Safe Menstrual Care Resources
Having your period seems like a natural time to exercise heightened self-care, making sure you have ample time for sleep and to decompress, maybe even treating yourself to a special snack you’ve been craving. Since a big part of menstrual care is accommodating bleeding in one of the most permeable and delicate areas of the body, it’s important to consider the quality of the feminine care products you are using.
Perhaps one of the ugliest truths about your period is that disposable products, like most tampons and pads, are known to negatively impact vaginal health in several ways. These heavily marketed and cheaply made products contain dioxins—harmful chemicals, are bleached and processed, and made of synthetic materials like rayon and plastics. The synthetic fibers can even cause tiny cuts and abrasions on vaginal walls, are more drying than reusable choices because of their super-absorptive nature, and make the wearer more susceptible to irritation and bacterial infections as the synthetic materials aren’t breathable, creating a comfortable environment for bacteria to grow. Truthfully, very little research has been done on the effects of the materials that disposable feminine care products are made of on the body, and manufacturers are not required to include ingredients on their packaging.
But we are not obligated to use a synthetic, chemical-laden product when the inevitable comes every month. There are several more gentle, natural and reusable feminine care options that are a better bet for your body.
Menstrual cups are probably the most common choice. They’re a soft, flexible cup, usually made of silicone that the wearer inserts vaginally. Cups can be worn for 8-12 hours, and only need to be washed out and reinserted 2-3 times a day. When worn correctly, they don’t leak, and are pretty undetectable to the wearer once in place. Most devices have a stem to help position and remove the device, which can be trimmed if it’s felt once in place, and wearers typically report them as less noticeable than tampons if worn correctly. If the wash and wear process all sounds strange, I know many people who were skeptical of cups at first, but oh-so happy once they made the switch! Many cup users report that using cups lightens their flow, and consider the devices more comfortable than tampon alternatives. As the material that cups are made out of isn’t absorptive, there is also no drying out or abrasiveness, as compared to using tampons. There are many different brands of menstrual cups that come in various sizes (pre and post childbirth, etc). For more information on what might be best for you, look here. One cup should last you a year or more, and cost only $25-40 each, so they’re also more economical than purchasing a year’s worth of tampons and pads. To sanitize, either boil the cup for 20 minutes or soak in alcohol for 15 at the end of your cycle.
If you’re more of a pad person, there are options for you too! Washable, reusable pads are a good alternative to their synthetic, diaper-y counterparts. They’re also super cute!
They’re often made of natural materials and dyes, and function similarly to synthetic pads and pantiliners, in that they come in various levels of thickness, but need to be washed out after wear. People who use these for a heavier flow can store their used pads in a small wet-bag (waterproof bag) and soak them in cold water before washing. They are generally machine washable. These can also be used in place of post-partum liners after childbirth. You can find more information on these pads and if you sew, there are DIY patterns here.
Sea sponges are another great alternative, and sort of the natural tampon. They are made from completely organic materials, and many brands are sustainably-harvested. Simply rinse and reinsert the sponge as needed throughout the day. They should be changed every 3-6 hours just like a tampon. If you find the sponges to be a little large for you, simply trim them a bit to the appropriate size. To sanitize at the end of your cycle, simply soak in warm water with baking soda or apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes, rinse and let air dry. They should last 6-12 months.
If none of these options are compatible with your body and lifestyle, there’s always 100% organic cotton tampons and pads. No one has ever reported Toxic Shock Syndrome as the result of using a 100% cotton tampon. Several companies produce them, and although they are more drying and less environmentally friendly than some of the aforementioned options, they’re still a much better bet than their synthetic alternatives.
Whatever method you decide to go with, take good care!