Did you hear? 2015 was the "year of the period."
So said NPR, Time magazine, Buzzfeed, and others. We've seen an elevated discourse about menstruation, women's health, and the rights of people who have periods to easy access to the necessary (read: not luxury) hygiene items that preserve health, safety, and dignity when someone is having their period. Menstrual hygiene is not a privilege – it's a right.
Poet Rupi Kaur was an important catalyst for this movement toward what I can't classify as other than rational thinking. She posted an image on Instagram that's all too familiar for a lot of us – menstrual blood that had leaked through her clothing during the night. It can be seen on her sheets, and the back of her pants. (It's the upper left hand image here.) Anyway, Instagram initially banned the photo, so Kaur called them out on Facebook.
"Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique," she wrote. "You deleted my photo twice stating that it goes against community guidelines. I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. ...Some women aren’t allowed in their religious place of worship [when they have their period]. Out of their homes. To do certain things. And are told they are sick. As if the period is a common cold. Yes. This is here in North America. I have been hospitalized many times because of issues associated with my period. I have been suffering from a sickness related to my period. And ever since I have been working so hard to love it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Even thought it’s given me so much pain in the past few years. and they want to tell me I should be quiet about this. That all of this we experience collectively does not need to be seen. Just felt secretly behind closed doors. That’s why this is important. Because when I first got my period my mother was sad and worried. And they want to censor all that pain. Experience. Learning. No.
Their patriarchy is leaking.
Their misogyny is leaking."
(Goosebumps? Anyone else?)
The censorship and removal of Kaur's image got national and then international attention, helping start, continue, or amplify important conversations. Women free-bled outside of Parliament to protest so-called "luxury" taxes on tampons and pads. Hashtags like #tampontax and #livetweetyourperiod gained prominence (and are hilarious). People with periods ran marathons while free-bleeding. Female athletes opened up about what it's like to compete during their flow. Most recently, protesters turned Zurich's fountains red to protest luxury taxes.
And new period products flooded (sorry) the market.
I was feeling tired of using products that had been treated with chemicals, that were destined to end up in a landfill. So I tried a few of the new eco-friendly (and budget-friendly) period management products out there, and thought I'd share them with you in case you want to try, too.
(Remember, what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. All bodies are different and wonderful.)
I sewed eight reusable pads out of 100% cotton flannel about a year ago, and I've been using them pretty regularly since then (although not exclusively). I have definitely saved money on pads, and it feels more environmentally friendly since they're reusable. Plus they are SO comfortable. They just feel like wearing regular underwear.
They do leak through more quickly than traditional pads. I like them as backup for other products, or for nighttime on lighter flow days. I can't find the original pattern I used to make them, but there are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest. I chose one with wings that snap around my underwear.
As far as caring for them goes, I rinse them off in the sink after using, and then toss them in the laundry with our other clothes. I really haven't seen any staining, even after a year of use. Seven of them are still in rotation (one I had to throw away because the snap got fucked up somehow and wouldn't close anymore).
This was something new to me. I bought and started using a cheap, off-brand menstrual cup from Amazon in the summer. It was like $3, and while it's not medical-grade silicone, I wanted to make sure this was something that worked for my body before investing in one of the more expensive (but probably better made and safer) cups, like the DivaCup. It turns out I do like using it, and my BFF Chiara actually got me a proper DivaCup for my birthday this year :)
It took me a few tries, and reading tutorials online, to get the hang of using the cup comfortably. I had to snip a little bit of the stem off for it to be the most comfortable, which I confirmed via text to aforementioned BFF is totally normal. Once I got the hang of it, I couldn't even feel it. Wearing it actually lessened my cramps, too. I freaking love it.
You have to understand your flow to know how long to leave it in. It will overflow when it's full. The cup is environmentally friendly, and saves money (although after a possible larger investment). I don't use it on every day of my period – the first day or two, when my skin tends to be more sensitive, taking the cup in and out is a little uncomfortable.
Dump out the contents of the cup periodically while you're wearing it, and you'll get a feel for how often you need to do it in the future. You can rinse it after dumping too, but you don't have to every time (I don't at work, because I use a public restroom). Once your cycle is over, boil it for a few minutes to get it nice and clean.
Lola is 100% organic cotton and free of chemicals, synthetics, and dyes. The tampons are 100% biodegradable. They offer a subscription-type delivery service that you can time to arrive just before your next cycle starts. You can "build" your own box by selecting the number of super, regular, and light tampons based on what you typically need (i.e., no more super tampons cluttering up your bathroom cupboard if you never use them). The company has also donated 100,000 tampons to shelters and women in need in the United States over the past year, and they support the use of the hashtag #tamponsarenotaluxury.
I've got to say, though, the wrappers are loud and crinkly. Subtle...they are not. And I've experienced leaking when I use them, almost like they're not expanding in the way my body needs. But again, all bodies are different. Plus there's the waste of the wrapper and the plastic applicator.
Cora is also 100% cotton, and their tampons are delivered once every three months. They come with a small black "clutch" that holds a day's worth of tampons (it's nice not to have to desperately dig in my purse for a loose tampon), as well as a sleek black box in which to keep a month's worth. Plus, they provide these little stowaway capsules that each hold one-offs you can stash or give to a friend. If you choose the latter, you both earn free monthly supplies. The soft wrapper is super quiet, and for every month's supply ordered, they give a month's supply of sustainable pads to a girl in a developing country.
The applicator is plastic, and you still have the waste of the wrapper. According to their FAQs, they're working on developing a "bio-plastic" applicator that will neutralize the environmental impact. Also, the first one I used? It leaked, too. It was day one of my period (typically my heaviest day) and it was a regular absorbency tampon, but still. On my lighter days, the Cora tampons worked fine. Again, try things out and figure out what works for your body!
Like the cup, absorbent underwear is a whole new world for me. Thinx panties are cute without being frilly. They offer lots of different styles (including thong) in two colors: black and beige. The absorbency differs depending on the style. I picked one that matches what my underwear typically looks like (what up, full coverage!). It's the hip hugger, which can hold 2 tampons' worth and is the best-selling pair. You can tell which part is absorbent when you're looking at them, but wearing them really doesn't feel different.
I wore them for about 8 hours on the second day of my cycle. It was a bizarre feeling to bleed while knowing I wasn't wearing a tampon, pad, or cup. Almost a little unnerving! But I got used to it quickly once I realized I could trust the underwear, and then it was just plain cool. Like sci-fi cool. Every time I went to the bathroom, I would yell to Kristie, "YUP STILL DRY!" I felt dry and comfortable all day. I took them off when I felt like I maybe would have used two tampons by then, rinsed them in the sink just like I do with the reusable pads, and then threw them in the laundry on cold with my other clothes. You have to lay them flat to dry them, but I can tell you from experience they will dry overnight, in time for you to wear them again the next day if you have only one pair like I do right now.
Thinx are a bit bigger investment up front – they range from $24 to $38 per pair depending on style and absorbency, and unless you wash them every night (which is worth it by the way) you'll need more than just one pair. There's a discount if you buy three or more pairs at once, and you can try Thinx and get a full refund if you don't like them within 60 days (but I think you'll like them). Use this link for $10 off your first pair.
Plus, the company is awesome. They say beige instead of nude (because beige is only nude on beige bodies), and their employees list their preferred gender pronouns in their email signatures. They shares things on Facebook like articles about microaggression. I think I would like this company even if their product didn't work as well as it does.
So that's it! A few new period products for you to try and see what works best for your body. Just so you know, Cora and Thinx both provided products for me to review, but all opinions are my own.
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