Yes, I wrote vagina. Yes, it's a word. If you can't handle it then you might want to check yourself because 50 percent of the population has a VAGINA and you came from one.
Now that we're on the same page, I want to get into the gritty details about what happens to us women from the ages 13-51, for about 3-7 days of the month and approximately 6 years of a our lives. Hormones, cramps and mood-swings aside, we all have one thing in common, we bleed. We need something that prevents us from turning into a bloody mess, because gone are the days when woman spend their period days in a bloody menstrual huts. Good riddance!
So let's talk cash. It's been calculated that per lifetime, we spend roughly $2000 on pads and tampons and that's at the low end of the spectrum. Or maybe cost isn't a factor for you, but surely your health is. It's really important that we, as women, pay attention to what we are putting into our bodies, while also finding ways to keep the costs down.
There are so many options these days and some are safer than others. Most of the industry is dominated by conventional pads and tampons, and that's a shame because they are extremely toxic for our bodies. Most are made with conventional cotton, which is sprayed with loads of pesticides and insecticides and we don't want any of that inside of us. Other materials include plastics, foams and rayon. To add, pads and tampons undergo a bleaching process which creates a by-product called Dioxin, a known carcinogen. Even when removed, these tampons and pads can leave behind plastic and rayon fibers that can cause infections, endometriosis, cancer and other complications. Sadly, this information is not required to be labeled because these are considered "medical devices."
Also, the risks of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) are real. A few years back a model in Santa Monica had to have her leg amputated because she left a tampon in too long. Something that I know from experience can be so easily done. This such a heartbreaking story and, unfortunately, is not uncommon. You can read about it here.
Now that we know the facts, what other options do we have?
1) Organic pads and tampons. I've used these for a few years. They come in all absorbencies and with applicators and without. The only downside is that they are slightly more expensive and they are not carried everywhere. I find mine at health food stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods and you can definitely order them online.
They are safer because... They use 100% organic cotton and nothing else. Totally chlorine free. No rayon, plastics or dyes. Biodegradable & compostable. The brands I've tried are Natracare, Seventh Generation and Azalea.
2) Menstrual cups. These can save your life and that $2000 I mentioned. It is a tulip shaped cup that you fold up and insert inside of you. You can use it all day changing it approximately 2-3 times every 24 hours.
They are safer because... It does not leave any harmful fibers behind and is not full of toxic chemicals. It does not contain any latex, plastic, PVC, acrylic, acrylate, BPA, phthalate, elastomer, polyethylene, and is free of colors and dyes. However, I think the best thing about this product is that it's zero waste!
According to the book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of "pads, plugs, and applicators" in her lifetime. Considering the average American woman menstruates for 38 years—we can be expected to produce a grand total of 62,415 pounds of TRASH in a lifetime.
If that has convinced you, here is a link to a website that rates and reviews all the various menstrual cup brands so you can do your own research and find one that is right for you.
I have personally made the switch over to the Diva Cup and I couldn't be happier. It does take some time to get used to so I wore it at home mostly until I felt like we had a trusted bond. Now we go everywhere together!
3) Reusable Pads: Simply that. Washable cloth pads that can be reused. I have not tried this method but this is a great option for someone who wants to make a zero-waste change and can't get on board with the menstrual cup.
They are safer because... No harmful chemicals. Zero-waste.
It's time we take a stand and pay attention to an incredibly important part of our health. Remember, you vote with your dollar, so the more people that switch to organic pads, tampons and zero-waste menstrual cups, and demand we have full disclosure on the boxes, the bigger message we send to the monopolized multi-billion dollar pad and tampon industry. Let's take back control of our bodies!
The future is female!