Photo by greencolander on flickr

Photo by greencolander on flickr

When it comes to assaults on our health, women have a special place in our society.

We have products specially made for us, or pushed on us that are not at all conducive to good health. Here are some examples (and perhaps ones that I will write on more in depth in a future article):

  • Makeup
  • Hormonal birth control
  • High heels
  • Perfumes/fragrances
  • Vaginal “cleansers,”
  • Bras
  • Unrealistic body images

Do you get the picture? I know some of them sound a little crazy, and probably make you think I am a wacko, but rest assured, I still (occasionally) wear bras. What I want to talk about a little more today is menstrual products.

“What?!” You may be asking. Yes, the way in which we deal with our periods can be a big burden on our health.

Culturally, the teaching is that fresh scents, disposing of something after a single use, and a bleached white look are the epitome of clean, fresh, and safe. You may think a lot about what goes into your mouth, but disregard what is coming into contact with your skin (which, of course, absorbs a lot! Take for example hormone or sea sickness patches). Not only are these tampons and pads coming into contact with your skin, but they are coming into contact with a mucous membrane. Yikes!

Why might these symbols of cleanliness be a health hazard?

  1. They don’t have to disclose their ingredients, due to being “medical devices.” Couple that with the fact that you “need” them every month and you have happy manufacturers who don’t want or need to prove anything.
  2. Rayon. This may sound innocuous enough, but it needs high amounts of bleaching and is what is implicated in toxic shock syndrome. The bleaching, since 1998, is now done with a technically chlorine-free process, but still releases a high amount of dioxins as a by-product and retains some in the product as well. Dioxins are associated with abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs, abnormal cell growth in the body in general (cancer, anyone?), are an endocrine disruptor, and can suppress the immune system.
  3. Pesticides. Cotton is one of the most heavily-sprayed crops, and you know your menstrual product manufacturers aren’t buying organic!
  4. Petrochemicals. Both the plastics in pads and applicators on tampons contain these in large amounts. In addition, these plastics can restrict all important air flow. We are encouraged to wear cotton underwear, but overlook the chunk of the month that we may be wearing a plastic pad or panty liner (which many women are even encouraged to use when not on their period!).

These are some examples of the ways in which these products can undermine your health. There is certainly more, but there is no reason to bore you. It’s actually pretty hard to find info on the health risks, though. If you do a google search for “health issues feminine hygiene” you will find a couple links to people’s research on the health issues of conventional period protection, but many more on why it’s so important for women to have feminine hygiene products, and our push to get them to the third world countries.

If you want to watch a video lighting two different pads on fire, this may be all the demonstration you need…

(Ok, maybe I just like fire.. What?)

So, what are the alternatives? It’s really good to realize that we have real options, and a lot of women find themselves a lot happier when they make the switch.

Check out this video I made covering some of the alternatives:

So, what kind of period products do you like to use? If it’s anything alternative, when did you make the switch and how did you hear about them? Let me know in the comments!






  1. I’ve been using pads that I ordered from Shoe City Mama on Etsy:

    They are so comfy and pretty.

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my DivaCup! I recommend it to all of my girlfriends. It has made my period so much easier to deal with. I never have to worry about being out of tampons, the awkward “I’m brining my purse to the bathroom” issue, and it’s been great while working out (no leaks!). It has even seemed to make me cramp less. Can’t stress enough how great they are. It is SO worth making the switch!

    • I feel like I was you about 4 years ago. I even converted a lot of people. The diva just doesn’t work for me anymore, though. Maybe I need to give it another try, I haven’t used it in a while.

      I’d love to try sea sponges at some point.

  3. I switched to a Diva Cup about 3 years ago. I’ve never been tempted to switch back to disposable pads or tampons. I used cloth pads for the postpartum bleeding after I had my daughter. I dislike pads in general, but cloth ones are so much nicer than disposable ones.

  4. I think I may have already mentioned in a different comment for another of your articles that I began using cloth pads a year ago when I had my Mirena removed. A friend on Facebook had posted a link about Lunapads and it was immediately intriguing to me. Then in anticipation of my returning cycle I researched different brands and tried the brand I wanted. I couldn’t be more excited each month to get my period and use my beautiful, soft, designer (in my opinion) pretty-pads. (That’s what we call them at my house. Even my husband refers to them as my pretty-pads. lol) I figured that if I was going to have my period again after 10 years, I wanted to be comfortable. But when I got to choose the pretty fabrics, I now had a new hobby! lol. I love telling people about them. My husband loves trying to embarrass people by talking about my pretty pads, too. hahaha! It’s like a game for him. I love how he just goes qith the flow. ;)

  5. I love my diva cup :) I just switched a few months ago, and feel like a new woman. I think I’ve converted six or seven of my friends (I should be their sales lady). I love that I hardly notice it, the no waste factor, and I like seeing my blood, which makes me feel more in tune with my body. By the by, that soft cup thing looks weird to me.

    • Thanks for the comment, Michelle.

      I have never tried the soft cup (sounds a little too disposable for my taste), but it looks pretty comfy, I think.

      And I think menstrual cups will slowly take over the world ;). Almost everyone who tries them loves them and can’t stand tampons anymore.