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Into the Mystery

Alternative menstrual solutions

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Into the Mystery

More and more women are investigating the mysterious world of alternative menstrual products in an effort to align decisions around their monthly menses with the choices they are making in other areas of their lives.

More and more women are investigating the mysterious world of alternative menstrual products in an effort to align decisions around their monthly menses with the choices they are making in other areas of their lives.

Each woman has her own reasons for deciding to use alternative menstrual products, but the decision is generally made for one of three reasons.

Chemical Concern

Increasingly, women (and men) are growing more concerned about the chemicals used in the manufacture of disposable pads and tampons and the way the use of these products affects our bodies. Wearing a tampon whose fibres are bleached–possibly with chlorine–may mean that the dioxins created as a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching process enter body tissues in contact with the tampon.

Everyone’s Environment

Conventional feminine hygiene products, their applicators, and wrappings create waste that our landfills have to deal with. It is estimated that, during an average woman’s 41-year menstruation span, from about 11 years old until about 52 years old, a woman discards more than 10,000 used disposable feminine hygiene products. Tampons and pads made of cotton, rayon, or cotton and rayon are biodegradable, but plastic tampon applicators do not biodegrade easily.

Toxic Dollar Shock

A quick walk down the feminine hygiene aisle of the local drug store shows a dizzying array of sizes, shapes, lengths, and absorbencies among feminine hygiene products. This huge industry markets to a captive audience. Some women turn to alternative menstrual products to reduce the load on their wallet. While the initial cash outlay for alternative products may be greater than for one month’s supply of conventional hygiene products, the alternative products last longer: from six to eight months for sea sponges and up to 10 years for menstrual cups.

Now there is no mystery. While alternative menstrual products may be different from products some women are currently using, they are safe, cost effective, and a good fit with increased environmental awareness.

Go natural–here’s what you need to know to choose the alternative menstrual product that is right for you.

Reusable Cotton Pads

how to use them

  • used for centuries until commercial disposable pads became available in the early 1940s
  • consist of a removable liner that sits in a liner holder
  • generally made from 100 percent soft organic cotton flannelette and terry cloth that can be folded in various ways for different shapes and thicknesses
  • many women find these more comfortable and adaptable than disposable pads

economics of use

  • starter kit containing an assortment of pads and liners costs about $75
  • several pads are needed to get through a menstrual cycle
  • with proper washing and care, reusable pads can last anywhere from three to 10 years

Menstrual Cups

how to use them

  • worn internally, the bell-shaped menstrual cup collects menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it
  • opening of cup forms a seal with the vaginal wall but does not interfere with the vaginal mucous membranes and their cleansing and protective functions
  • when first marketed in the late 1930s, menstrual cups were made of gum rubber and latex, but they are now also available in medical-grade silicone
  • holds about 30 mL (1 oz), which is one third of the entire volume of blood lost in an average period
  • should be changed every six to 12 hours

economics of use

  • one menstrual cup costs about $30
  • can last up to 10 years
  • to accommodate the changes within a woman’s body, two sizes are available; one for women who have had vaginal childbirth and one for those who have not

Sea Sponge Tampons

how to use them

  • worn internally just like a tampon
  • need to be changed every few hours
  • instead of throwing them away, rinse out, clean, and reuse
  • natural sea sponges are harvested in a sustainable way
  • completely biodegradable

economics of use

  • two sponges cost about $10
  • with proper care, sea sponges can be reused for six to eight months
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