Please note this post will be talking about intimate and sanitary issues and therefore only read on if you are comfortable doing so.
**Disclaimer: All opinions mentioned in this post are my own. In no way have I been paid or are being paid by any of the brands mentioned. All discount codes included are out of courtesy from the brands, and I do not get a cut of the sale if you'd chose to buy any mentioned product. I get offered many paid collaborations, but I refuse to do that as my opinion should never be available for sale, and I want my readers to be able to trust my word.
When it comes to ‘that time of the month’ we women don’t have much of a choice than to endure through it. The thing we can change though is how much waste we want to cause each time and what alternatives that are out there actually work.
Comfort, this is what we women need the most during this time. I will be talking about my own experiences with waste free period alternatives and share some useful links with you to get even more in depth information, if you wish to do that. I have observed a general change in women and how they approach their menstrual cycle. There seems to be a whole movement to TALK about it openly and normalising the topic. I love this, so lets do it!
Now lets start with some facts:
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.
Thats an average use of around 16,000 or more tampons or pads.
Let’s move on to the health effects on a woman’s body. The vaginal area is an area filled with small blood vessels, and the skin down there is very thin and delicate, thus making it easy for chemicals and plastic to be absorbed into the body.
Sanitary pads and tampons are primarily made from plastic materials. The chemicals used to manufacture plastic include BPS and BPA, which may complicate the development of a baby.
Absorbent sanitary pads are not made from cotton alone, as they also contain cellulose gel, which has been linked in some studies to cervical cancer. They also contain dioxin, which can lead to ovarian cancer.
Sanitary pads contain odour deodorants or neutralisers.
According to Dr. Axe, scented feminine hygiene products can cause irritation
Scented pads or tampons can throw off your vaginas natural pH balanced ,the result can lead to yeast infections.
It takes about 500 years for one pad to biodegrade.
Tampons have been linked to many health risks due to the chemicals used in the manufacturing process. These chemicals include harsh pesticides and chlorine. Your vaginal walls are naturally very absorbent, and will therefore also absorb those chemicals.
Tampons also absorb your natural vaginal moisture which can lead to dryness and therefore injuries and light bleeding. They have been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Now all of this doesn’t sound good does it?
More and more women chose to stop taking the pill to be in synch with their natural cycle and hormonal balance.
I am one of these women. I have been off the pill for a year now. I was on a very strong hormonal pill that would keep my acne and skin problems under control. As I was young and naive and only thought about stupid things like pimples in my face I took the pill without any further thought.
After all everyone was on it right? So what could be the harm. Oh my, how stupid I feel now. Being off the pill has been a revelation to me frankly.
It is interesting to see how very influenced women are by their cycle. I have used an app called “CLUE” to help me understand my cycle a bit more. And it has really revealed a lot, I can recommend it to anyone to try it out.
One negative effect though is, that my period has become stronger, longer and yes - more painful. But all natural, I chose this over any manipulation to my body any day.
With the decision to go off the pill I also became aware of the other things mentioned above and decided to try alternatives.
I started by sewing cotton menstrual pads for myself with multiple layers of recycled cotton to replace pads and also bought a menstrual cup. Later I also bought period pants which are fab.
Now that one was tricky I have to admit. It took me some time to find my way around it. And If it wasn’t for a friend who warned me that this would be the case, I promise you I would have stopped after my first trial run. They definitely take some practice. It starts by finding the right one for your cervix. Here is a useful video on how to measure your cervix. Now I have still no clue about my own cervix, but I was lucky my first cup worked for me. Here is another video about different cups and which one might be right for you.
I don’t have enough knowledge to advise on which cup to chose, this is why I suggest listening to people who spend time on figuring this out.
I use a moon cup and have been fine with it after some practice. But for others I know that it takes a few different cups before they find the right one for them.
Once you find your right cup, you have to trim the stem to the right length, find your way around inserting and removing it, which will not be a picnic in the park. BUT it will only take a bit of practice and after that I promise you, you will LOVE the menstrual cup.
You don’t feel the cup inside, no cramps (for me personally) and it lasts easily 8-10 hours on my heavy days.
The downside is that one wants to be in the comfort of your own home when emptying it ;)
Wash it after use under the hot tap. Don't put any soaps on it as it might disrupt your vaginal PH. After the end of your period put it in boiling water for about 10 minutes to kill any bacteria.
I can advise to wear some backup. For me personally sometimes the cup can slightly move inside and blood can come out. I only wear my cup on my heavy days and back them up with period panties or reusable cotton pads.
The cup should last your for years and years if cared for properly and appropriately..
If there is any change in the material or shape of your menstrual cup, if it splits or becomes sticky, then it will need replacing.
It will change in colour slightly but that is normal. This can be reversed with sterilising fluid from the chemist if you wish to do so.
Oh my god what a revelation they are! I LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM. They are super comfortable, and they don't feel like you are wearing nappies at all! They are very stylish too, so I had to remember that they are for that special occasion every month and should be saved for that.
Mine are from two brands and both of them have pros and cons which I will share now.
Flux are a UK startup company. They manufacture 60% in China but also 40% in the UK, which is a good start and I am sure they will try to change that to 100% in the future. They constantly strive to be as zero waste as possible and are a lovely brand to communicate with. I know this as I bombarded them with questions and they took the time to explain everything.
They are definitely more leak proof than the ones I have from the other brand which is fab, but their layers are also a bit thicker. I use them on my mid heavy days and NEVER had a problem. They wash perfectly are very comfy and feel lovely on the skin.
FLUX are part of the 'By You, For Her' scheme. For every pair of FLUX Undies bought by you, a girl in need will receive a reusable, menstrual cloth pad to fight against period poverty.
Washing is easy, just launder with your normal laundry and they are good to go for next time.
FLUX have been so kind to offer 15% off for my readers. I do not get a sales cut and everything mentioned is my honest and own opinion.
Use Code: ZWM15 at checkout on their website
SheThinx is a US based brand that manufactures in Sri Lanka and who support local US period poverty by partnering up with PERIOD. The images I have included are the designs that I own. I can genuinely say they are my favourite panties to wear. Even on non period days. They are super light, not thick and feel just like normal underwear. Because of that I would not recommend them for heavy days. I wear mine for back ups for my moon cup or on light days or just before I know my period is about to start any day. I like that they make me feel sexy on those days where I certainly don't feel like that whatsoever. Being pretty and functional is what I appreciate about those panties. In particular the high wasted pants just snug around my hips. I want to point out I am a curvy person and underwear can be a big struggle in terms of pinching and being to tight or to lose in places. I feel like those were made for my pear shape body. Just what I need when on my period. Washing is easy, just launder with your normal laundry and they are good to go for next time.
Overall period panties are my favourite sustainable period option. They are discreet, they work, they are comfortable, and just a great investment. Overall I own 5 pairs and that brings me through my period comfortably with using my mooncup on heavy days.
It only seems more expensive at first but you are investing in your period. They last for years and will give you comfort that, in my opinion, no other period protection will.
I started out with one, and added another here and there. You can also partner up with a friend to save when buying multiple pairs of pants.
REUSABLE COTTON PADS
Well what can I say, not everyone will like the idea. I found them to be a great experience and alternative to disposable ones.
The main thing for me was the feeling of them as your skin can actually breathe whilst you are wearing them, unlike the plastic disposable ones. When cared for immediately staining can be prevented, however it is unlikely if you use cotton af your fabric that it will remain so for long. But I personally do not mind that they are after all clean when washed. You can buy reusable pads on Etsy as well as from some Zero Waste Stores.
But if you have some sewing skills I can recommend making them yourself! You can use old clothing for the layers They are an easy project to make at home and reuse the materials you already have. Here is a good 'How to video WITHOUT a sewing machine' and the following link is a 'DIY video WITH a sewing machine'
This is how pads from recycled materials can look like:
If you don't want to make them yourself but would like to try them here are a few website you might find what you'd be looking for:
But try to find them in a local store maybe.
AFTER BIRTH AND MENOPAUSE
I personally haven't been in either situation, but I have asked friends and family about it.
The period Cup is NOT suitable within the first 6 six after giving birth due to a higher risk for infections. Please remember that tampons have the same risk as a mentrual cup in this case. Even though tampons are a sanitary product they are not sterile and can also cause infections. However period panties and reusable pads are certainly a sustainable option to use after giving birth.
When it comes to Menopause, every woman will have different symptoms and needs. My mother has had terrible constant bleeding and was getting very desperate because noting was holding up long enough. I mentioned to get a menstrual cup, but she insisted there was no point as she will soon stop to bleed. But after a few weeks I just bought her one, and she said it changed everything for her. Even though it doesn't hold up the whole day, as it would in a normal menstrual day (she just really had extreme bleeding) it would hold up for a few hours which no other product would. She saved so much waste and money and the piece of mind was priceless. So it is definitely still worth trying out a menstrual cup if you are in your Menopause or just before it.