Have you been considering reusable menstrual products like the menstrual cup? Here are some insightful pointers that might help you make that decision.

The History of Menstrual Products

Since the dawn of womanhood, women have been tackling an unruly guest once a month, most of their lifespan. Flashback to the time women were considered impure during “those” days, women had to bleed in their clothes and had no means to cope with periods. We have come a long way since then, but this unruly guest still visits us every month. Now, to think of it, we ladies are pretty good at managing our periods, but do all of us know whether it’s the best way of doing it? Let’s look back in time!

Before all the companies, launched the dear products for period protection, women used fascinating ways to manage blood flow. Softened papyrus as tampons, pads and tampons made of wool and cotton were used. Even animal skin! Sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? These fascinating techniques kept evolving to a day when during the World War 1, nurses found out the higher absorbency of cellulose bandages, used for the wounds; and to women’s rescue, Kotex launched the first disposable pads in stores.

Commercialization of the Disposable Sanitary Pads

In 1933, thanks to the famous Tampax, tampons came into the market. These internal “period protection” products were initially handmade with the help of sewing machines. The freedom this tiny little thing gave was too much to even overlook the kind of effect it had on women, namely- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a fatal condition related to the use of tampons. But was it worth the risk? To some women, it was because pads tend to be bulky, gives you rashes and is wet and soggy and in general not very comforting. Women with sensitive skin, pressure allergies, and many more skin related problems found it hard and unbearable to use pads 24 hours a day for an average of 5-7 days at a stretch, hence the popularity of tampons.

But that’s the scenario in the “rich” parts of the world. What about women in India? Going back to the last decade, almost every menstruating woman in India (even in the metropolitan cities) has tried using cloth during their periods once in their period-life! Many women, if asked about their choice of disposable sanitary pads or soft tattered clothes, respond with the former. A lot of eye-brow raising and cringing are the answers when people are asked about their opinions on cloth as a viable option for period protection, though unnecessary.

The faith on disposable sanitary pads is very naturally due to the advertisements that the pad-making companies broadcast. But, as much as these companies claim be the hero for women “rescuing” them from periods, it is not true. Disposables are BAD! There is a reason why the companies never come out with what has been used to make a sanitary pad. The truth to it is the fact that the ingredients used are non-organic and toxic. Extensive research on what goes into a sanitary napkin has been done only to find out that the extra absorbency and dry comfort result from the use of synthetic fibres and petrochemical additives.

The Problems with Disposable Sanitary Pads

The ingredients used in manufacturing pads give them the “pretty” white colour but at a cost of being bleached. In pad-making, Chlorine is the main agent used for bleaching the absorbent fibres. The result is the carcinogenic substance called dioxin in the pads that can cause cancer, nausea, anxiety, depression, thyroid disorders, diabetes, and so on and so forth. Birth defects in children are also caused by this substance. Disruption in embryonic development and genetic coding also results from the chemicals like BPA and BPS present in pads. So skin rashes may not be the only price you pay for the dry comfort of an ultra-thin pad.

Tampons are also like pads in that matter. No organic fibre is used in the making of tampons either. Rayon and plasticising chemicals are used in the making of super absorbent tampons to give you easy use and extra protection. The smooth applicator that comes with the tampons consists of chemicals called Phthalates, that disrupts gene expressions and DEHP that can cause multi-organ failure. Tampons can also cause micro-tears in vaginal walls creating a breeding ground for bacteria; thus resulting in TSS. Also high risk of TSS runs due the fact that tampons absorb the menstrual flow and in the process of doing so, it also absorbs the required moisture of the vaginal walls, due to which the pH level of the vagina is disturbed.

What to use then? If not disposable pads and tampons? The cringe-worthy cloth is not cringe-worthy after all! The popularity of cloth pads have grown over the past decade for the ease it provides. Sans toxic chemicals, these pads allow the extra sensitive skin of the vaginal area to breathe, thereby providing rash-free comfort. Reusable cloth pads look like ordinary disposables but are made of breathable fibre, mainly cotton as the top fibre, terry as the absorbent core and fleece or PUL as the back to help tackle leaking. These pads are a 100% more hygienic than the disposable ones and are 200% more pocket-friendly! Being washable and reusable, cloth pads decrease the amount of pollution caused by the disposable sanitary products.

The Alternatives AKA Reusable Menstrual Products: Say Hello to the Reusable Menstrual Cup

Ecofemme is a Tamil Nadu based, a woman-led enterprise that aims to bring a healthy change in the menstrual practices among the women in the world. This organization produces and sells cloth pads with the agenda of bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, culturally responsive and healthy way of dealing with menstruation. This women-led enterprise rising from the rural-India intends to educate women about their bodies, and the beauty and the magical energy that women’s body hold, empowering women and celebrating menstruation.

Another alternative to disposables is a reusable menstrual cup. A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product made of 100% medical grade silicone. Menstrual cups are bell or cup-shaped and are designed to collect blood internally. Unlike tampons, they do not come with the risk of TSS as menstrual cups collect blood instead of absorbing it. It also offers maximum freedom by allowing women to use it for 4-12 hours depending on the blood flow. Yes, it does hold up to 12 hours on light periods and once inserted properly they barely ever leak.

Menstrual cups can be used during sports, swimming and other activities and can also be used during sleep. Keeping these cups clean is a matter of boiling them for 5-10 minutes every month. These cups, if used and maintained properly, can last up to 15 years. Shecup, Evacup, Alx menstrual cup are some of the many cups available online for purchase. These cups are eco-friendly, pocket-friendly and also hassle-free and have the potential to become women’s new best friend!

The switch from disposables to reusable menstrual products is a choice that you can make. It will not only be easy on the environment and your pocket, but it will be easier for you. After all it’s a beautiful thing being a woman and the side-effects don’t have to be disgusting. So, bid these disposables goodbye, say yes to these reusable menstrual products, and enjoy your periods!

Read More: Gender Typing through Toys