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In the way of bleeding.

February 22, 2010

Hello, there! As an introductory post, I figured I would take the easy way out and talk about menstrual products. There are a bunch of different options, and the differences between them can sometimes be overwhelming, so I am ranking the products I have tried from least favorite to most favorite, and discussing the pros and cons of the ones I have not yet tried (but plan to!). My  list:

4. Disposable pads
3. Tampons
2. Reusable cloth pads
1. Silicone cup

And the two I have not tried, but will discuss: a) sea sponges, and b) blood towels.

We will start with #4, Disposable pads
These are definitely my least favorite products. They tend to be bulky and I have found that, in worst case scenarios, they sometimes crinkle up and make noises that others probably do not hear but make me self conscious as all get-out. Unless you search your local health-foods store for disposable alternatives, they contain bleach and other funky chemicals that enhance the already unique odor of menstrual blood. Also, I just feel ooky about any sort of chemical around my vagina and her precious pH levels. Thanks to my dangly little labia friends, they always absorbed my blood in silly places and leaked a lot. They keep me very aware of the fact that I am on my period, and not in a good way.

Next, we will move to #3, Tampons
Before delving into the wonderful realm of reusable products, tampons were my method of choice for catchin’ blood. There are plenty of good things about them: they are comfortable (most of the time), they contain odor nicely, they allow you to wear that skimpy dress you were thinking about on your date, and they are easy to find. I found, however, that the cons far outweighed the pros: they were a hassle to dispose of (so much paper! so much cotton!), I had to keep a pretty strict changing schedule so as to avoid the dreaded toxic shock, they were even more prone to leaks than pads, they have the same funky chemicals as pads and they are actually IN the vagina, they are expensive, and if I have particularly bad cramps one day or my vag isn’t as moist as it could be, they are anything but comfy to insert or take out. Comfort, convenience, and accessability are important, but not if I have to be awful to my body, my wallet, and the environment in the process.

Now for #2, Resuable cloth pads
I always prefer internal methods to external, but sometimes I just want to bleed and not have to poke around inside. On those days, I go for resuable cloth pads. While they are intially expensive to purchase (unless you can sew your own!), they end up paying for themselves within a few months. Go ahead and calculate the amount of money you spend each month on  pads and tampons that you just throw out, and then think about how much of that could be in your pocket if it were a one-time purchase. In more practical terms, they are the most comfortable things. Disposable pads often make me sweat because of all the plastic and whatnot, but these are just cotton (or bamboo, or anything you want, really) that breaths like a pair of super-soft underwear and absorbs just as well as its disposable cousin. You can also buy these and other reusable products from www.gladrags.com , www.lunapads.com , or any website where people can sell their crafts independently (one of my favorites is www.etsy.com …just type ‘menstrual pads’ into the search bar). The only hassle is the fact that you have to take a little time out of the day to soak them in warm-ish water and give ’em a wash. I like to handwash mine in the sink, but you can also just toss them into the machine.

Finally, with a drum roll…#1, the menstrual cup
I could sing the praises of this beautiful product for days on end. It has all of the pros of tampons, with none of the cons! A few good things: all the above benefits of internal protection, easy cleaning, body- and environmentally-safe material (usually silicone and/or rubber), and no worries about toxic shock syndrome (you can leave it in until it’s full). In terms of cleaning, I always try to take mine out in my own bathroom. You just slip it out, dump the blood into the toilet, rinse it with water, and put it back in. If you’re in a public restroom, I would suggest bringing a little spray bottle around so you can rinse it off in the stall. When your cycle is over, all you’ve got to do is stick it in some boiling water for three minutes. No soaps, no chemicals, no extra packaging. In terms of comfort, the cup has something pretty huge going for it. Unlike tampons, it doesn’t absorb your blood…it just catches it. That means that it also doesn’t absorb your normal vaginal secretions and make you feel dry and uncomfortable. As a result, I have found that my cramps (and a few other PMS-type symptoms) have decreased or disappeared altogether. You can find a few different brands of cups at both www.gladrags.com and www.lunapads.com . Again, it’s pricey to start out with, but pays for itself in no time, especially considering how long you can keep them.

a) Sea sponges
I will copy and paste an exerpt of text from www.jadeandpearl.com , one of the leading manufacturers of sea sponge tampons:

Sea Pearls are extremely comfortable, soft, and textured much like the vaginal wall. They can be custom trimmed to fit your unique form, so you won’t even notice they are there! Sponges are naturally very absorbent, and can also be used during sex. Some women choose to use them for contraception with a spermicide of their choice.

Sea Pearls are convenient – no more running to the store for emergency tampons. Compared to the cost of conventional single use tampons and pads, our reusable Sea Pearls save you money and you will never again need to worry about polluting the environment with used feminine hygiene products. Can you believe the average woman uses nearly 17,000 disposable pads and tampons throughout her lifetime? In North America alone, an estimated 20 billion bleached pads and tampons end up in our landfills and sewage systems each year!

The biggest con to sea sponges that I have come across is that when they are full, they’re full. Evidently, a turn in the wrong direction or a particularly rough sneeze can cause all sorts of leaky issues. That could, of course, be solved by wearing a reusable pad.

b) Blood towels

I can’t personally vouch for these (I’ll get back to you on it in two weeks or so), but my girlfriend is pretty crazy about them. Basically, it’s a towel. In your pants. You don’t have to buy anything or read about anything…you just cut up a towel, fold it around your underwear, and make dinner or something. I think it’s more of an around-the-house type of protection, but it is evidently very comfortable and worry-free. I plan on trying.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 9:30 pm

    Wow, I’ve never heard of the idea of “blood towels” before… seems very prehistoric (not in a negative way, just not something you hear about “commonly”) but very economical and easy… no trying to wrap the wings, finding the right spot or getting it in… just drop and away you go. Seems fully reusable too as long as you give it a good wash and if you don’t mind having to look at “old stains” or whatnot. I spend quite a time looking into different feminine hygiene methods and using a towel like that was definitely ‘not on my radar’ but definitely something noteworthy! 🙂

    – Prexus
    Author of MEN in Menstruation

    • chandelierlake permalink*
      February 22, 2010 9:37 pm

      I definitely agree! It had never even occured to me that it was an option until I read about it in Inga Muscio’s book, Cunt, and then my girlfriend tried it and loved it.

      • February 22, 2010 10:21 pm

        Certainly let me know how the blood towel works out for you if you’re really going to try it! I’m not sure it’d fly with my girlfriend though if I suggested to her that she try that, LOL… she doesn’t think “thin pads” aren’t thin enough – let alone have an entire towel in her panties, haha.

        I have read something about sea sponges not being “completely safe” in that it isn’t fully sterile and you’re sticking it inside the body… it has its own drawbacks (including “falling apart” and vaginal-secretion absorption), very similar to tampons. If anything, I’d be recommending the use of cups or cloth products over sponges for that reason.

        – Prexus
        Author of MEN in Menstruation

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