Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What every women should know (but no one wants to talk about)

I don't know why I always forget how much of a pain it is! Every month I have two days from heck, followed by probably six days of interruption and concern. In my own defence, it wasn't always this way... after my daughter was born I got an IUD (Paragard). For many reasons, such as no hormones, total dependability, and my lack of ability to take pills daily, it was the best choice. I had never had crampy, heavy, drawn out periods before, but having the IUD has made a big difference. However since my stance on the big three factors I just stated, and since we do plan on having more children someday, the IUD will stay, and instead I have become more adept at dealing with that "time of the month".

With the dramatic increase in the number of tampons I use, I started thinking about where all those tampons are going. I hate the pre-programmed "flush it and it goes away" attitude of our society, so I've done a little research, and the news is, well... pretty gross.

Most tampons made today are "biodegradable" which means that when you flush them they will eventually break apart and decompose. In six months. Yeah, really, and not the whole thing usually. In fact, the Women's Environmental Network says that 70% of blockages in the sewage system are caused by sanitary waste. Yes, that's a lot of tampons, taking a very long time to decompose.

And speaking of "The Network", they'd also like to raise concern over the amount of pesticides being used on the cotton that will make it's way into your body's most absorbent place. There are organic cotton options available, like from seventh generation, but they are a little hard to find still. While times have improved since the high rates of TSS due to Staphylococcus bacteria, and other toxins such as dioxide (from bleaching) have been reduced thanks to information and education about these issues. The question still remains, "Are tampons the best solution?", and if not, what are our other options?

Here's what I've come across...

The Diva Cup (also Moon Cup and Keeper Cup), which is a silicone cup inserted just inside the vagina creating a seal preventing leakage. Several times a day, you remove it, dump and wash it, then reinsert it. They last a really long time, and there's no trash generated. I do have one of these and I do use it each month. However, due to my not doing enough kegals, and a really heavy start, it does sometimes leak. I don't usually use it the first 2 days, and since you need to have a sink reachable from your toilet, public bathrooms are not an option. But I do like it a lot; it does save me from using more tampons than needed, and for medium to light flow days, I'd say it's pretty great!

Fabric pantyliner, like Glad Rags which are washable and, from what I've heard, do a pretty good job. I do not speak from experience on this one, as I just don't think they would work for my horrible flow. But it's a very nice concept, if you don't mind dealing with bloody "rags". Women have done it for eons, so it's probably not all that horrible, once you get used to it. It seems like they usually have little buckets of vinegar water with a lid next to their toilet, or some similar preparedness. Women experienced in cloth diapering probably have lots of good ideas for how to deal with these in a smell/bacteria controlling way.

I should mention that the backing of regular synthetic pantyliner never biodegrades, so if you use them, please consider switching to the above. Thanks!

So then we're back to the organic cotton tampons, or at least the lowest impact ones. I admit, I live in a small town with pretty much no access to green products, other than through the internet. I usually buy o.b. tampons. At least they don't have the applicator to throw away, though the string doesn't ever biodegrade (polyester), the rest of it does, eventually. They are convenient and small, and take up less packaging. Mainly, I try to use the Diva Cup as much as possible, and make sure that I keep in mind what I am flushing, and continue to be proactive in finding a better solution that works for me!

I'm always open to the wisdom of other women, so if you have any tips you'd like to share on this subject, please comment!


~Molly~ said...

Hey Rachel! I use cloth pads and LOVE them. Several years ago, 8 to be specific, I had a length of that pre-quilted w/batting flannel baby blanket fabric laying around. I layered 3 or 4 pieces of it, cut out a basic pad shape and stitched through it about 3/4-inch from the outside edge. I didn't bother to finish the sides, just let them fray. I think I've got 15 or so of them and they are still going strong!

That being said, they aren't good for heavy days unless you are home and can change them frequently. Somewhere I saw some with a rubber lining on one side to stop leaks but don't know how to do that myself. I double them up at night and/or were a super plus tampon with one. I have a 2-quart pitcher that I fill with vinegar water beside my toilet and after I rinse them in cold water, I drop them in it to wash with towels.

These days I use tampons more often because I'm more active with the kids but I do still use the pads toward the end of my period and with tampons on the first days.