At first glance, you wouldn’t think that feminine hygiene has anything to do with nourishment, would you? Oh, but it does.
The female private areas are highly sensitive and highly important to our overall health and happiness, and yet many commercial feminine hygiene products contain synthetic materials and chlorine, both of which can be extremely disruptive and harmful to health.
According to Dr. Mercola, the highly-absorbable synthetic materials can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and the chlorine used in the bleaching process can release dioxin, a known carcinogen. And besides the health angle, I’ve got other gripes with the regular commercial options — they’re wasteful, cost more money in the long run, and they’re uncomfortable.
So it only makes sense that we choose more natural, healthful products to support our monthly cycles.
It makes one wonder — why do we even have the disposable options at all? Personally, I believe it’s a bottom line thing for the disposable products companies. Because they’re certainly not better for us!
I don’t really want to be specific about my own experience. Let me just say that after having switched to more natural options, I will never, never, never go back to disposable pads or tampons (neither of which really worked for me anyway). On so many levels, the natural is better. They work and feel better, are more healthy, and they cost less and produce less waste.
What natural products are available?
- cloth pads — soft, surprisingly absorbent and very comfortable
- menstrual cups — inserted into and worn in the vagina to catch flow
- sea sponges — from naturally occurring organisms, reusable, and less drying than tampons
It might sound yucky to deal with dumping out, rinsing, and/or washing these items when we’re so used to just chucking away used products. But let me assure you: it isn’t that yucky — it’s a matter of adjusting back to a new normal. You’ll adjust, I know it.
Here are six reason why natural personal hygiene products are so much better…
1. They’re more healthy.
As I mentioned above, the synthetic materials and bleach in commercial products are implicated in TSS and cancer. Cloth pads, cups, and sea sponges contain no synthetics and are virtually risk-free when it comes to health.
Natural products are more likely to be free of chlorine. Chlorine, in addition to releasing carcinogen dioxin, acts as an antibiotic, killing native beneficial organisms in the vaginal canal. These organisms are vitally important for our own health, but also for our children who pass through the vagina during birth. To ensure chlorine-free natural products, choose organic, unbleached fabric for your pad materials.
According to GladRags, one of my favorite sources for natural feminine hygiene products, here’s why you don’t need to worry much about TSS when using menstrual cups or cloth pads:
Q. Can I get Toxic Shock Syndrome from using a menstrual cup?
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is caused by normally harmless bacteria found on our skin or in other parts of our body. If the bacteria get into the bloodstream, the toxins released can cause serious and even fatal disease. It is a rare disease and has been associated with tampon use — especially high-absorbency tampons, as they can dry out the vaginal canal by absorbing the vagina’s natural moisture, creating the opportunity for miniscule tears to occur and increasing the chance of TSS. Menstrual cups “catch” your flow, rather than absorbing it and have not been linked to TSS.
Q. Can I get toxic shock syndrome when using cloth pads?
There is always a “chance” of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS) with any menstrual product. GladRags are one of the safer options because blood is not staying in the vaginal canal, where the development of TSS is most likely to occur. TSS is caused by usually harmless bacteria found on our skin or in parts of our body. If the bacteria get into the bloodstream, through a cut or tear, they release a toxin. While the risk is still minimal, tampons create a more ideal opportunity for the growth of these bacteria and can dry out the vaginal canal by absorbing the vagina’s natural moisture, which can lead to minute tears and increase the chance of TSS.
2. They’re more comfortable.
Ever felt like you’re wearing a diaper? Those thick synthetic-material pads sure give tell-tale swish-swish plastic sounds when you move. What about uncomfortable dryness from highly- and too-absorbent tampons? How about excessive cramping? Yes, those are side effects of synthetic products, too.
I can testify you hardly notice you’re wearing anything extra when using a cup and/or cloth pads. They’re completely comfortable and help make that time of a month a less-dreaded event. And many women report fewer cramps when using natural products.
Honestly: the first cycle using a cup won’t be a complete breeze. You’ll be figuring out how to insert it so it doesn’t leak, figuring out how to take it out and dispose of the blood, and also wearing it. But by cycle two, at least from my experience, you’re off to the races.
3. They work better.
Got a heavy flow? Or clots? Tampons simply don’t work. You’re leaking all over, and have to wear a pad anyway! On the other hand, a cup catches all this with literally no mess (though on heavy days wearing a light cloth pad is very helpful). I’ve heard that the Diva cup is more suited to heavy flows than the other cups.
If your flow is light, you can literally forget you’re having your period — change your cup morning and night and forget about it in between. Do all your usual activities without worry.
I’m not exaggerating — they work so. much. better. Even the pads.
And slightly related, when using a cup or even rinsing out a cloth pad, you get a much better idea of what your body is doing. From the amount of flow, to the consistency of flow, to the size and number of clots, to fluctuations and changes in your cycle month to month. Once you get past the yuck factor, you realize that these are interesting things to know about yourself. They might come in handy to tweak and improve your nutrition (high numbers of clots can indicate iron deficiency, for example) or to give a medical care provider an insight into what your body is doing.
4. You’ll save money.
Yes, cloth pads and menstrual cups require an up-front investment, whether you purchase them ready-made or buy materials to make your own. However, they’ll last for years and you’ll recover your costs in a matter of months to a few years — all while experiencing the health and comfort benefits. (But in my opinion, it’s totally worth it even if you didn’t save money.)
5. They’re less wasteful.
Disposables add pounds and pounds of waste products to our landfills every year. They clog our septic lines. Wouldn’t you rather stop filling up the trash and be able to reuse products over and over and over? I know I would.
Cloth pads can simply be washed with your darks (no additional load needed), while cups and sponges require rinsing and occasional washing. Truly easy on God’s good earth!
6. They’re perfect for prepping.
Want to be prepared for a natural disaster or survival situation? No need to buy hundreds or thousands of consumables for a rainy day. Instead, for each female in the family, get a cup (and maybe an extra or two) along with a generous set of pads. You’ll save lots of storage space and probably money, too. And you won’t have to deal with the extra garbage the consumables produce.
Convinced? I hope so!
I made the switch to natural products earlier this year. I am so happy I did, but I can’t believe I took so long. Seriously — such a waste of time, money, and comfort.
If you’re like me, don’t wait any longer. Get switching and you’ll be so happy you did.
Here are more resources.
I purchased the Diva cup plus a starter kit of cloth pads (overnight, regular, and pantyliners) through GladRags.com. Then I waited for their periodic specials (delivered via email newsletter) and used those opportunities to purchase the rest of our supplies at a discount. When they run a special, you can save quite a bit. I am very, very, very happy with everything I’ve purchased from them.
Yesterday, I asked for resources, links, and tips from readers on Facebook and you gave lots of helpful replies. (Thank you!) You can read them all there, but for now, here are a few highlights:
- Two homemade cloth pad patterns designed by my friend Kate Tietje of Modern Alternative Mama
- Menstrual Cups: What Every Woman Should Know — a funny and informative post from Dirty Diaper Laundry
- Lots of links to etsy shops and work-at-home-mama offerings!
- Others shared their experiences with the Diva cup, Moon cup, Lunette cup, and the Keeper cup
- and much more in the Facebook thread
I would love to hear your experience with, or thoughts about, natural feminine hygiene. Got resources to share or comments to make? Got another reason to choose them over disposables? Please feel free!