menstrual products, Ecomenses is a great website with loads of resources.
I hope that this post has answered some of the questions you might have had about re-usable menstrual products. If you’ve got any other questions, please feel free to ask (but keep it respectful, mmm-kay?)
[…] infinitely prefer cloth pads to their disposable cousins. They’re more environmentally friendly, they’re cheaper and […]
I use a Moon Cup and love it. I don’t get cramps anywhere near like I used to. The only issue that the first day of my period is extremely heavy and the cup doesn’t do it – I have to use super size tampon, a heavy pad, and change every two hours…so much fun!
I’ve heard a few women say that they haven’t had such bad cramps since they began using a cup. That sounds like a great reason to give it a try.
I’m so sorry that you have to deal with such an unruly flow. Since I began taking The Pill, my flow has slowed to a trickle most days. However I still remember the heavier days when I first began menstruating. It was awful.
I have two menstrual cups (because I bought the wrong size to start with) and used them for a while and then forgot about them! I’ll have to find them again. Thanks for the reminder!
No worries. I’m planning on getting one in the future, and I’m weirdly excited about it.
I’m another reusable menstrual product enthusiast, though I mainly use a menstrual cup (I use the DivaCup, but there are several others on the market). I started using it 7 years ago, and I’m pretty much convinced it’s the best thing ever.
I’m actually ridiculously excited about buying a cup. I can’t wait to try one out. But at the moment I’ve got a crazy-huge stash of tampons (I used to buy in bulk) and I don’t feel that I can justify spending money on a cup when I’ve got a drawer full of tampons. Eventually I’ll get one though.