I am quite well known for talking about how standard disposable sanitary products can affect your fertility, your lives of period pain and even cause serious illnesses such as Toxic Shock Syndrome. But I keep being asked about the alternatives that are out there.
I have a number of clients who found just by switching their sanitary products, they got rid of period pain, some of their PMS reduced and other symptoms reduced too. But one question I constantly get asked are what are the alternative options?
There are a number of products that can be really helpful with managing your bleed and help you feel better during your period.
1. Organic Unbleached Disposable Products
These are a good transition choice for people who are really attached to disposable products. You want to look for organic cotton because you won’t get any endocrine disrupting ingredients in there. Unbleached to ensure there are no dioxins from the bleaching process which in some women can cause extra pain and inflammation.
Also ensure that the product has no perfume which can also contain endocrine disruptors such as artificial fragrances. A well known brand is Natracare.
2. Period Pants
These are a great option for the lighter days of your flow or if you have light periods or spotting. All cotton and far more breathable than wearing a plastic backed pad, allowing air to get to your vagina and vulva which is so important to avoid infections such as thrush.
You also don’t really notice you are wearing sanitary options and they don’t look like the dreaded granny pants some of us have for our periods.
3. Cloth Pads
I had a lot of resistance to these initially as it sounded gross, washing pads with my blood in the washing machine and what do you do when you are out and about? Also they can be quite costly which is off-putting with one pad costing more than a pack of disposables.
However, I bit the bullet a few months ago and tried one and wow, my perception was changed. First of all the set I got were made of organic brushed cotton which was unbleached and just felt heavenly soft. It felt luxurious. My mind was blown and I love them.
You can get them in different colours, sizes thicknesses depending on your flow and other requirements. I soak mine in cold water to get the blood out and then stick them in the machine with other laundry. It is so easy. And for when I am out and about, I take two toiletry bags with me, one with fresh clean pads and the other to put the used ones in.
As for the cost, me buying a pad is paying someone a fair wage to make a product using good quality, fairly sourced material, that will last me years and not contribute to landfill waste. You can build up your collection buying one pad a month.
4. Menstrual Cups
These are a real mindset shift for a lot of women. I tried one 12 years ago and loved it, but struggled with getting it in and out. It took me some perseverance to get there and within 2 days, I felt like a pro.
Menstrual cups are usually made out of medical grade silicon, so they aren’t the culture medium for TSS that tampons are. They are flexible, come in many sizes, shapes, firmness and different colours so there really is a cup for anyone.
The initial outlay is again, higher than a month of disposables, but again, one cup will last you for years. My last one lasted for 12 years at which point, I just felt I wanted a new fresh cup. But I also know, I am not sending lots of sanitary products to landfill. Another challenge is that it takes a lot of research to find the right cup for you, again I was fortunate that my first cup was my “goldilocks” cup.
Many women struggle with getting them in and out, but there are resources out there that will support you throughout this process. I can now do a number of folds, however, I can get mine cleaned and back in super quick.
You also need to get comfortable seeing our blood as often you will tip this out down the toilet bowl and have to rinse the cup, wipe yourself but I don’t think of this much now and actually, you period can tell you a lot about your hormonal health so I think it is a good idea to get used to noting the colour, texture, consistency and other details about it.
When you empty them you can rinse or tip and wipe dry with toilet paper and reinsert. At the end of your period, you just boil them for 5 minutes and they are ready to go.
One thing I will warn you is never to buy used cups or cheap cups for £1. The cheap cups will often be made of cheap plastic, which is an endocrine disruptor, which is one of the main points of using cups.
Second hand cups may be cheaper, but you don’t know who used them, whether they had any serious infections and whilst you can sterilise most things by boiling them, there are some infections that require proper sterilisation to kill off such which would lead to dioxin exposure.
5. Soft Cups
I have never tried these, but they are like a mini menstrual cup that act more of a block than a collector of blood. However I know women who swear by them and also like them because you can have penetrative intercourse during your period with these in, should you so wish.
They are less expensive then menstrual cups and also are disposable so if you are green minded, you may not want to use them too often. If you have a high cervix, you may also struggle getting them out again. But I wanted to cover them to give you the options that are available that don’t cause any further issues.