Cloth pads vs. Menstrual cups.

Although there is some variety in the kinds of reusable menstrual products available, there are two that stand out as the most common: the cloth pad and the menstrual cup.  While some women who choose reusable products use a combination of these two methods, some are devoted to just one or the other.  I’m often asked by people which of these products I’d recommend, and I would suggest that they are both great.  While they both have some downfalls, each has a distinct set of advantages as well.  There are certain situations where I prefer one over the other.  So today I thought it might be fun to give you a low-down on the pros and cons of my two favourite menstrual products.

Cloth pads

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Pros

– You can make your own if you are handy with a sewing machine, which will really cut costs.

– Last for a long time.  Generally pads will last several years.

– Easy to clean and care for.  Just pop them in the washing machine and air dry.

– Simple to use.  You just clip or slide them into your underpants as you would a disposable pad.

– Comfortable and discreet.

– Little or no smell.  With cloth pads you don’t get that gross “period” smell that disposable pads produce.  That smell is caused by the blood reacting with the chemicals in the disposable pads as well as sweat that gets trapped by the plastic backing of the pad.

– Completely painless.

-It’s pretty easy to pick the right pad for you.  Although shapes and thickness vary, it’s hard to go wrong when selecting pads for the first time.

Cons

– It can be tricky to guess how many you will need, and you run the risk of running out if your cycle is heavier or longer than expected or you don’t plan ahead with your laundry.

– Not as discreet as a cup.  If you need to change a pad at school or at work, you still have to carry the pad to the bathroom, and then carry the soiled one in your bag.  This can be awkward or embarrassing for some people.

– Can be uncomfortable when worn during sports.

– Needs to be changed several times a day.

– Leaks do happen from time to time, particularly if wearing overnight.

– Can’t be worn to go swimming.

– Can be slightly uncomfortable in hot weather.

Menstrual Cup

Pros

– Very discreet.  It’s small and easy to slip into your handbag.  Plus, it’s safe to wear when you don’t have your period.  So if you know your period is due, you can pop it in before you leave the house for the day and you’ll be covered in case you start bleeding.

– Is washed and used again, so you’ll never run out.

– Very economical.  One cup can last 5 years or longer.

– Very hygienic.  Cups are made from medical grade silicone and can be sterilized. As they don’t absorb and hold the blood against your skin there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome.  You also don’t get any odour using the cup.

– Once you’ve learned to use the cup properly the risk of leaks is extremely low.

– Can be worn for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow), so you can wear it all day without having to empty it at work or school.

– Very easy to clean.

– Is very comfortable and can be worn for high-impact sports and in water.

Cons

– It can be tricky to learn how to use the cup properly.  It usually doesn’t take long to get the hang of it, but the first few times may be awkward and potentially messy.

– Not as readily available as cloth pads.

– More expensive than cloth pads (although in the long run a cup works out cheaper).

– You have to be very hands-on with your body to use a cup.  You will have to put your fingers right into your vagina.  You will see your menstrual blood in the cup.  You may get blood on your hands.

– Although a cup is safe to use if you haven’t had vaginal intercourse, it might be difficult.  I know that a lot of women, myself included, struggled to use internal menstrual protection until after they had sex for the first time.  But this varies from body to body.

– Can be difficult to choose the right cup the first time.  You need to do a bit of research and be very familiar with your body to pick the right cup for you.

– Removing the cup can be a bit painful until you’ve learned how to do it properly.

– Unlike a pad, you can’t see when your cup needs emptying.

Overall, I prefer the cup to pads, but they both have their advantages.  The cup is great if you very active or travelling and it’s definitely the more discreet of the two. However the cloth pads are simpler to use and a better choice if you are squeamish about blood or touching your vagina.

If you have any questions about reusable menstrual products I would be happy to answer them.

Do you use cloth pads or a menstrual cup?  If you do, which do you prefer and why?

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Practicing yoga on a budget.

I’ve harped on about my love of yoga often in this space.  It’s my favourite way to move my body and I love encouraging other people to give it a try.  I’ve already written about how yoga has helped me with my depression and how it can be used to encourage body confidence.  Another reason that I adore yoga is that it needn’t be an expensive practice.  You don’t need to shell out loads of cash for equipment or gym memberships to revel in the benefits of a yoga practice.

To begin or grow your yoga practice, there are very few things that you need.  And most of them can be found very cheaply or for free if you know where to look.

Yoga basics. Cat optional.

 

Yoga mat

Yoga mats have become really popular,  but the truth is that you don’t strictly need one.  I practiced for months before I bought a mat.  The reason I got the mat in the first place is that I wanted to practice outdoors and a mat gave me a clean, stable surface to work on.  If you’re practicing indoors you probably don’t even need a mat.  However, if you find that the floor is too rough, hard or slippery you can use a towel or even a folded blanket to stretch out on.

 

Clothes for yoga

Although a yoga offers a great excuse to stock up on stretchy pants and racer-back tanks, these fancy duds won’t improve your practice.  All you really need are some comfortable clothes that you can move easily in.  I’m sure you’ve got a pair of leggings or shorts and a tee shirt kicking about in your wardrobe that will do the trick.

 

Blocks

A lot of classes use blocks to help students to ease into different poses.  The blocks are a great way to give you a bit more space and support when learning new poses.  If you can’t quite reach the floor, you just pop a block under your hand to bring the ground up to you.  Blocks can also be used to support knees in lunge poses, to sit on to give your hips more space to open and many other uses.  If you don’t have a block, a couple of thick books will do just as well.  Dictionaries are ideal.

 

Bolsters

Bolsters are used for restorative yoga to offer support and comfort in resting poses.  I made my own bolsters for about $5 using and old pair of pajama pants.  I just cut the legs off the pants, sewed both ends together and stuffed them.  If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, a folded-up blanket or towel can be used in place of a bolster.

 

Straps

If you’re working on improving your flexibility, a strap can be really helpful.  Just loop it over your feet and hold onto the ends and work your hands slowly down the strap, trying to reach a bit further each day.  Your wardrobe is probably stocked with items that can be used instead of a strap: ties, belts and scarves all work well.  Choose something that doesn’t have a lot of stretch to it and which won’t tear under pressure.

 

Instruction

Joining a gym or attending regular yoga classes can be very pricey.  But you can cultivate a home practice using the awesomeness that is Youtube.  There are literally thousands of free yoga classes on Youtube which you can access in your very own home.  My favourite channels are Yoga with Adriene, Psychetruth and Leigha Butler.  Both Yoga with Adriene and Psychtruth have a range of videos targeted at different levels, whereas Leigha Butler’s channel is a bit more advanced.  But have a browse and experiment with different videos until you’ve found some that you like.

 

So you see, you don’t have to be flush with cash to get into some asanas and pranayama.  Just use what you have and develop a practice that suits your lifestyle.

 

Pssst!  You might also like to read my tips for improving your yoga practice.

 

Sustainable Menstruation Australia

I’m a passionate advocate for positive periods and the use of re-usable menstrual products.  When I began researching reusable menstrual products, specifically menstrual cups, I was dismayed that there are very few places in Australia where these items can be purchased.

 

I’ve learned that in England and the U.S, there are a wide range of menstrual cups available.  Most of these can be purchased online, and some pharmacies and health food stores sell them as well.  However, in Australia it can be tricky to find somewhere to buy a menstrual cup.  I’m yet to find one stocked in a brick-and-mortar shop, despite an extensive search.  You can order them online, but often shipping costs can be expensive.

 

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Sustainable Menstruation Australia.  This tiny sole-trader business is run by a gorgeous lass named Rosie, who shares my passion for promoting a healthy attitude about periods.  Sustainable Menstruation Australia is your one-stop-shop for menstrual cups in Australia and offers information and support for cup-users.


Sustainable Menstruation Australia currently stocks two varieties of menstrual cup: The Lunette Cup and the Juju Cup.  The Lunette is my cup of choice, and I’ve been using it for several months with excellent results.  The Juju cup is an Australian-made cup.  Although I haven’t used the Juju cup myself, I’ve read some excellent reviews of this product.  Both of these cups are often given as examples of good cups for first-time cup users, because they are easy to fold and tend to open with minimal fuss.  The Juju also has a fairly small rim, which is perfect for women who are just learning to use a cup because it makes insertion and removal a bit easier.  Both cups come with a carry pouch.

 

Another thing that I love about Sustainable Menstruation Australia is that they donate some of the money from each cup sold to developing education programs about menstruation and providing menstrual cups to women in disadvantaged situations.   That means that these women will no longer have to spend money on disposable feminine hygiene products, which frees up funds for other essential items. As the average woman spends about $100 per year on pads and tampons, this is a huge saving.   This is an awesome initiative which I am proud to get behind.

 

Rosie is also in the process of planning some awesome awareness-raising events in the new year, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve.

 

So if you’re an Australian woman who is interested in trying a menstrual cup, I would definitely recommend buying yours from Sustainable Menstruation Australia.  In doing so, you’ll be supporting a budding Aussie business as well as helping women in disadvantaged situations.

 

If you have any questions about menstrual cups that you would like to ask, fire away.  I’m happy to answer them.

 

P.S: This is not a sponsored post.  I just strongly support this business and wanted to tell you all about it.

My period survival kit.

Let me state the freakin’ obvious here: periods aren’t the most fun thing in the world.  I can think of better ways to spend an afternoon than curled up on the couch in a crampy, cranky ball.  I have found a couple of fail-safe items that really do help make periods a lot less sucky.  This is what’s in my Period Survival Kit:

Cute underpants

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to feel good about myself when I’m wearing a pair of saggy, daggy underpants.  I know that a lot of women save their grungiest undies for when they have their period, but I don’t like to do that.  To me, having a pair of yucky, “period panties” just reinforces the idea that periods are awful and makes me feel worse about myself.  I find that slipping into a pair of cute, cotton underpants gives me a little lift.  I got some gorgeous hand-made underpants from Katastophic Designs and that are perfect.

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Herbal tea

A soothing cup of tea is perfect for calming frayed nerves and settling a frazzled mind.  I try to avoid caffeine when I’ve got my period, because I find that it makes my cramps and mood swings worse.  Instead, I stick to herbal and fruit teas.  My favourite blend is Twinings chamomile, honey and vanilla. It’s deliciously sweet and calming.

A heat pack

A heat pack or hot water bottle is heaven when you’re cramping.  I have a microwavable heat pack that’s filled with wheat.  It provides warmth and slight pressure to my tummy or lower back to ease period pain.

Luxurious bath products

Another way to ease cramps is to take a soothing bath.  What better way to make a bath even more luxurious than with some fancy oils, bubbles or salts?  My favourite thing to use when I’m feeling icky is my home-made tub tea.  I mix milk powder, rolled oats and Epsoms salts with a few drops of essential oils.  I make little bags out of old tights and fill them with this mixture.  All you need to do is toss one in a warm bath for a soothing infusion (and the bag catches all the bits so you don’t have to fish oats out of your drain).

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Cloth pads

I infinitely prefer cloth pads to their disposable cousins. They’re more environmentally friendly, they’re cheaper and they don’t rub my lady garden red-raw.

Yoga videos

In my experience, yoga is one of the most effective ways to ease cramps, settle your mind and sooth headaches.  When you’ve got your period, opt for a slow, gentle practice to nurture your body and leave you feeling refreshed.  My all-time favourite yoga workout for period pain is this one from Yoga with Adriene.

 

 

Chocolate

I’m not usually a big chocolate-eater, but I always get massive cocoa cravings right before my period.  I always make sure that there’s a block of delicious chocolate in the cupboard to deal with these cravings.

 

 

Lavender oil

There’s something so calming about the scent of lavender.  I like to use a lavender body lotion to give my feet a little rub when I’m feeling a bit tired and emotional during the first couple of days of my period.  a few drops on your pillow will promote restful sleep and a lavender-scented candle can be used to create an atmosphere of tranquility at your desk.

Comedy DVDs

I find a good chuckle is just the thing to chase the monthly blues away.  Laughing releases endorphins that actually increase your pain tolerance and improve your mood.  I love busting out some of my favourite comedies and having a little giggle-fest to cheer myself up.

 

What’s in your period survival kit?

Making the switch to re-usable menstrual products.

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.

DSCF9334The 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?)

My get-well-soon kit

I’m slowly starting to recover from my cold.  I always know that I’m getting better when I start to feel bored with reading, watching movies and napping.  I have to credit my slowly-returning health to my ability to look after myself.

 

After 27 years of dealing with colds and flu, I’ve figured out some pretty fool-proof ways to get myself feeling well again.  While none of my methods will cure a cold (you just have to let it run its course) they do make me feel a lot better and deal with the symptoms.  Today I thought I’d share the most important items in my get-well-soon kit.

 

DSCF8939Vicks Vaporub

Whether you’ve got a stuffy nose or a congested chest, this stuff is golden when you’ve got a cold.  It helps to open up the airways so that you can breathe more easily.  Plus I find the scent really comforting.

 

Deep Heat

I always seem to get really stiff, aching muscles when I’m ill.  This cream helps to soothe sore muscles and ease aches and pains.  The smell is really strong, but I quite like it.

 

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Tea

I drink endless pots of tea when I’m ill.  At the moment my favourite is this Pu-erh Ginger tea from T2.  It’s been brilliant for easing my sore throat and clearing up my nose.  It’s also nice to have a cute mug to drink it out of.

 

Hot lemon drinks.

I’m on anti-depressant medication, which means that there aren’t many over-the-counter cold remedies that I can take. This Codral herbal drink is one of the few that is safe for me to use.  It’s packed with vitamins and minerals to help reduce cold symptoms.  It really helps to soothe sore throats and clear sinuses, plus it tastes delicious.

 

Wheat pack

My microwavable heat-pack almost never leaves my side when I’m ill.  It’s so nice to place against my neck to ease headaches or to warm up cold toes.

 

DSCF8260Cute socks

Warm, cosy socks are a must for sick days.  They help to keep your toes warm and they’re so much fun to wear.

 

DSCF7127Kigurumi

I bought my Stitch kigurumi last year from Ebay and I adore it.  It’s by far the comfiest, warmest thing that you can wear.  Perfect for napping and lounging on the couch when you’re under the weather.  You can also throw it on over the top of your P.Js when you get up to make a cup of tea in the middle of the night.

 

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DSCF8263Cats

There’s nothing like a cuddle from a soft animal when you’re feeling sick and blue.  Ringo rarely leaves my side when I’m sick, and gives me so many cuddles. It’s like he can sense when I’m not well, and his love makes me feel so much happier even when I’m miserably sick.

 

Soup

I have a special get-well soup that I like to make when I’m ill with a cold.  It’s a chicken and vegetable soup that’s packed with garlic and ginger.  It’s a pretty potent brew, but it really helps to clear the sinuses and fight the virus.  I like to make a big batch of it at the beginning of flu season and freeze individual portions, so I’ve always got some on hand when I feel a sniffle coming on.

 

DSCF8944Sick Day Films

I always watch the same four films when I’m not well: The Court Jester, Hans Christian Anderson, Hook and A Series of Unfortunate Events.  They’re all great films with adventurous storylines, lively characters and plenty of laughs.  They always make me feel a little better.

 

DSCF8943Honey and Eucalyptus drops

These babies are golden when you’re fighting off a nasty cough.  They taste lovely and they help to soothe dry throats and drown tickly coughs.  I  always keep a handful of them at my work station when I’m recovering from a cold to keep coughs at bay.

 

DSCF8698A warm blanket

I love to have something soft and warm to cuddle up in while I watch a movie or take a nap.  This crochet bobble blanket I made is perfect for that (and Ringo loves it too!)

 

An eye mask

I have trouble sleeping during the day, and an eye-mask helps to cut out the daylight so that I can get some rest.

 

What’s in your get-well-soon kit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Years Resolutions update: May

You might remember that at the beginning of the year, I made a new year’s resolution for every month.  May’s resolution was one that I had been dreading: cutting down on sugar.

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I am a total sweet-tooth.  Cakes, biscuits, chocolate, lollies… if it’s sweet, you can bet that I love it.  As much fun as all this sugar-munching is, I was starting to notice some not-so-sweet side effects.  Every day at three, I hit a major energy slump.  I’d need a chocolate bar or a very sweet coffee to revive myself.  Dinner always felt incomplete until I’d had dessert.  I was also experiencing some astronomical mood swings and bouts of ‘hangriness’ (where you’re a combination of angry and hungry).  I was concerned that my sweet tooth might be to blame for some of these things, and I was interested to see how cutting down on sugar would impact upon the way I was feeling.

On my first day of trying to cut down on sugar, I stumbled across a book called I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson.  Believe me when I say that buying this was the best thing I did all month.  The book was filled with sugar-free recipes and suggestions for switching to a sugar-less lifestyle.  There were loads of helpful hints for beating cravings and even an eight-week plan to help you quit sugar for good.

Now, I don’t want to stop eating sugar altogether.  But I do want to drastically cut down the amount in my daily diet.  I want to get to the point where lollies and cakes are treats again, rather than part of my regular routine.  What I really want is to get to a point where I no longer feel as though I ‘need’ sugar to feel awake/happy/human.

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Here’s a basic run-down of the changes I made:

– I evaluated my diet and looked at all of the foods that have hidden sugars.  And there were a lot.

– I made the decision to go without sugar completely for two weeks.  Cold turkey.  I managed to do this, but it was difficult.  After this I started to re-introduce small amounts of sugar as special treats.  So far, the only sugary things I’ve eaten this month are a small fruit juice, a slice of lemon tart and a slice of my Dad’s birthday cake.

– Specifically, my goal was to cut down on fructose.  There are so many different kinds of sugar, and if you cut them all out of your diet then you wouldn’t have many food choices.  But fructose is the one that has the most adverse effect on your body and mood, and it’s the one that most of us are OD-ing on.  I figured I had the most to gain by limiting my fructose intake.

– I changed my breakfast habits.  I replaced sugary cereals with eggs on toast, homemade muesli and natural yoghurt.

– I started snacking smarter.  I made piles of savoury muffins and biscuits and stocked up on nuts, vegetables and crackers.

– I started making time to cook a proper, substantial lunch to keep me full for longer and help keep my afternoon cravings at bay.

– I stopped drinking soft drink and cordials.

– I tried to eat less fruit and more vegetables.

– I stopped having sugar in my coffee.

– I stopped having dessert after dinner and snacking in front of the telly at night.

– I made sure that every meal had some form of protein in it (cheese, meat, eggs, nuts, dairy, tofu) to keep me feeling full for longer.

Here’s what I noticed:

– The first two weeks were hard.  Like, really hard.  I had cravings like crazy.  I couldn’t stop thinking about sweet things.  I even dreamed about chocolate!

– There is actually a withdrawal period. For the first week or so, I had stomach cramps, headaches and mood swings.  Most afternoons I needed a nap just to get through the day.

-Quitting sugar three days before you’re due for your period is a stupid idea.  I made it through, but I think it was harder than it would have been if I wasn’t a mess of hormones.

– After two weeks with no sugar, my cravings all but went away.  I still crave sweet things, but not as often and the cravings are less intense.

– I have loads more energy.  I’m sleeping better and I wake up feeling refreshed rather than groggy.  I no longer slump at three o’clock.

– I don’t get hungry as often and I feel I have a better handle on my appetite.  I’m getting better at stopping when I’m full.

– My skin has improved out of sight.

– My teeth feel cleaner.  When I was eating sugar all the time, my teeth would get a ‘furry’ feeling towards the end of the day.  Now I don’t get that.

– My moods have stabilised a bit and I haven’t had as many depressive episodes after the withdrawal period ended.

– I don’t get ‘hangry’ as often.

-I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous with my cooking and I’ve tried loads of new recipes.

– I don’t know if I’ve lost weight, because I don’t ever weigh myself.  But I do feel less bloated around my tummy area and I’m having an easier time doing my jeans up.

DSCF3608I think I did pretty well with this month’s resolution.  I’m hoping to keep up the good habits that I’ve learned this month.

I have a lot more that I could write about this topic, so if you have any questions about cutting down on sugar, please feel free to ask.