by Andrea Contreras, '19
My relationship with my period began like a pretty average one. I started out with big heavy pads that made me feel uncomfortable, and when I was about 13 or 14 my mom showed me what a tampon was, and I thought my life had been simplified forever. I thought this was the most convenient, comfortable way for me to deal with my time of the month out of all the options available. But then I started spending a lot of time living and working on boats and with scuba diving, and getting my period was the biggest pain imaginable. It slowed me down from what I wanted to do, and I was constantly paranoid about it. Thoughts of toxic shock syndrome would litter my mind, I would have to be running in and out of random bathrooms to change, and I always thought it would leak. And then someone I was working on a boat with showed me what a menstrual cup was, and my life was changed forever.
In the last year SSS has made several efforts to make menstrual cups available to students through an initiative we did with SHPRC, and we have had a few events were we have had conversations about these different options. Last April there was a great blog post talking about menstrual cups and their many environmental and economic benefits the switch can bring, as well as the easy access to these on campus! In this post I want to talk about a few of the more sustainable options available, and how some of these have worked for me. Depending on where you grew up or what your personal beliefs and ideas are you will feel differently, but here is one person’s experience with the surprisingly interesting world of a more eco-friendly period.
So back to when my life changed. I first used a menstrual cup in the summer before my Senior year of high school, right before living on a sailboat for 8 weeks. It could have been just two cycles, but when it comes to these things the world tends to hate me, and I had to prepare for three. I ordered it a few months ahead, and tried it out to see how it would work. For those of you who don’t know, a menstrual cup is a silicon wine glass shaped object that is inserted similar to how a tampon would be. It sits on your cervix, and collects blood. Honestly, the first month or two were pretty scary, learning to use something new that not a lot of people are willing to talk about was an experience that took a lot of trial and error. But eventually you get past the kinks, and it works great. I was able to focus on my work and spending time underwater, because once I figured it out my cup was comfortable, I could barely feel it, it only had to be changed every 10-12 hours, it didn’t leak, and it had a much lower risk of toxic shock syndrome. A little over 2 years later I swear by these, and the best part is it keeps hundreds of pounds of trash off the landfills, saves me money, and I don't have to worry about changing it for a year or two. It’s important to listen to the cleaning and maintenance directions of what you choose, but a really great alternative for me.
Menstrual cups aren’t the ideal alternative for everyone though, just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it works for someone else. Another product I use regularly during my menstrual cycle are period underwear. These look and feel almost like real underwear, but they are absorbent, and all you need to wear. The most popular brand of these, and the only one I know about are THINX period underwear, and they have sizes and styles available for all menstruators. Different styles hold different amounts, they have products for the heaviest and the lightest days. I really like these, and have never had an issue with them leaking. They never quite feel soaked either, it’s a little weird, but they work. Another similar product are reusable pads, which are exactly what they sound like, pads you are able to wash and reuse over and over. The shape is like a normal pad, and they are changed a few times a day, but instead of sticking like a sticker they have buttons and clasps that help them stay in place. A huge benefit of these is that it avoids the use of cotton that was grown with heavy used of pesticides, over time is less money, and greatly decreases waste produced. If you are not feeling quite this adventurous but still want to reduce your environmental impact, good options are to buy organic pads and tampons and opt for paper, or reusable applicators.
Periods are such a common and natural thing, that have large social, economic, and environmental effects worldwide. A choice that billions of people make every month should have all the options layed out, because it can provide great benefits for individuals, and decrease a lot of harm to our planet.
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