Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sustainable Menstruation

This post is about - Why and How, I made the transition from using cloth to pads, to tampons and to menstrual cup.

Taken from google images
Since the age of 15, I have been told to use the pads because it was considered more hygienic than using cloth to collect the period flow. So for more than 15 years now, without questioning this myth, I have been sticking in a pad which comes wrapped in colourful papers, sprayed with pleasant scent and few even patched with floral designs on their inside. It felt heavenly to be switching from clothes to pads, because it needed no washing. Use and throw was the trend then. It was easy to ignore the plastic going down the drain.

I have to thank the whole interlude of Padman movie and the volume of conversations it spurred on Social Media around Menstruation.

I came across menstrual cups on one such posts and was very intrigued. Trust me, inserting anything external into my vagina, till then sounded very bizarre and freaky.

I spent days exploring/reading/discussing about this whole new discovery. It instantly rang a bell for two main reasons. One, Sanitary pads, obverse to my understanding, turns out to be very dangerous to your vaginal health. Two, sanitary pads take centuries to disintegrate. Not sure if they ever even decompose.

Let me just scratch the surface and highlight the impacts of Sanitary Pads on Health and Environment.


The impact of Sanitary pads and tampons range from skin rashes to infertility to cervical and ovarian cancer on a long run. The commonly used chemicals include dioxins, cellulose gel and plastic components in majority. Few manufacturers use harmful pesticides and herbicides as bleaches. It takes no effort for these chemicals to enter the blood stream as they are directly exposed to the vagina.

Composition of a Sanitary Pad, taken from google images


A quick math highlighted, I was dumping 20-30 cotton pads which is made of 90% plastic with varied doses of superabsorbent gels, every month, which comes up to approx. 360 pads every year. Now let me NOT go any further multiplying this number with number of years, number of women population using pads and stuff. I am so sure that the number is massive and alarming.

Here is to give you a glimpse of the journey of these pads, the raw materials are mostly petroleum products and bleached wood pulp. There are treated with several chemicals to make it hygienic and is dressed up in colourful pouches. Only to sit under your vagina collecting all the period flow, and eventually end up in a landfill. They easily take centuries to disintegrate which means all the pads that you once used as a 15-year-old are still intact in some corner of the world.

This is NOT fun at all.

Some more statistics, taken from google images

So, what are the eco-friendly menstrual options out there

Cotton pads/tampons

Though I had switched to cotton pads/tampons which are lot less harmful to your body, they are still dangerous to the environment unless they are disposed in a sanitary disposal unit.

Cloth Pads

The conventional cloth pads are certainly eco-friendly and hygienic, however, the process of washing and drying them in sunlight is essential and a task. It’s bigger a task while you’re traveling. Inspite of being an environment freak, the idea of switching back to cloth pad was NOT something I was ready for just yet.

Menstrual Cups

It is a flexible silicone or latex rubber cup which collects your period blood. They are folded to insert into your vagina, springs open and rests against the vaginal wall. Inserting and removing the cup involves some learning curve, and when inserted correctly, it is hardly noticeable.

As a first step, I switched to cotton tampons with applicators, later to tampons without applicators and once I got a hang of inserting it, I was ready to try the cup.

Taken from google images

Few hilarious experiences,
·    I was, on one of the attempts, searching for my own hole. That's how ignorant I was about my own body.
·    For some strange reason, I always thought having an active sex life will make it easier to insert the cup. But NO, it doesn’t matter.
·    The first time I was inserting the cup, I realised the value of the F word. I freaked out the first few seconds, but wasn't giving up.

I'm sure there will be heaps of reasons/stories stuck in the mind. It's all OK. Trust me, these are just assumptions/crazy ideas we carry in our heads. Time to break them all. 

Few advices that helped me,
·      Finding the RIGHT CUP IS THE KEY. There are heaps of forums where you can find one that works for you.
·      Fingering yourself to understand the vaginal track helps manoeuvring the cup in and out.
·      Using a lube (I use a good quality coconut oil) makes inserting lot easier.
·      Drink lot of water. This is because, when you insert an external object into your body, it may cause irritation. Water keeps your internal system hydrated.
·      ALWAYS wash your hands before using the cup.
·      Cut your nails, else a scratch on your inside pains like hell.
·      Follow the cleaning instructions carefully.
·      Get used to seeing your period blood up close.
·      Talk about it to friends/family.

Taken from google images
·      Reusable (one cup for the whole period)
·      Cost effective in a long run (cups can be used for years)
·     Cleaning is fairly easy (remove - rinse - reinsert) and sterilise in boiling water before and after every period
·      You’ll understand your vagina better
·      Forget those rashes, pain, stain (even after an intense yoga session)
·      Can be worn for long durations (up to 12 hours)

It was hard to say good bye to long nails which I fancied so much. Yo ladies, if you love your nails, I'm sorry, you gotta get rid of them.

Final words,
I have never felt so good about Periods before this. It feels truly empowering and liberating switching to cups.

I wrote this post with an intention to reach this message to more women out there. Please don’t hesitate to share this with friends and family.

I found some of these links useful,

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