When it comes to that time of month, it seems a given to reach for some pads or a box of tampons. After all they are convenient, you use them and toss them. What we often don’t think about, or even realize, is that they do have a negative impact on our health and the environment. Conventional pads and tampons contain a plethora of chemicals including: chlorine as a bleaching agent, BPA and BPS, residual pesticides from cotton crops, chemical agents that help these products absorb moisture, and chemical fragrances to name a few. Many of the chemicals found in feminine hygiene products are known hormone inhibitors. And why are we placing these chemicals so close to our lady parts, where the skin is very thin and highly vascular? Tampons also come with a small risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome which, though rare, is very serious. Besides all this the landfill waste produced by these products is astronomical.
So, what is a lady to do?
Lucky for us there are many natural alternatives on the market today. A product gaining popularity is the menstrual cup. There are many different brands and styles and they are usually made of silicone or rubber. Though there is a bit of a learning curve and you do have to be rather comfortable with your body. Most women don’t have to change it out frequently; except on their heaviest days, and can leave it in for up to 12 hours. All you do is empty the cup into the toilet, rinse in the sink, and reinsert. Between cycles, you boil the cup to keep it sanitary. Most menstrual cups can be used up to a year and while the initial price may be high, over the course of the year you will be saving money compared with conventional feminine hygiene products.
Some women prefer reusable cloth pads. These products usually have wings that go around your underwear and fasten with snaps or Velcro, although some just sit in your panties. These do have to be washed after each use which may be cumbersome for some women, but if you are already familiar with cloth diapers, adding these to your routine should be a breeze. While you might have to invest a bit upfront, cloth pads can last for years. And if you are crafty you can make your own, making them even more cost effective. They come in different sizes and thicknesses such as; panty liner, regular, overnight, extra long, and even postpartum. Different fabric options are available as well, from inexpensive cotton flannel, and fleece to pricier and more luxurious bamboo velour.
Another option is non-chlorine bleached cotton pads and tampons. Although these disposable products do not solve the land fill problem, they are convenient. One thing to consider is that unless they are made of organic cotton, they may contain pesticides. These are usually more expensive than their counterparts, but for many women, health and convenience outweigh the higher price tag.
A relatively new product on the market is period panties. These are just what they sound like, underwear with an absorbent layer built in. These do run pretty pricey, anywhere from $6 to $38, but again they are reusable. Here are a few reviews from women who tried them:
“I love them. I have a light flow and am easily able to use these alone for a whole cycle. I have only leaked once, and it was while sitting on a hard bench for a few hours sewing and the compression seems to have contributed. They fit pretty well, but it is a little trickier than fitting regular underwear well since the fabric that provides the waterproof layer isn’t as stretchy. I don’t feel like they are any hotter than other synthetic fabric panties, and are only slightly thicker but still amazingly thin for how much they can hold. I have the high waist, hip hugger, and boy shorts.”
“I have a pretty heavy flow and I just change them halfway through the day (before the gym). I love them. I just got 3 more pairs.”
“I hated them and threw them away after one try. I felt sweaty and slimy in them. I’m a cup girl.”
Whether you are feeling uncomfortable with the chemicals found in conventional pads and tampons, are looking to save some money on a reusable product, or are conscious of feminine products’ impact on the environment, there are many alternatives on the market. It might take a little trial and error to find the product that is right for you, but once you find your match, there’s a good chance you will never go back.
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