Menstruation is one of the most natural parts of life for a woman and many cultures around the world celebrate the first period of a woman.
If we look at history, the women in Egypt used papyrus as tampons, and the women of ancient Greece and Rome wrapped lint around wood to create tampons. Japanese women used paper to absorb their period while Native Americans are said to have made pads out of moss and buffalo skin. Are you noticing a trend here? Yes, these were all-natural products. Over history, women resorted to numerous DIY period care options
Commercialized Period Care, in comparison, is rather recent on the timeline. With a disposable range of period care items firmly establishing themselves in the late 1920s, they have only become better and bolder as the decades progressed.
In 2021, about 90 years later, we are now looking at period care items that are economical and sustainable and, well, overall better for our feminine health.
Let us look at some enlightening statistics….
- The Women’s Environmental Network has found that, on average, a woman will use more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products over her lifetime, considering that the average woman has her period for 2535 days of her life.
- 90 percent of sanitary products are made from plastic and are non-biodegradable.
- A plastic, industrially manufactured, disposable sanitary pad requires about 500–800 years to decompose.
- One year’s worth of single-use sanitary products amounted to the equivalent of 5.3kg of carbon dioxide produced.
- The Marine Conservation Society revealed that for every 100m of beach cleaned, there are an average of 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste found. This amounts to four panty-liners, pads, backing strips, plus at least one tampon and an applicator.
The problem with non-biodegradable products?
These are staggering statistics, and while our favorite essential products could be detrimental to the environment, they could be harmful to us as well.
We don’t immediately fancy our vaginas and vulvas to be absorbent – but they are super absorbent! Vaginas and vulvas can rapidly absorb chemicals without breaking them down, which is the same as swallowing chemicals. This is a major concern when considering the chemical and potentially toxic substances found in our menstrual care products.
Did you know that a study in 2020 revealed endocrine-disrupting chemicals in these fem care products?
Endocrine disruptors are said to affect hormones and may lead to cancerous tumors and fetal development issues. Other toxins can affect the kidney and liver – with repeated low-level exposure.
The latest study in the U.S. found that every single sample (of the total 43 pads, panty liners and tampons tested) contained multiple phthalates.
We need to stay informed about the ingredients that are used in mainstream market products. This knowledge perhaps could be a deciding factor in choosing alternative and safer products.
Why look at sustainable options?
Well, apart from the considerable and direct impact on the environment, wildlife, oceans, and planet… sustainable and reusable options are economical too!
Is reusable really sanitary?
Your first thought on reusing a bloody period product – this will not be visually appealing. The more concerning factor…is it sanitary? Well, the short answer is – it depends on you! Yes, there are multiple ways of ensuring your reusable period products stay sanitary, with just a little effort, some soap, or boiling water.
What are some considerations when choosing eco-friendly and sustainable period care products?
Reusability – Yes, if a product can be safely used for a considerable period of time you know you are making a wise choice.
Antimicrobial technology – Hygiene and sanitary factors are foremost in period management which is why one of the factors to consider is that your period care buddies are not harbouring dangerous bacteria (or toxins).
No plastic – Think green, think clean.
No harmful chemicals – Your period care products should be free of toxins and chemicals that are harmful to you and the environment – no brainer right?!
Looking for some options?
Organic tampons are a great choice if you are not sold on reusable period care, and all components of the tampon can be composted. These sometimes come with a cardboard applicator – or you can invest in a reusable applicator. The investment will pay for itself – the earth will thank you and you will have peace of mind. Some organic options you can find easily enough, either in your local pharmacy or online, are Lola and Cora.
Reusable pads are another great choice. They are made out of cloth, are more absorbent than the disposable variety, are ethically made, and are environmentally friendly. They are thin, flexible, and can be used up to at least 3-5 years or more with proper care. Care – rinse in cold water and pop them in the washer. Pro tip – don’t use fabric softener or bleach, as it reduces the absorbency! Tree Hugger is a highly rated brand… and their designs are so fun!
Menstrual cups are made of medical grade silicone or natural rubber; this cup sits in the vaginal canal, forming a vacuum around the cervix, and collects menstrual blood. It can ‘collect’ 3 times more than a pad, needs emptying every 8-12 hours, and can last up to 10 years. Safe from Toxic Shock Syndrome, you need to boil your cup before use and store it on a dry shelf in your bathroom. Diva Cup is the brand that comes immediately to mind, but there is also Lunette and many shop brands (like Walgreens)!
Period underwear are worn just like regular underwear! They are made from natural fibres, which are super absorbent. Some can be worn for 4-8 hours. Then just rinse them and toss them into the wash like your regular underwear.Thinx is perhaps the most popular underwear brand, but there are plenty of others out there as well!
As we continue to incorporate reusable and eco-friendly options into our everyday lives, we as women now have the option to make our period eco friendly and safe for us too. We are indeed fortunate to live in an era of awareness and options, and everyday menstrual care products are being innovated to lessen the impact on the environment as well as our bodies.