Take it from a former disposable-pad user: just like throwing those gory end products in the trash, periods were something to "get over" — the cramps, the fatigue, the plastic-bleached-pad rash. Oh, bloody tribulations.
Fact: A woman will dispose 16,800 pads or tampons in her lifetime.
Despite the health risks and grave environmental impacts associated with disposable menstrual products, many of us still find psychologically difficult ("is it clean?") or have an impression that it will be inconvenient to switch to reusable alternatives.
But all that is slowly changing, thankfully. Women are increasingly aware of the dangers of disposable menstrual products and the alternatives available. But if you don't want to deal with the hassle of selecting a costly reusable alternative and have a bit of a crafter in you, then maybe it's time to join the hand-made & DIY revolution and re-assert your creativity (and to redefine "rag") by picking out some funky, colourful, pretty fabrics and to make your very own menstrual pads tailored for you (while remembering that not so long along, reusable rags were once commonly used by women). Have a sew-in with some girlfriends or surprise someone with a pretty and useful hand-made gift.
Where to find patternsYou can find some patterns over at Sleeping Baby, Downsizer and She Who Runs In the Forest (with tips on fasteners and fabric choices) — and Fuzbaby which has links to even more.
Can't stitch? No worries.And for those of you who have nonexistent stitching skills, fear not, we've already covered a number of reusable and alternative menstrual receptacles like The Lunapad, The Keeper and Gladrags (I use Sckoon organic cotton ones myself and the same set have done me well for the last five years!).
Changing padsSome have wondered what to do when the time comes to change your pad while you're out and about. We recommend carrying a "wet bag" -- basically a zippered bag that's lined with waterproof material that can carry cloth pads, cloth diapers, all sealed in until you can go home and soak them.
Menstrual activism, yes!
And while we're at it, here are a few things about so-called "menstrual activism" -- which ranges from changing the way women and society see menstruation (it's not something shameful) to products that are better for women's bodies and the environment (or even better, make it yourself):
- Tell the major producers how you feel. Use the 1-800 number on the box of your product, or visit the Tampax web site (yes they do have one) and tell them what you think.
- Demand chlorine-free products. If your local store does not supply them, demand that they do.
- Demand products with reduced packaging. Women buy 80% of all consumer goods and just about all menstrual products. That's a lot of clout. Use it.
- Write letters to your government or MP asking for stricter control over menstrual products. Currently, they fall into a loophole where there is little regulation. Any company can put out their product without proper testing.
- Tell your friends what you know and how you feel. Menstruation is a cool part of some woman's life. Don't hide it. Talk about it.
- Switch to better, more ecological products. Chlorine-free disposables without applicators are available at most health food stores. These products shouldn't contain deodorants, perfumes and known irritants which interfere with the natural chemistry of a woman's body and which we do not need.
- A better alternative is to buy or sew your own set of five to ten washable pads. They are easy to use, cute to look at, and comfortable. Just use them, soak them in cold water, and cold water wash them with your regular laundry. Making your own is pretty cool. We have patterns that you can try out or you can design your own. All you need is some soft natural cloth like cotton flannel. Cut it into the shape you like, perhaps based on the size the crotch part in your undies and sew. It's that easy!
List adapted from Bloodsisters