I got my periods at the age of 12 (that was 2012), and like most girls I had little former education about it. I relied on gossip from friends, TV ads, and my 7th grade CBSE textbook, which least mentioned about it.
I was alone at home, when I felt weird in my underpants, to my horror and disgust- it was stained red. I did not inform my mom until the end of day, slept all day in pain and finally talked about it when I was left with no other choice.
My mom took me to a private room, taught me how to use a pad and a cloth. In my initial months (I was mortified to found out, only in the next month- that it was to happen every month) I used cloth, which caused abrasions on the skin, and I hated the whole process of washing it everytime.
I eventually switched to conventional sanitary napkins available in the market. Though easier to use, my skin itched and burnt. My mom kept urging me to go back to cloth, as she was concerned about the chemicals in the pads.
I was no way going back. It was then I started looking into menstrual hygiene products, which revealed some disturbing facts about the chemicals used in making of sanitary products (like pads, tampons):
- Dioxins and furans: linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive toxicity. These are byproducts of the bleaching process.
- Pesticide residues: linked to cancer. These have been detected in products made with traditionally grown cotton.
- Undisclosed fragrance ingredients: which may contain chemicals linked to irritation, and allergies. Many pads, and sometimes tampons, come in scented varieties.
As the skin in the genital area is thin these chemicals are absorbed through the skin, leading to hazardous effects.
Image source: Google
Let’s talk more on menstrual hygiene, according to healthline, as a general norm, pad should be changed every 3-4 hours.
It isn’t always possible to do that, school going girls are hesitant to change pads in school toilets. (Some who did, carried their whole school bag to the washroom, so they don’t have to face the embarrassment of pulling a pad out).
Neither on a busy work day, stressful study/exam days, and so on.
I did not follow changing of pads regularly, which made my days more itchy and uncomfortable.
Moreover, environmental hazards like huge plastic waste generation, was again a concern (Will talk more about it some other day.) Here, I want to focus on personal and practical aspects.
What could I do to change this?
After looking up into various options, I decided to switch to organic cotton pads, but it came with it’s own set of problems:
- Expensive: The major hurdle which I faced was the cost, organic pads are largely advertised as a fancy product of the rich (from the eyes of a middle class person) and sold at more than double price as compared to the conventional ones.
- Unavailability in local stores: I have bought all the organic pads online, and couldn’t find it in local stores (as they are growing in popularity, you might find them in big supermarkets now)
- Lack of knowledge about different brands: You could scroll through different websites and find great reviews about each of them, but still couldn’t figure out which one is better for you? (Without trying)
From here I started my experiments with organic sanitary pads...
It has been 3 years and with lot of research, I have tried six different brands, each had it’s own set of merits and demerits (from most to least expensive):
- Carmesi: One of the most expensive brands I have tried, it costed me ₹30-32 per pad. They are quite fancy products, which comes in biodegradable plastic disposal bags, It initially made me happy, but with long hours of wearing, it started tearing off.
- Azah: Though expensive, it was cheaper than Carmesi, came in paper disposal bags, and were pretty comfortable.
- The Woman’s Company: Again a very fancy (and costly) brand, with paper disposal bags, but the top cotton layer used to start scraping off with long hour use.
- Plush: It has suited me the best with no scraping/tearing off. They sell as a kit of pads+wipes+carry pouch (and not separately). Still, cost factor pertained.
- Heyday: Very comfortable and pocket-friendly, I loved this brand the most, they didn’t spend on making it “fancy”, comes in simple packing, and good quality.
- Sparkle: It is an Indian brand launched recently, affordable, comfortable and comes with separate disposal bags.
- There are other brands which I haven’t tried yet, like Pee Safe, Sanfe, Sirona
[Please note: These are my personal experiences, no promotion/demotion of any brand/product is intended.]
What did I conclude?
My focus was to switch to sustainable (in other words, environment (and pocket) friendly) menstruation.
When I started using organic pads it costed me ₹30-32 per pad, which I brought down to ₹11-13 (In India, average cost of a conventional sanitary pad is ₹8-12):
- By exploring and finding what suits best for me (and my pocket), buying 2-3 different brands at a time, in different sizes and preferences to meet various needs helps at managing cost,
- I bought them online at sale and in bulk quantity (say for six months or a year at a time) which brought in good discounts and prevented the need to shop multiple times.
And yes, I regularly change my pads now, even on the busiest day- putting my health before other things.
There are various options for sustainable menstruation:
- Reusable cotton pads
- Menstrual cups
- Organic cotton pads
- Organic tampons
- Period panty
I went with pads, as I was familiar and comfortable with it. I do look forward to try other options like, menstrual cups. I have been doing research on how to use, tips on hygiene, brands to shop from.
My purpose of writing this, is to reach out to more people, who might be unaware, or hesitant to try sustainable products, to definitely give it a go, and take care of their bodies and environment.
Made safe: https://www.madesafe.org/education/whats-in-that/feminine-care/