Drowning in the Red Sea – Part One

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to investigate a selection of the ‘care options’ available to people who menstruate.

In their menstruating life-time, a person with a vagina (in a first world country) can realistically expect to use over 16,000 pads and/or tampons.

Each of those sanitary pads takes somewhere between 500 and 800 years to decompose.

Fortunately for our planet, more and more people are starting to consider the environmental impact of those mountains of pads (and disposable nappies and adult continence aids) and they are opting for a range of alternatives.

One such option – for those hoping to cut down on their environmental ‘footprint’ without sacrificing comfort, convenience and social consciousness is Tsuno. Made from natural bamboo and corn fibre, and with no bleach or chlorine, Tsuno disposable pads have biodegradable wrappings and come in recycled (beautifully presented) cardboard packaging. Only the bottom ‘leakproof’ layer of the pads themselves is non-biodegradable – for now. Best of all, 50% of profits from sales of Tsuno products go to the International Women’s Development Agency. If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of Tsuno – for a myriad of reasons; not least because their pads and liners were – for me, the only disposable products that didn’t leave me with itches and ouches on the most delicate parts of my body.

Another recent contender in the period management stakes is polar pad“hi-fashion, hi-comfort, hi-tech underwear for periods, sweats, leaks and everyday freshness” While not exactly a true alternative to pads and tampons, Modibodi market their ‘undies’ as a back-up to tampons and menstrual cups and they are absorbent enough for normal vaginal discharge, light bladder leakage and even light to moderate periods. The truly non-bulky underwear (and in the interest of full disclosure – I’m wearing a pair as I type) have a stay dry layer, an absorbent layer, and a leak proof layer in the crotch zone. Two really great things that I personally love about Modibodi is that they have sizes from a 6 (perfect for young people just starting on their period journey) up to size 26.  Now one of my jobs is to teach/talk about puberty and menstruation with primary school kids – and one of the biggest fears of 9, 10, 11 and 12 year olds who are having their periods, is leakage. Often younger folk can be irregular or might find it more difficult to get to a bathroom to change a ‘full’ pad without risking exposure and embarrassment. (Who else used to slip a pad up their sleeve or into a sock to be as discrete as possible on that long walk from school bag to bathroom?) With their pad securely fastened into well-fitting (and attractive) Modibodi underwear, ‘period learners’ are protected against leakage; they can even them throughout their cycle to help with discharge and protect against that sometimes unexpected first day of bleeding.

Makers of menstrual cups like to market their products as the ‘modern alternative’ to pads and tampons; yet an early version of a bell-shaped menstrual cup was patented in 1932, by the midwifery group of McGlasson and Perkins. Possibly the first commercially produced menstrual cup, around 1937 was the ‘Chalmers Cup’ after Leona Chalmers. These early cups were far from popular – they were made from hard, non flexible rubber and were very heavy. Today people who menstruate have some fabulous choices in modern products such as  The Diva Cup and the Australian JuJu Cup – who contribute to Days for Girls  (again both companies have kindly sent me their products for display in #HUSHeducation’s Puberty Programs) Menstrual cups have the power to literally divide groups of ‘period people’ – it seems that they are either loved or loathed, with no ‘in-between’. Menstrual cups (and there are many to choose from) are eco friendly, cost saving, and are free from chemicals, fibres and allergens. They offer “12 hour leak-free protection” and are (supposedly) “suitable for girls and women of all ages”.

Now I have read a lot of blogs and articles and Facebook posts about reusable menstrual cups – mostly because I have a couple of serious reservations. Oh I know they have “changed your life”, “empowered you” and “given you the freedom to climb mountains while swimming, biking and running” BUT………… answer me this………….. if you’re at work, out shopping, at school; and you need or choose to remove and empty your menstrual cup – how do you then rinse and dry it without waddling out of the stall to the communal sinks (‘unprotected’ because the cup is no longer in place; and without complaints from other bathroom users that you are rinsing your menstrual blood in the sinks where they wash their hands, clean their teeth and probably even drink directly from the tap), then waddle, thighs clenched, back to the toilet stall for re-insertion? Seriously. How is it done? I admit I’m a tad ‘germ phobic’ and the ‘take a bottle of water in with you’ or ‘wipe it out with toilet paper’ options are not really appealing to me – especially in light of the ‘dead animal’ ‘abattoir’ ‘boiled broccoli’ smell stories which abound on the internet.

I’ll continue to display menstrual cups as an alternative to disposable products, and I’ll continue to list the benefits of this option FOR OTHERS and support their choices – but I’m afraid they are not for me.

An ‘in-between’ product; halfway between disposables such as tampons and reusables such as menstrual cups are DISPOSABLE MENSTRUAL CUPS. Where re-usable menstrual cups suck sit within the vaginal walls, disposable menstrual cups suction to the cervix. They range from one-use changeable (like a tampon) to one per cycle. This product is sold on-line in Australia through https://www.vitamingrocer.com.au and is called Instead Softcup. (Just FYI,  Vitamin Grocer also stock Menstrual sponges)  I’ll leave you to enjoy this review of disposable cups and be back to discuss disposable and reusable pads in my next blog post.

 

Sexuality educator with over 10 years experience. Based in Melbourne, Australia I specialise in tailor-made programs for schools and specialist schools as well as Body Safety and Awareness programs for younger children (ages 3-12). HUSHeduction are LGBTIQ (SSAAGD) welcoming and work with young people of all faiths and abilities.

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