Menses That Make EcoSense
- Friday, 08 May 2009
I can still remember the day I started my period at age 11.
I was too shy to tell my mom about the “big moment” so I used my budding writing skills to create a faux newspaper article with an unusually large advertisement for maxi pads right in the middle of the page. With a pounding heart, I quickly shoved the paper into my mom’s hand and dashed back to the comfort of my bedroom. Waves of laughter erupted from the kitchen. A few moments later, my grinning mother entered and I blushed as she handed me the standard ration supply of ridiculously oversized disposable cotton pads. After she left the room, I sat pondering how to use them. Even at the age of 11, I knew there had to be a more natural, more comfortable alternative.
Many years later, after enduring endless cycles of scratchy paper “menstrual napkins” (men: think public restroom paper towels and you’ll get the picture), I finally encountered the answer I was looking for: reusable cloth menstrual pads. True, the first ones on the market weren’t pretty, but they were functional and quite comfortable. Over the years the market has expanded tremendously, especially among WAHM (Work At Home Mothers) groups and small cottage industries.
It is now possible to find cloth pads of all sizes, colors, shapes and fabrics (organic hemp velour is divine!). When my children were young, I would toss my pads in the cloth diaper bucket. Now that they are thankfully out of diapers, I keep a tiny bullet-shaped wastebasket with removable inner bucket tucked discreetly in the corner of my bathroom. When my cycle is done, I throw the pads in with a load of towels and voila! Nice, clean comfy pads.
I have never been a big fan of tampons, as I worried endlessly about toxic shock syndrome (TSS). So, when I first learned there was a natural and eco-friendly alternative to tampons that have never been linked to TSS I was both elated and apprehensive. I was also amazed to learn that menstrual cups, devices that collect blood rather than absorb it, have actually been around since the 1930’s.
Unlike their predecessors, modern “reusable menstrual cups” are made of soft, pliable silicone or natural gum rubber, making insertion and wear much more comfortable. They come in two sizes, typically determined by your age and whether or not you’ve given birth, either vaginally or by C-section. They only need to be emptied when full (the amount you bleed differs for each woman; I usually empty mine before bed and again in my morning shower), and they are safe to wear when swimming and bathing.
Now that I have been using cloth pads for over 15 years and a menstrual cup about two years, it feels awkward and juvenile to revert to using disposables. I even have my teenage daughters wearing cloth pads!
Finally, comfortable and fashion forward solutions to our moon cycle that make ecosense.
The “grandmother” of the cloth pad business, (Glad Rags http://www.gladrags.com), is still going strong. They have expanded their line to include new colors, patterns, and sizes of pads.
Another major player in the reusable cloth pad market is (Lunapads http://www.lunapads.com). They have a very informative website that even offers an informational booklet for teens! Hurray!
The Keeper is a natural gum rubber menstrual cup that has been widely available since 1987. The only American-made menstrual cup on the market, the makers of The Keeper have also developed the silicone Moon Cup for those with latex allergies. (http://www.keeper.com/)
The Diva Cup, a Canadian-based company, is available at select natural food stores, holistic parenting retailers, and pharmacies throughout the US and Canada. You can search using their interactive store locator at (http://www.divacup.com).