The act of handling, cleaning up, and buying things, for our menstrual cycle, is well… definitely a cycle at that. We constantly are worried about our periods leaking onto our garments, beds, etc, and the way our wallets leak out to purchase sanitary pads, tampons, or cups, are no exception. With that being said, we also seem to be conditioned to be weirded out by our periods, and not wanting to touch them at all – it’s on a pad, chucked in a bin, and the cycle occurs all over again.
However, recently I endeavored on the path of reusable sanitary pads. I questioned all of it at first, but then remembered seeing reusable baby diapers, so I figured this was no different. The reasoning around organisations bringing out reusable sanitary products has been primarily for sustainability reasons, or body safety reasons. To dive into the latter, various studies have come out noting that disposable pads do have some bleach and unsafe chemicals on them that can further contribute to gynecological issues. According to ImseVimse, they’ve said that “even if one type of plastic or material is approved for humans to use, few tests are being executed to what happens when you […] combine these materials and chemicals. […] combined together they might make up a toxic cocktail of chemicals.” Green Child Magazine notes that an [individual] in their lifetime will use anywhere from 12,000 to 16,000 disposable pads, panty liners, and tampons – which is insanely large of a number. Likewise, it’s been noted that reusable pads can last up to five years if cared for properly, a huge saving for our bank accounts, and the environment.
My experience with reusable sanitary pads has been very positive, and one that I highly recommend. Below are a few tips and insights for you if you do decide to endeavour into reusable sanitary pads.
1. It will potentially bring you a lot closer to your period.
When it’s time to clean the pad, you can hand wash it or throw it in the washing machine as normal. (However washing one pad in the washing machine is a sustainability issue in itself, so hand washing it first, and then collectively washing them may be a better solution.) By hand washing my pads, I’ve truly become so much more in touch with my period (no pun intended). We are constantly conditioned to be grossed out by our own blood, and to immediately want to wipe it off us. However, by having to squeeze out the blood from the pad, wash it, wait until the water goes clear – constitutes for a very intimate setting. It likewise brings us away from the idea of just chucking out the pads frivolously without thinking about the waste.
2. It’s actually very comfortable.
It’s no isolated incident when you’ve experienced the uncomfortableness of the plastic from disposable pads, or getting the plastic stuck to you or being itchy etc. However with reusable pads they’re usually cloth fabric or felt fabric, and are so soft and comforting to touch. It’s honestly like a warm jacket. (I have yet to use them in proper summer weather, so I’ll get back to you on the summer heat dynamic!)
3. The wet bag is really useful.
Most, if not all, reusable pads come with a “wet bag.” This bag is a reusable and waterproof bag where you can store your dry pads, and also store your used pad in a separate compartment. From my experience, there is no smell, no leakage or stainage, and it’s perfect for the changes at work when you don’t have time to hang dry the pad anywhere. There have been numerous times where I’ve had to feel the shame of not throwing a pad in a friend’s bathroom bin because I didn’t want them to have to take out my bloody pad, so I shoved it in a plastic bag into my purse. But the wet bag really keeps everything in, and you don’t have to worry about staining.
4. It really keeps your period locked in, with minimal spillage or smell.
Obviously this is a high concern for a lot of people, but I’ve found it really secured my period in place, and I felt confident sleeping in it and working in it. The pad secures itself by fastening a button, and is easy to adjust if you need to. Likewise, the material of the pad plays a huge part in securing leakage; a lot of reusable pads are made from bamboo, which is a super absorbent material.
5. Menstrual hygiene education and sanitary options are key.
Individuals from all walks of life, backgrounds, and upbringings, will get their periods. Our relationship with our periods, the empowerment, or the shame of it, will differ from household to household, and individual to individual. However the most important thing is menstrual hygiene education, and knowing that there are options out there for us. In particular, individuals from less affluent backgrounds or with certain health matters, may find reusable pads to be a great option, as the fear of not having a pad, is now minimal. As mentioned, reusable pads can last for five years, and are extremely gentle for those with sensitivities. Bustle created a great list of menstrual product options for those who menstruate. The list includes boxers that have a lined panel for menstruation, reusable sanitary pads, and a menstruation cup suggestion. All these suggestions are so important as they help affirm an individual’s experiences around menstruation, whilst they may not identify as a woman, be comfortable using invasive products such as tampons or cups, or be comfortable going to a shop to buy menstruation hygiene products. Whilst the norm around menstruation is so widely broadcasted as feminine, or pertaining to the female body, there has to be a bigger discussion around providing materials and options for individuals who don’t identify as a woman but do experience periods. As mentioned earlier, options and education around menstrual hygiene are so important in the healthy development of identity, and our relationships with our periods.