800 million women and youth are menstruating all over the world at any given time. We have some good news and not-so-good news related to this fact. Let’s start with the not-so-good news first.
The most preferred menstrual products among the menstruators of the world are disposable sanitary pads and tampons. However convenient they may be, these sanitary pads and tampons usually contain loads of plastic that are not just harmful to the environment but also to your body! Periods are already so stressful – cramps, mood swings, urge to binge, bloating, constipation, breast tenderness – in short, you are dealing with a lot all at once, every single month.
You don’t deserve any added stress of dealing with fungal infections, pelvic infections, allergies, and vaginal irritation that could happen due to using these plastic-based one-time pads and tampons.
Secondly, these pads and tampons take 500-800 years to biodegrade. So, neither does our planet Earth deserve so much waste and pollution for centuries to come.
The good news is that today, there are many sustainable alternatives to these menstrual products. They are reusable, thus making them eco-friendly and economical. Also, these products are not only safe for the environment but also for your body.
Also Read: The 4 Stages Of Menstrual Cycle
3 eco-friendly reusable menstrual products
Let us introduce 3 eco-friendly menstrual products that you can switch to instead of disposable pads and tampons.
1. Menstrual Cup
A menstrual cup is a reusable, bell-shaped, soft product made of medical-grade silicone, rubber, or latex. It is inserted inside the vagina to collect the menstrual blood and can be removed from time to time to empty it before re-inserting. You can wear the menstrual cup for up to 12 hours; it all depends on your menstrual flow.
Before inserting the menstrual cup: Before and after every menstrual cycle, you must sterilize the cup. To do this, you can either boil it in plain water for 5 minutes or dissolve a formalin tablet in water and dip your menstrual cup in that mixture for 5 minutes.
Inserting the menstrual cup: Inserting the menstrual cup can take some practice, but you will get used to it. Before inserting the cup, take a few deep breaths and relax your body. Then get into a comfortable position; you can try squatting or keep one foot on the toilet seat. Fold the cup to make the insertion easy; the most common folds include C-fold, punch down fold, and 7-fold. With a few trials, you will determine the best fold for you. Gently insert the cup into your vagina and ensure that it opens completely and creates a vacuum, or else there are chances of it leaking.
Removing the menstrual cup: For removing the cup, again get into a comfortable position, break the suction and pull it out. Wash the cup before re-inserting it.
After your periods are over, you need to boil the cup and store it in a clean cloth bag or airtight container until your next cycle begins.
How many years can you use menstrual cups? Menstrual cups can be used for 5-10 years, provided you take care of them.
Pros of using a menstrual cup: Sustainable, prevents skin rashes, you can swim, run, do yoga while wearing a menstrual cup without worrying about staining, and are economical.
Cons of using a menstrual cup: It may take some practice to get used to it, can cause infections if proper hygiene methods are missing, and can be challenging to find the right fit in one go.
2. Reusable menstrual pads
Reusable menstrual pads look just like disposable sanitary pads with, of course, a difference in material composition. Disposable sanitary pads are composed of plastic, cotton, and layers of synthetic fibers that can cause irritation and infections due to moisture retention. Reusable menstrual pads are made of breathable fabric such as cotton and cotton flannel.
How to wear a reusable menstrual pad: These reusable menstrual pads can be clipped onto the underwear to absorb the menstrual blood. You can wear them for up to 4-5 hours; it depends on your menstrual flow.
How to clean a reusable menstrual pad: Washing the menstrual pads on time is crucial. You can either hand wash the menstrual pads with the usual detergent and water or put them in the washing machine. Washing in cold water helps remove the stains; even baking soda is good for stains removal. Using distilled vinegar keeps the fabric of the reusable menstrual pads soft. Dry it in the open air or the dryer before reusing it.
How many years can you use reusable menstrual pads? These pads can be washed 75 times and used for up to 5 years if proper care and hygiene are maintained.
Pros of using reusable menstrual pads: soft and comfortable, prevents rashes and irritation, prevents retention of moisture, economical, biodegradable.
Also Read: Is a Menstrual Cup Under One’s Wing?
Cons of using reusable menstrual pads: hard to find the right underwear to avoid shifting of the menstrual pad; improper cleaning can lead to infections, having to wait for the menstrual pad to dry before use – can be tough to do so when traveling.
3. Period underwear
Period underwear looks like regular underwear. But it has multiple layers of microfiber polyester, a fabric that helps absorb the menstrual blood without any leakages. Period underwear encourages a concept known as ‘free bleeding’ that means you are allowing your menstrual blood to flow freely instead of collecting it.
How to wear period underwear: Period underwear is worn like regular underwear. It can be worn for up to 12 hours but switch to a fresh one when required depending on your flow.
How to clean period underwear: You can clean period underwear in a washing machine. All you need to keep in mind is to use mild detergent and cold water on a delicate cycle for washing it. Avoid using any fabric softener or bleach as it can ruin the material of the underwear.
How many years can you use period underwear? Period underwear can last from 6 months to 2 years, depending on how well you maintain them.
Pros of using period underwear: reusable and sustainable, good for overnight protection, available in different sizes and absorbency levels.
Cons of using period underwear: longer drying hours, need to have a couple of pairs, wash immediately after use, not very travel-friendly as you need to wash it immediately, finding the right size to prevent leakages.
With so many reusable menstrual products available today, it is about time you try sustainable menstruation. However, always remember to use the products that make you feel comfortable rather than cause stress. It should ultimately be your choice!
So, keep experimenting to find the right match for you and contribute to a greener planet.
Sustainable menstruation is still a privilege, and if you have the means to switch to it, try it and encourage others as well!