There are many reasons why people choose to switch to using reusable menstrual products.
While you might not think it’s that bad spending a couple of dollars per pack here and there. Think about how much you would spend on disposable products a month….. or per year. Cost isn’t a concern for some people, but it can be a deciding factor for many people. When money is tight and you know each pad costs money, you might be inclined to change less regularly to avoid wasting money. Reusable products offer the advantage that after the initial cost, there is no additional cost to keep buying over and over again. Cloth Menstrual Pads can be reused for around 5-10 years, a Menstrual Cup around 10 years. Maybe longer if you take care of them.
Disposable pads are generally made from bleached paper pulp and plastic. They have chemical adhesives, a plastic coated strip to protect that and they are usually individually wrapped in plastic and then put together in a plastic package. Tampons are also made primarily from bleached paper pulp, wrapped in plastic and put into a box which is usually wrapped in plastic. Not only is the packaging on these products very wasteful, the pads and tampons end up in landfill, contributing to a huge amount of waste worldwide. All those pads people buy are still piling up somewhere… big mountains of used pads – ick!
Reusing products uses less resources and does not require a continual supply of products that are discarded after a single use. Products like Cloth Pads and Reusable Tampons can be homemade, even using fabrics such as old towels and t-shirts, making them not only eco-friendly due to their reusable mature, but also contributing little or no waste in their creation. Cloth pads can be composted once their usable life is over (with the exception of any waterproof layer, which can be removed prior to composting). The rinse water is a great fertiliser for your garden, so grab a watering can and give back to Mother Earth!
Nicer for you
Apart from the obvious fact that being able to choose colours/prints you find attractive for your products makes the experience more positive, they can feel nicer to use too. Tampons can be uncomfortable to remove when they are dry, but Menstrual Cups do not absorb the natural secretions of the vagina so don’t have that same drying effect. Cloth Pads can allow the skin can breathe and can be made from very soft fabrics like velour! No more boring white, you can go as funky and wild or as plain as you like with cloth pads. Think of them as a part of your clothing, not just something to pop into your undies to collect blood!
Fun & Empowering
In today’s society we are taught that menstruating is almost shameful. Something to secretly hide away and “endure” once a month. They even market tampons and pads with “quieter” packaging, so that those in the toilet stalls next to you won’t even know you have your period! (why? I’m sure they bleed once a month too!) I’m sure I am not the only one who finds this silly. Females menstruate. Why are we ashamed of it? Many people who have chosen cloth pads remark on how they actually enjoy their monthly bleeding time and often look forward to it. By becoming more in touch with your body and it’s natural processed, we can shun those negative images of menstruation and begin to enjoy it (or at least not hate it).
Reducing Duration and Severity of Menstruation
Interestingly, many people find that after they switch to cloth pads their periods change. There seems to be no research done on this, but in cloth wearing communities, most find a change in their periods. They might be lighter, last a shorter time, less clotting or cramping. Could this be because those people think of menstruation differently and therefore it is more of a mental thing? or could it perhaps be as a result of not using the chemical laden disposables? There are urban legends around that claim tampons and sanitary pads contain substances like asbestos which promote bleeding (thus making you buy more pads), which is UNTRUE….. however many have had a dramatic change in their menstruation since switching to cloth, even those who were not expecting it (hadn’t read other people’s comments about it) – and that can’t be a coincidence. Many Menstrual Cup users find their periods are shorter while using the cup. This could be as a result of the suction the cup produces.
Some disposable pads contain latex (to make the plastic soft), dioxins (a carcinogen left from the bleaching process), sodium polyacrylate crystals (Super-absorbent crystals, which are known to be a skin irritant). Many people have no problems with this, but some have reactions ranging from mild to extreme. Many are not even aware that their symptoms are being caused by the use of their disposables. Disposable pads can contribute to yeast infections due to the pads creating a moist environment. Tampons can dry out the vagina, which can lead to irritation and change the pH balance, which in turn can cause thrush. Rayon tampons also carry the risk of TSS, a potentially life threatening problem. Cloth pads can help combat thrush in some women as they can keep the area more cool and dry. Organic cotton pads can limit the amount of chemical exposure. Menstrual cups do not pose the same TSS risks as tampons do, and won’t dry out the vagina.
When using disposable pads you are limited to the choices available in stores, however cloth pads offer a huge variety of styles, absorbencies, shapes and lengths making it possible to have pads tailored to your needs. If you can sew your own pads, you can make whatever size you need in whatever fabrics take your fancy. Menstrual cups work by creating a seal in the vagina to collect the flow, which many people find to lead to much less leakage than when using tampons. A tampon holds around 5mls and a Menstrual cup holds 15-30mls (depending on the size/brand), making it much more efficient and able to be worn for longer periods of time.
If you’ve ever run out of supplies at an inappropriate time, you might have wished you used a reusable product….. trying to someone else to pop down to the shops and buy a pack of “things” for you while you’re stuck on the toilet…. You never know, they could come back with a pack of toilet paper and tell you to make your own because it’s cheaper! Or perhaps you’re with your mother in the feminine products isle and she screams out to all and sundry “Do you need some pads… it was the huge mega maxi pads wasn’t it? did you want the bulk pack, it’s cheaper?” Or the ever embarrassing attractive guy at the register when you are stocking up on your monthly needs, who doesn’t even want to touch the packages once he realises what they are. Then you have to have that tell tale bin in the toilet, with little mummified bundles piling up in it. Or if you don’t go for that option you have to hike to the nearest bin carrying your little offering…. When the new roll of toilet paper gets all used up in a matter of days once a month….. oh….and don’t forget the special “period undies” that have been victims of past leaks and are now for evermore stained, so you may as well keep using them each month so your nice undies don’t join them in the soiled shame. So each month you’re stuck using your saggy, stained undies instead of your nice ones.
How much nicer it is having a nice supply of ready to go cloth pads, or a Cup you just have to rinse and reuse. That you know works better, never runs out, feels nice to use, looks great, saves the environment, costs less and might makes you feel more comfortable with your body and menstruating. To me, that is convenience!
Supporting small business
Another aspect of buying cloth pads to use is that your purchase can help several smaller businesses – most of which will be run by women. Helping support small business, rather than big disposable manufacturing companies is a reason some people make the switch. Pad makers will buy their frabric and supplies, often from smaller Quilting shops or online specialty fabric stores. So purchasing cloth pads helps many smaller businesses, in a small, but important ripple. Also, also increasing the amount people are exposed to the idea of cloth pads, further gets the word out there that there are alternatives… which can not only help bring more people to using cloth (whether bought or homemade), which can lead to pad makers selling more pads, and an increase in the amount of pad makers out there, which brings more variety to the market.