Monday, July 04, 2005

Alternative Menstrual Products

I've been woefully neglectful of this blog recently, but here it is, finally - the period post. I thought I'd take a moment and do a little rundown of the menstrual products available in addition to traditional pads and tampons, because I'm always surprised that more women haven't heard about these options.

There are a number of reasons you might choose products aside from store-bought pads and tampons. A couple of the big ones:

The environment - traditional pads and tampons go through a bleaching process, releasing toxins into the environment. There are non-bleached, organic tampons and pads on the market now, avoiding some of the chemicals normally used, although these may be pricier. There is also a lot of waste involved - think about how many applicators, wrappers, cardboard boxes you throw out each month, in addition to the used product itself.

Cost - many alternative products are reusable, saving money over a lifetime. For example, say you spend $3 a month on tampons. Over 10 years, that's $360. A Keeper (my favorite) costs $30, and is reusable for that same 10 years - $330 saved.

Obviously, the choice must be made by each woman regarding what is right for her. Here are some options, though:
  • The Keeper: a reusable soft natural rubber cup, which collects menstrual fluid (rather than absorbing it). Empty, rinse, repeat. Tip: trim the stem. This is particularly handy for scenarios where frequent tampon-changing may be inconvenient. In my experience, the Keeper has leaked once, after willful neglect on my part.

  • The Diva Cup: Same thing as The Keeper, but silicone instead of rubber, for those with latex allergies.
    This and the Keeper supposedly have a lesser risk of TSS. They also don't absorb your natural vaginal fluid, making removal more comfortable than with tampons for some women.

  • Washable cloth menstrual pads: for the environmentally-conscious woman who prefers pads
    Lunapads - order online
    GladRags - order online, also sells the Keeper, organic tampons, and sea sponges
    Pattern and instructions for making your own

  • Sea sponges: Resuable, used as a sort of tampon replacement. I've never been sure about these, not knowing the TSS risk or whether ocean pollution is an issue.

  • Instead SoftCup: another fluid collection device, hypoallergenic. You can have sex with this in, but it does NOT provide any birth control. Comes in only one size - this did not work for me. Ask and I'll tell you why.

  • Organic and/or unbleached pads and tampons: Normal products, but without as many chemicals being released into the environment. Still have that pesky waste problem.
    Natracare - order online

    There are probably options I haven't mentioned here. Check around, see what works for you!

    For the young, activist menstruator: Tampaction - a campaign to encourage healthier, more sustainable menstrual product options

    Next time: I'll report on any studies I find assessing the health effects or benefits of these products
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