We need to have a chat about periods.
I have a lot to talk about when it comes to periods (as I do with every other subject on the planet), but when it comes to that time of the month, I could drone on forever.
Aside from the whole heightened emotions, agonising cramps, fatigue, breakouts… (shall I go on?), there’s the cost and ethical considerations to think about when it comes to feminine hygiene. There’s so much to consider as a woman, especially when Aunt Flo is a visitor who has definitely never been invited to anything, by anyone, ever.
Firstly you need to figure out what works best for you and it’s not as simple as the classic pad vs tampon choice that for most of history has been pretty much the only choice we need to make. You need to think the basics such as contraception (not only for well, contraception, but also for helping with the symptoms that come alongside your period) and pain relief (this is a whole other thing in itself), but we also need to think about whether our decisions every month are ethical and most importantly, safe.
Believe it or not, many of the methods of protection available for during your period are actually untested, unregulated and unsafe. This is so terrifying. I recently learned that plasters are more heavily regulated than tampons which shocked me to my core. Something which women regularly wear inside their bodies is not as well researched or quality checked as a plaster which you stick on the surface of your skin for a few hours. This is absolutely not ok.
I’ve been on a very long, very rocky journey with my periods for my whole life. I got my period the day after my 13th birthday (yayyyyyy what a warm welcome into my teenage years that was), and straight away had heavy and painful periods. I suffer with PMS/PMT basically PEVERYTHING. I struggled for a few months, maybe even a year and then went straight onto the combined pill, which to be honest is probably a familiar story to most women out there, especially around my age. This seems to be the most common route. Bad periods = contraceptive pill.
I was really happy on the pill. I think I was 14 when I went onto Microgynon and was really happy with this for years and years and years. I never considered how bad this was for my health, or that it could be affecting not only my emotions but all my experiences in life, but hey, who really thinks about these things as a teenager? Before blogs and Youtube, I know I certainly didn’t and I hope that with far more resources, young girls and women alike will have a much safer, happier and well informed journey into womanhood.
When I was eventually diagnosed with Lupus at 22, I was told to immediately come off the pill as it was actually very dangerous and I wouldn’t be able to use any contraception using the combined hormone method. I was devastated. All I knew was the pill and the freedom the pill gave me, not only protecting me from unwanted pregnancy and having a choice over my own sexual health and life preferences, but freedom for delaying my period if I ever needed to. I never had to power through day 1 and 2 cramps and heavy bleeding during a wedding, event or holiday. I could just pop some more pills and continue on with my life.
The prospect of being out of control terrified me and I was extremely naughty and just continued taking my pill for a good few months until I was told they would no longer be prescribing it for me. Well that was a fucking shit show. I was an emotional WRECK. Oh those fun times which included uncontrollable and non-stop crying, mood swings, depression, sadness that wouldn’t leave me, followed by huge highs and happiness. It was one of the toughest times of my life and not one that I would ever like to experience again! Please don’t let this put you off if you’re thinking about coming off the pill however, as it was without a doubt the best thing I could have done for my body and for myself as a woman.
When I look back I lived a numb (emotionally) existence and by forgetting about my periods and preventing so much of my body’s own functions from flourishing, I was neglecting my body and my mental health. Yes, hormones are hard to deal with and sometimes you might not even want to live with yourself while you’re ovulating or about to come on, but you learn so much about yourself and I do believe more than anything that this puts you back in touch with who you really are.
Fast forward 8 years later and I do have constant battle each month with my period, along with a little blip halfway through the month with horrible ovulation pain and mood swings but I have grown and learnt and adapted to what works for me during those times and you do eventually get there.
My most recent focus has almost been an accidental one, which started by my concern for the environment, leading me to realising how unsafe feminine products can be.
You’ve probably been living under a rock with your eyes closed and hands over your ears if you didn’t know about the environmental impact of using pads and tampons. Pads, panty liners and tampons create more than 200,000 tonnes of waste a year to landfill. As you’re probably aware, all of the packaging surrounding a tampon and a pad is plastic and surprisingly enough pads are actually over 90% plastic themselves. If you haven’t before, I urge you to do some research as I don’t want to bore or bombard you if that’s not what you’re here for, however it’s really important to please do some investigating.
Let’s talk safety. All tampon users will have heard of TSS or Toxic Shock Syndrome. TSS has always scared me. Having Lupus and Fibro means that I’m already super sensitive and I do feel pain with pretty much anything I do (so much fun guys), so tampons have never been the most comfortable thing for me, but I have had a couple of occasions where I’ve felt so bad I’ve considered whether what I was experiencing was early stages of TSS.
Something you may not have heard of however is tampon fibre loss. This is so grim it makes me shudder to think about. When you wear a tampon, small filaments and fibres shed and get left behind. Having these fibres inside your vagina can lead to vaginal infections, particularly important to think about if you suffer from thrush on a regular basis.
The fibres can be absorbed into the body and this prospect is mortifying. I guarantee you now that the materials used in tampons is NOT something you want absorbed into your bloodstream and making its way around your body. Apparently doctors and nurses examining vaginas for smears or other reasons have actually had to remove filament build up from the patient prior to examination. No. This has really got to stop because this is not something women should be experiencing and putting themselves through!
All is not lost!
We’re lucky to be alive in 2020 (not the best time to be alive I’ll admit but were here and so is technology and better ethics and testing haha).
There are so many alternatives that are readily available even in your local supermarket. Here are some of the options you can try if you’re trying to steer clear of plastics and the potentially unsafe pads and tampons.
Menstrual Cup – Probably one of the most tried and tested period products of the safer alternatives to tampons. Choose your size based on your age and whether or not you’ve given birth and just insert and go about your day. Remove, rinse and reuse.
Menstrual Disc – This is really similar to the menstrual cup but is more of a disc shape.
Organic Tampons – Better and safer for you, along with the environment (if you’re interested in trying Daye Tampons , the code upgradeu-4748 will give you £5 off your next order)!
Sea Sponges – A completely different option for those who want to be completely natural but still want to use more than a sanitary towel or underwear.
Period underwear – no need to remember anything else other than putting on your underwear!
Organic pads – Much better for both you and the environment.
Reusable Sanitary Towels – Pop them in the wash when you’re done and use them again and again.
I would love for you to do you’re own research before trying any of these products as I’m in no position to advise what would be the best for you, however I think you will be able to tell very quickly what will work and what won’t work for you. For me personally, I use Daye tampons and organic pads. I am going to be moving over to reusable pads in the near future and would also love to try a Mooncup when I’m brave enough to give it a go!
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