And Other Lady Stuff

Eric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

I acknowledge that this topic isn’t for everyone. But if you are human being who menstruates, hang with me for a little while to discuss an area of our lives that generates a lot of waste. Not wanting to be banished to the menstruation hut or swaddling yourself in a cloth diaper, you might be fine with the amount of waste generated by “feminine hygiene” products. (Oh wow, I really hate the way that phrase suggests we are neither feminine or hygienic unless we use pads or tampons) But there are a lot of good options, and it’s an easy way to reduce waste without getting the rest of the family involved (remember trying to get your co-parent or other caregiver to use cloth diapers? Sheesh).

First of all, you can skip the waste by skipping your period. Periods are optional, and you don’t have to get pregnant to avoid it. You can use birth control pills to skip your period by skipping that one week of sugar pills in your pack. Even the Mayo Clinic recommends it. I know some people have an adverse reaction to the pill (or think it’s a pain to remember) but it a sound medical option, as are long-acting options. The Mirena IUD substantially reduces the length and heaviness of many women’s periods, for example, cutting down on the number of days you even need to use tam/pads (my new word for these things). Anyway, talk to your OB/GYN about options for reducing or eliminating the length and strength of your period.

On to the products!

Why use reusables? According to estimates, the average woman will use between 12,000 and 16,000 pads, liners or tampons in her lifetime. That is a lot of trash, very little of it that will compost any time soon.

There are several reusable tam/pad alternatives. While I’ve never tried a menstrual cup, they make sense. You insert a silicon cup which catches your flow, empty it, clean it and repeat. No soggy tam/pads, although probably easier to manage at home then in a public bathroom. It can stay in for up to 12 hours, depending on your flow, and is long-lasting and re-usable.

Another option is Thinx, the underwear that is advertised relentlessly. I bought a pair to try out and they are very comfortable and absorbent. I highly recommend. They are $35 a pair so I am not sure I will build a huge collection but I give it a thumbs up. Cute, comfortable, washable. The same company makes Icon undies, which are “pee-proof” for all of us who sneeze-pee or jog-pee or whatever else-pees. I will definitely be getting some of those. Good-bye, useless pantiliners.

Finally, there are reusable pads. GladRags sells them and I bet there are other manufacturers who make cute comfortable reusable pads. There are quite a few Etsy shops that sell reusable pads. Just search for menstrual pads and a whole new world will open up for you. I haven’t bought any yet but I’ll update the post if I do. Another option is making your own. I was headed down that road when I found the Etsy options but I’d rather spend my precious sewing time on some other project. If you’re interested, google “make your own menstrual pads,” and again, you will find a hitherto unheard-of world.

One last thing: Some people float the idea of making their own tampons or using sea sponge as a tampon alternative. This is a very bad idea. The risk of toxic shock syndrome dramatically increases with these items, because more air and bacteria are introduced into the vagina. If tampons are a must-use for you, stick to those items that have less packaging, and consider limiting the number of days you use them, backing them up with zero waste options.

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