Be warned that this will be a TMI (too much information) post, including talk of ladyparts in general, and mine in particular.
I haven’t yet posted about cloth diapering, but our 19 month old son has been cloth diapered from birth and we love it. I initially made the decision to cloth diaper out of concern for polluting the world with more plastic. Consider that it will take an estimated 300 years for plastic to break down. The first piece of plastic created in the late 1800s still exist. Recycling is a nice gesture, but by all accounts is more of a gesture than an actual solution. In any case, end-product plastics like soiled diapers and sanitary napkins cannot be recycled anyway. So, they just sit in trash dumps…forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-plastic. I think plastic is a marvelous invention that is greatly abused in overly disposable culture.
As I learned more about the chemical constituents of disposable diapers, my resolve to avoid them deepened. Plainly put, I want to delay my child’s exposure to the toxic substances within my control for as long as possible. Popular disposable diapers are known to contain dioxin, a well-known carcinogen banned in most other countries, just ask the World Health Organization. This chemical is a by-product of the bleaching process used to make popular disposable diapers, sanitary napkins and tampons white. Thankfully, dioxin-free alternatives of all of them are now widely available in health food stores and on the Internet.
I’m talking a lot about diapers when this was supposed to be too much information about periods! Well, my female friends, we all know that sanitary napkins, diapers, and Depends are pretty much the same thing. I could personally not justify going back to the same old disposable pads for myself, while keeping SJ’s bum wrapped in soft cloth. Which feels better on your lady parts: cloth or plastic? The answer to this led me to try out cloth menstrual pads.
Of course there’s still the question of tampons, but I’ve never had any love for those. I never liked the feeling of them and possibility of Toxic Shock Syndrome turned me off as a teen. Trying cloth pads, led me to the world of menstrual cups and sea pearls.
To use any of these may take shedding anti-woman views on our bodies and periods ingrained since infancy. The first being that menstrual blood is dirty, nasty, unsanitary, etc. Without romanticizing it at all, menstrual blood is kind of the bomb. For one, it’s been inside your body, so it’s probably more sterile than anything you touch as you go about your day. It’s also highly nutritious because it would have been used to nourish a growing person had you become impregnated. The second thing is that you’ll probably have to touch yourself. It’s ironic when you think about it, but we’re conditioned to believe that unless we’re bathing, our vaginas are for other people to touch: doctors, sexual partners, etc.
ALL of that being said, I’ve tried out three different alternatives to disposable menstrual products. Here’s my take:
Among the natural parenting folks, these may also be known as mama pads because so many of us come to them after trying cloth diapers. The market on these is quite vast. There are lots of handcrafted options available through Etsy and direct websites, in addition the established companies like Party in My Pants, Lunapads, and Glad Rags. The fabric choices range from flannel and organic cotton to wool and bamboo. I have tried the PIMP liner and a few cotton and wool pads from Etsy sellers. They are all super cute and make me feel like my lady parts are well-dressed. However, I have yet to find a leakproof one that I like. Call me picky, but flannel and wool aren’t exactly the temperature regulators I want between my legs.
A menstrual cup is worn internally to catch the menstrual flow. The most surprising thing I learned from using one is that despite how it may look (and feel) most of us don’t shed very much blood each day. The most popular cups are DivaCup, Instead Softcup, Mooncup and Mooncup UK. The differences between them are slight, but enough to make one a loyalist. I’ve only tried the DivaCup and it’s always leaked. I’ve read women who also have a retroverted cervix say they had the same experience. I’m going to try trimming the stem and give it another go round because it could be really useful during travels.
I was complete skeptic of the sea sponge. Sounded unsanitary and gross. But, when I needed to replace the DivaCup and couldn’t find a reasonably priced one by Jade and Pearl, I decided to try the sponge because it was available. LOVE IT! It didn’t leak and I completely couldn’t feel it. I cleaned it with baking soda before using and it rinses very easily between uses. My only issue with it is that I had to trim it a considerable amount before it fit. The one on the left in the photo is what I ended up with after trimming to fit me. I couldn’t see using outside of home though, since it has to be rinsed every few hours on the same schedule you would use a disposable tampon (depending of flow heaviness).
So, I’m still working on getting a full regimen together. In the meanwhile, I’ll give the DivaCup another shot when the sponge is inconvenient. The cloth pads I’ve tried so far make good back-up.
Have you tried any alternatives to disposable menstrual products?