As corporations are mesmerizing menstruating women with images of “summer rain” and “no unsightly accidents” they also white wash the truth behind the health and environmental costs of being able to ride that white horse in your new white chinos. For instance, conventional pads and tampons are loaded with toxic chemicals and are bleached with chlorine compounds. There is accumulating evidence that industrial uses of chlorine, including pulp and paper bleaching, releases toxic dioxins which bioaccumulate in the environment causing serious harm to wildlife, not to mention your own body.
Over packaged tampons and pads combined with the convenience of disposability causes enormous waste. The average woman will go through about 10,000 pads or tampons in her life, not to mention the millions of unnecessary plastic tampon applicators which wash up on beaches around the world and fill up landfills.
All the major brands (Tampax, Playtex, O.B.) use the chlorine bleaching process to whiten their products. Aside from leaving behind minute quantities of toxic dioxins in the product and releasing dioxins into our rivers and waterways, there is absolutely no logical reason for bleaching sanitary products whiter than white. Tampons are not sterile.
All the major brands contain rayon which is a pulp product which can only be made through a chlorine or chlorinated compound bleaching process.
In addition to these ecological damages, there are also personal dangers caused by sanitary product use. Dioxin, a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process, has a number of serious health impacts: the effects of shredding rayon fibers from tampons in women’s vaginas, the probable link between dioxin and endometriosis, the possibility of cervical cancer being linked to prolonged tampon use over many years, toxic shock syndrome caused by tampons which creates ulceration and a peeling of the mucous membrane, headaches and so on. Often the “super absorbency” tampons also dry out your vaginal cavity and actually promote more bleeding (which just makes you need more tampons). It seems that inserting something so dry and foreign into your vagina brings unlimited possibilities of problems.
So do you want to stop playing into the corporate world of feminine hygiene while protecting yourself, the earth, and reclaiming your menstrual cycle? Well you can! There are many alternatives. If you are the girl on the go and need a little clean up for your cycle that is convenient, here is the list for you. All the alternatives can be found at local co-ops, natural foods stores or can be ordered from the web sites listed below.
Organic unbleached disposable tampons and pads: it’s a convenient natural and unbleached option that won’t poison your vagina but still produces massive waste.
Re-usable cotton pads: These are cotton pads that you can make yourself or purchase (about $7 a piece) that consists of a holder which wraps around the crotch of your underwear and snaps down tight. You can put cotton inserts in for heavier flow (up to about three). Then just run them through the wash and you’re done. They last for years and come in organic cotton too!
Natural sponges: These are little sponges that you insert into your vagina and simply change as often as you need to and rinse clean. A friend said they do pop out once in awhile. If you are vegan these would not be a good choice because natural sponges are living creatures.
The Keeper: This is a natural rubber “cup” that you insert into your vagina (like a tampon) and suctions to your cervix. When it is full you simply pull it out, wash the cup and re-insert. It lasts for more than ten years, you can use it anywhere, and if you hate it you can actually return it to the company.
It’s been 14 years since my body decided to release the little secrets of womanhood that would be whispered to me monthly for the next 40 years but I can’t remember the first time I bled. Maybe this is why I felt disconnected with my bleeding cycle. I had nothing to mark it, no ceremony or toast into womanhood, other than a stern warning about tampons breaking my hymen.
For many of us, our bleeding is something we live separate from. It comes once a month, we give it a clean room, a shower, feed it some painkillers and it’s on its way. We don’t keep up very good communication with it while it’s away. Often our only thoughts are to berate it and longingly think of when you won’t be subjugated to its visits.
Our complete health depends on the health and wholeness of our reproductive cycle. It’s always there, the cycle constantly changing and regulating our bodies and hormones without us even acknowledging it. How you view your bleeding affects the wellness of our mental and physical system. Do you give it little thought; maybe track it on a calendar just so there are no surprises? Or do you embrace it and think of it as a time when you are at the height of your awareness, your power and welcome it into your life with chocolate, red pillows and warm baths. Viewing it as an annoyance at best or as a curse at worst will never improve your cycle or your health. Herbal teas and remedies can strengthen your reproductive system, but not until you alter your reactions to the blood will you change your entire experience. Here are some simple suggestions on reevaluating your bleeding:
* What do you name your bleeding? Use positive or literal language that doesn’t separate you from your whole cycle like “period” and “time of the month”.
* Have you touched your blood? It is part of you and not dirty, smelly or nasty but thick, sweet with rich reds and browns. Try it!
* Do you take time out for yourself when you are bleeding? Tell people you are bleeding to let them know you are not to be disturbed for a bit. Some women like to wear something red to let their housemates or friends know they are bleeding without having to say a word.
* Do you celebrate it? Eat foods you like, wear soft clothing, take baths with candles, make art and use your blood (if you dare!), talk with other women and share stories of first bleedings or of ways they celebrate.
* Think about it when you are not bleeding. Strengthen your system with herbal tonics, give your self uterine massages, realize your breasts are part of the system and pay attention to them.