This post is by guest writer, Bel. Bel's blog is here.
Through time and across cultures, the menstrual cycle has been sacred and taboo, celebration and woe. In our society, menstruation is generally treated as an inconvenient condition. ‘The curse’ sentiment lingers while our negativity toward our monthly bleeding shapes our daughters’ expectations. In order to feel good about our bodies and their natural processes we need to accept and love ourselves as we are. If it weren’t for menstruation, there would be no human life.
Modern advertising for disposable menstrual items focuses on the products, not the physical, spiritual and emotional process that is our cycle. Females are bombarded with many sterile, slim, paper products that invariably announce that periods are things you should not feel, see, smell or tell others about. But are the disposables as convenient and hygienic as we’re led to believe? With disposable options there are the issues of cost, dioxins and other chemical nasties, landfill and the environmental costs of production of all those individually wrapped, perfectly white sanitary items.
There is a myriad of alternative menstrual products. Cloth pads and liners are more comfy, cool and clean than the feminine hygiene items that the supermarkets stock. They are readily available in many health food stores, some markets, by mail order and online. A comprehensive list of online cloth pad sellers can be found here. I recommend that you try a sample pad or pack before purchasing all of your pads from the one seller. There are so many types of pads available, and only you will know which suits your size, shape and cycle.
Fabric pads are quite easy to sew at home, which is a special menarche or moontime ritual in itself. Bright and funky fabrics (or whatever your preference is) make this project lots of fun. And if we’re going to bleed, why not make it fun? If you browse the free printable pad patterns here, you will see that there are many designs to choose from. I have tried and prefer this one and this one. Or you can do what our mothers and grandmothers and those before them did. Pads can be as simple as a few strips of old towel, held together and to your pants with a safety pin. Or face washers folded into quarters lengthwise. But I do think the slim, snap-on version is more comfortable! Pads can be made from recycled materials – towels, bunny rugs, old clothing, buttons etc. The fabrics need to be absorbent and easy to wash and dry. On the underside of the pad, polyester fabrics can be used and help create a leak-proof barrier. Fabrics can be purchased specifically for that leak-proof barrier if you prefer – taslon, PUL, polar fleece etc.
Cloth pads are not a hassle to store or clean. Used pads can be placed in a small bag such as a cosmetic bag for when you are home to rinse and soak them. The ones with wings fold up onto themselves and snap shut so only the outer layer is showing – this is great for transporting used pads. There are many different methods for washing pads, as you can read here.
If you prefer internal methods of protection, menstrual cups are a reusable option. The most common brands available are The Keeper, Diva Cup and Mooncup. The former is latex rubber, the other two are silicon. The Keeper is available in Australia from http://www.menstruation.com.au/ and http://www.moonpads.com.au/. The others can be ordered from overseas, postage is fairly cheap because the item is lightweight and delivery is usually only a week or so. If you type any of the brands into a search engine, it is easy to find local suppliers or mail order services worldwide.
As well as reusable pads and cups, sea sponges and organic disposable tampons and pads should be considered. The sustainability of most commercially available disposable menstrual products is a valid concern. We are making greener choices in our food, clothing, cleaning and health care. We use cloth nappies on our babies, so why not cloth pads for ourselves and our daughters? If you’re initially turned off by the ‘ewww’ factor (I was), please still try cloth at least once. The environment, your budget and your body will rejoice!
May knowing and celebrating your natural cycles encourage wellness and empower your spirits and those of your daughters.
* Photo - these pads I made for my firstborn daughter's menarche. I tried to create different shapes, sizes, absorbency, textures and colours. Some are for daytime use, some for night, some for going out (with matching storage bag) and some are liners for in-between days. She loves them and has hardly used a disposable item since her periods began.