Menstruation Part II: What Do We Do With All That Blood?

We just can't run off to the red tent and bleed into the ground, neglecting our children, husbands/partners, jobs and other duties, can we? We need something to collect that menstrual flow!

Well, if you're like me, you were taught that the thoroughly "modern woman" will use disposable pads or tampons. With disposable pads, you rip off the backing, revealing the sticky tape with wings underneath the firm, bleached, white cotton pad. Then you press this tape into your underwear and bleed onto the pad, while going about your normal business.

Yes there are sometimes leaks. Yes there is that crinkly plastic sound from the encasing of the disposable pad. Yes the pad sometimes shifts around. But this is all just a day in the life of a menstruating woman.

Or, if you're really savvy, you grab that tiny wad of bleached out white cotton on a string, either with or without an applicator (usually plastic, but sometimes "eco friendly" cardboard) and stand, as the tampon pamphlet recommends, with one leg up on the toilet (or squatting) take a deep breath and insert it directly into your vagina. Don't forget to grab a "panty liner" (just a smaller version of the pad) to line your underwear against leaks from the tampon.

After a certain amount of time, you squat and bear down to remove the tampon by the string. It plops right into the toilet or garbage. Ewwwww. Out of sight. Out of mind.

Or rip that pad right off of your underwear by the wings and fold it up in a tiny package, placing it in the plastic wrapping of your clean and fresh new pad and dispose of it in the garbage. Forget about it. It's gone.

Women go through mountains of these in their lifetimes. Through 40 years of menstruating, they can easily fill an entire garbage truck with their discarded menstrual products. And of course, there is the expense. When you "invest" in disposable pads, you are literally throwing your money into the garbage. In the case of tampons, the toilet. Not to mention the pollution of our Earth with potentially contaminated bodily fluids. This enters our waterways. It enters our landfills. In a word, it's gross.

And we haven't even gotten to the promise of poison entering out bodies and bloodstreams.

You see, most women haven't stopped to think about how those tampons and pads got so pristine and white (or even more disturbing, why). Toxic bleaches were used in the process. And a byproduct of that process produces dioxins, which are cancer causing substances. And of course, those are mixed with the chemicals in the plastics and glues that attach both strings to tampons and pads to underwear. Bleaching agents, fragrance, alcohol, aluminum, toxins and other various chemicals abound in these menstrual products. Women often times feel dry or itchy and irritated or notice bumps or chaffing in the genital region as a result. In the case of tampons, shards of artificial fibers imbed in the vaginal and cervical tissues causing small rips and tears. Some women experience Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can cause a flu-like illness...or can be fatal. And don't let the advertising fool you. Even with all those chemicals, disposable pads and tampons, contrary to popular myth, are not sterile.

These chemicals are worn in and on our vaginas 24 hours a day for about a week every single month that we are menstruating.

Does it come as any shock that many of us have vulvar pain, infertility or other complications?
Look, I'm not blaming all women's health issues on disposable menstrual products, but I certainly can't make the statement that they don't contribute to said problems.

Can you?

Can anyone?

In fact, I'm willing to make the statment that they do contribute to at least some of the women's health issues that have become so prevelant in our current day.
Thankfully, there are other options out there.

More about that in the next post...coming soon. And be on the lookout for FREE GIVEAWAY surprises! :)


nugget said...

This is one of many reasons I stay away from tampons (even for swimming purposes, I just won't go to the pool or lake). I realize that we all have a small amount of strep and staph in our bodies, the numbers are so small we do not get sick from it. But in the case of the tampons collecting this bacteria, especially when it is allowed to sit the the vagina right up against the cervix for a prolonged period of time, I bet that would cause ill effects such as the mentioned Toxic Shock syndrome and other maladies. Here's a link to a U.S. gov't health page and their findings:

nugget said...

Along with the above mentioned link, here is another abstract from the same site that provides further information in more detail concerning tampons:

nugget said...

YET AGAIN... here is a nice resource for healthy alternatives on a site from Nova Scotia,"Guide to Less Toxic Products":

Heather said...

While working in the countryside of Rwanda many years ago I had to deal with some menstruating challenges. One particular incident comes to mind, the day I decided to visit my good friend Ntakabonye. I had started my period that morning but brought only the disposable pad I was wearing. My friend lived only twenty minutes down the dirt road, so I figured I would return home before I needed to change my pad.
when I arrived at Ntakabonye's door she grabbed my hand and told me that she was taking me to visit the Ugandan refugees who lived just over the next hill. I was always ready for an adventure so I was happy to let her lead the way.
After about twenty minutes I asked her how much further we had to go. She told me another two hours of walking!
OF course my first thought was how would I manage the whole day with just one pad. After fifteen minutes of worrying I finally confided in her my problem and asked what she used to absorb menstrual blood. She pointed to some banana trees growing by the side of the road and explained that she and the other women take a big leaf, fold it into thick layers then tie it around their waist with plant fibers and cloth. Since I was desperate and also willing to live like the natives, I agreed to try one of those banana leaf pads.
She looked at me in shock. No no no, she said. American women like me must NOT use banana leaves. She grabbed my hand and dragged me into the first tiny store we came to. We entered the small, dark room with only three shelves of essentials like soap and oil. Much to my embarrassment, she explained my problem to the bored shopkeeper sitting on the chair in the corner. She looked at me with sympathy when he shook his head no. I wasn't surprised. Why would any shopkeeper in rural Rwanda sell such non-essential products as pads and tampons when the local women can save what little money they have by reaching for leaves free off one of the thousands of banana trees growing everywhere.
I repeated that I was fine with banana leaves. But again she said no. While she shared many of her Rwandan customs with me, menstrual flow collectors was not to be one of them. When I saw her charging down the road in search of another small outpost store, I stopped and convinced her that I would be fine, that I may have brought an extra pad with me afterall.
By some miracle that one pad lasted me until I arrived home later that night.

I never did try the banana leaf pads since Peace Corps provided me with a two year supply of disposable pads and tampons. If I would have thought more about how discarding those menstrual products was not environmentally smart, I may have convinced someone else to help me, or I would have sneaked out late at night to grab some leaves and try on my own.

Heather said...

Hi, Nugget (love that name) Great website you recommended:

thanks for sharing.
What tips have you tried?

nugget said...

Thanks Heather.
I was looking for a good consumer source for more gentle products, and the Nova Scotia site seemed to be note worthy. As far as products go, I am a 'do it yourself' kind of person, more or less because I'm cheap. Well, cheap and suspicious of what I buy. I try to make my own soap, which is something I learned from my mother. Her soap didn't bother my skin. She used glycerin, herbal oils and essences. For the more rugged soaps, she would use dried herbs and flowers she picked right from the garden. As for deodorant, I've had to stop using it. I mask any BO I have with an essential oil of my choice. I have some really awful cysts in my sweat glands and nodes so any antiperspirant is a no-no for me. As for hair care products... I cut my hair really short and just use glycerin soap, California Baby hair and body wash (organic, simple ingredients) or if I'm scrounging for shampoo I'll use baking soda and lemon or lime juice and egg whites. I have some weird and painful skin condition that hasnt been properly diagnosed yet. It is most likely related to my immune disorder. So I really have to stay away from a lot of products just to keep my skin rashes from getting worse---cracking, and bleeding. Feminine hygiene is also something i have to be careful about for similar more personal problems. As for menstrual products, I use make-shift blood rags. Cloth diapers that I have cut and sewn. I might have to add some extras to my original design to suit my more active lifestyle these days. As far as yeast infections go---I try to stay away from medications if I can help it. I take custom probiotics and stay away from sugar and make sure I take cool sitz baths. Having a bidet (squirt bottle will do) also helps to wash away any yeast build up in between bathroom visits. These are just things I do because I seem to be so abnormally sensitive to everything and ill often. There was something else I wanted to put down but I forgot it. Oh well, if I remember again I'll post it :o)

Medicine Woman said...

I really like this recipe for deodorant:

I might add more coconut oil next time to try and make it a bit softer and smoother.