Growing up, having to buy sanitary napkins was such a pain. I was so traumatised by this monthly exercise that I later as an adult I resorted to taking OCPs without giving breaks (which is not a bad/harmful thing per say). I hated hated being almost crippled for a week because of periods. Why was I being punished for not being pregnant?
Later in life I decided it was time for things to take their natural course and got off OCPs but the problem of bleeding unnecessarily still remained. I was not only bleeding blood but also energy and money every month and none of this did anybody any good.
Tampons and OCP
My shift to eco-friendly alternatives for dealing with menstruation was gradual. First, purely for the sake of convenience I moved to using tampons. They were more expensive than disposable napkins but discreet and convenient to dispose of. This was the time in my life that my periods had gotten lighter because I was on OCPs. I was happy but still my nose crinkled in disgust every time I had to take out the trash. Given that at the time, my brother and I lived together and taking out trash was his chore, I hated that he had to touch the trash bin where I knew what I had just put, even if I had wrapped it in paper. Why should another person bear the stink of your bodily fluids? This is the same sentiment I have when I see BBMP workers dealing with our mixed garbage.
When you start throwing out less..
This was the time in my life when I started composting all my wet waste. The Bokashi method was a steep learning curve and the stench left my parents disgusted. My compost bins almost always had roaches creeping in and out of it no matter how securely they were closed. I was fed up. I struggled to find out where all the roaches were coming from and how they thrived. Things came in control when I started the aerobic brick method of composting. I was happy when gradually roaches reduced to non-availability to things to live on.
This got me thinking on how I can reduce other forms of trash I was still throwing out such as tampons and panty liners. I decided to give menstrual cups a try. They were expensive to invest in, took a while to get used to and leaked when not worn properly. Still major upgrade from having to chuck menstrual waste into the trash.
About the same time, my personal life took a drastic turn and I moved out of that house I was living in. At my new place, I made more eco-friendly changes to my lifestyle by committing myself to eating more whole foods, buying less/selling off what I didn’t need and thus my dustbin free life came about.
Bleeding all over
Menstrual cups are great economically and ecologically. Though there are lifestyle changes that you need to embrace when you move to menstrual cups. Emptying a menstrual cup is messy and you can only wear a menstrual cup for so long. So I take a hot shower twice a day during my periods. This eases the body ache and also is a chance to empty the cup. This works when you can wear your cup for 8 hours. At least for me the first 2 days, the cup is not enough. It fills up in just 4 hours and is a total pain to deal with if I am not taking a shower.
I’ve had these reusable panty liners from looms & weaves for 2 years now. Only recently did I discover that the same brand also had reusable napkins meant for the full cycle.
Wearing sanitary napkins is better because you can change them as soon as you feel the need to. Since there has been a rise of demographic caring for their domestic waste, companies making products that support this lifestyle also are on a rise. Unlike before when reusable pads evoked disgust and confusion if you mentioned you wanted buy them, now you have a variety of branded options to choose from, yay!
What makes it even more awesome is that projects like “Eco Femme” work vendors and non-profits alike to bring awareness about reusable pads, empowering rural women by providing training to rural women on in making these reusable pads and also educating these women on their own menstrual hygiene. Check out the Pad for Pad program!
I have been using this brand for 2 years now. They last long and soak menstrual fluid well. They are affordably priced compared to other brands. My only complaint is that the cotton becomes rough after washing. This is not a comment on their quality because it just means that the fabric used is 100% cotton and that’s just the natural side effect. Still its uncomfortable to have any kind of chaffing against the intimate skin, even for short duration.
Hygiene & You
When one of my Looms & Weaves pad was wearing out, I started looking for alternatives and chanced upon this brand on Amazon. I initially bought 3 pieces to try out and then I knew I was going to switch over to this brand full time!
The microfibre top layer is so soft and soaks up fluid very quickly and well. They are aesthetically pleasing with the bright fuchsia pink and blue colour. The buttons for keeping the pad in place are also well done. Currently they are running a christmas sale (use coupon code MYCHRISTMAS10 for a discount) and I bought the full cycle kit which normally retails at 2175 INR for 1987 INR including taxes. They also have a “seconds sale” listing for the same full cycle kit and I was almost tempted to get that because seconds sale doesn’t necessarily mean sub standard goods just a few odd stitches here and there but oh-well 🙂
I don’t own any products from this brand but what I find clever about their reusable pads are that they come with inserts which allow you to customise your pads depending on your flow needs in the cycle. I might try them in future when I have the money to dispense but am not a big fan of prints, even if they are pretty to look at, I don’t think my pubes care about the design more than the feel of it.
Active life and reusable pads
Earlier in life, I had the opportunity to travel to foreign countries pretty much every month. I didn’t want to deal with periods in the middle of all the fun things I would get to do. While OCPs allowed me to bleed whenever I wanted, I also knew that if I didn’t take them on time (given all the messed up timezones I would be in), I’d be playing around with hormones in my body which is not a good idea for long term sound health.
Having gotten off OCPs and switching to menstrual cups, travel even with periods on the calendar became a lot easier. Still, menstrual cup has its limitations on when you can empty it. For example, train travel is not ideal when you are using a menstrual cup. Reusable pads solved that quirk too!
Use, wash, re-use!
Washing them is no big deal if you do it when you are taking a bath. Though if you are sharing a bathroom with someone (say a roommate), you’d need to figure that out but its not too hard if you live by yourself.
I recently switched to using Soap nuts for all my washing needs (laundry, bathing) and it works great on washing sanitary napkins too. I haven’t had any intimate area infection since I went on menstrual cups and reusable pads. I haven’t had any need for intimate wash liquids and such. Soap nut is naturally anti bacterial and mild!
The math on money saved
Dissposable sanitary napkins retail anywhere between 26 INR to 165 INR. Let’s say you are the kind that spends about 100 INR on them every month, which amounts to 1200 INR a year. With re-usable sanitary napkins, you pay 2,000 INR or less (depending on the brand) once for a full cycle kit and the pads last you for 3 years or so with proper care. That’s 3600 INR vs 2000 INR. Then there are of course implicit benefits of doing your part for less landfill and your own better intimate hygiene.