ewww - periods!

Right? Wrong.

Disposable period pads containing plastic are definitely an eww factor though. They rub and give that gross rash on your inner thighs, they fold over and get stuck inside out and all those chemicals and plastic. Did you know that sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches? Now that really is eww. But what can be done about it, we can’t stop our periods?

True, but we can however swap our options. There are reusable period pads, cups or failing that, a reusable method, a more eco-friendly version of a disposable. The disposable sanitary pad came about in 1896, 125 years ago. Which in the grand scheme of things is still fairly recent, yet we as a race we tend to have short memories.

These are some of the most common questions I am asked regarding reusable sanitary products.

Q: Do they smell?

A: No, absolutely not, in fact you’ll likely find that disposables are more likely to have a smell, menstrual blood itself is odourless, but the chemicals contained in plastic pads are not. So by using cloth or a cup you are less likely to smell anything.

Q: I’m interested in starting using CSP. As a rough guide how many would a person need?

A: This is a really tricky question to answer. There are a lot of factors at play. Such as how heavy you are and how often you need to change, how often you want to wash them, are you combining them with another method, such as a cup?

Because of this I always suggest starting with just a few. You might not get on with one brand and the initial outlay can be pretty pricey. Then gradually build up your stash based on your personal discovery of what fabrics you like, the lengths you prefer, whether you have different absorbencies for different days of your cycle, or night time and your wash routines. Remember it’s not an all or nothing situation. A gradual change over can be a good thing.

Q; How do I empty my cup in public?

A: You are unlikely to need too, unless your flow is really heavy you’ll be surprised how long it takes to fill a cup. They can be worn for 12 hours without emptying, so do it before you leave and when you’re home. If you’re going to be away from home for longer – for example you’re camping, practice emptying it a few times first. I wouldn’t recommend using it as a new-comer in that situation. It can take up to 3 cycles to adjust to them. They sit a lot lower than tampons and it can take some practice to remove them without spilling. It is extremely important to make sure you break the vacuum before removal.

Some Benefits

Despite the environmental impacts, the other big benefits include, being kinder to your bank – after the initial outlay there’s no more spending out, unless of course you want to as they are beautiful, it’s kinder for your body, the body absorbs anything in contact with your skin in less than 15 seconds, plastic pads are full of chemicals in prolonged contact with your skin, and a very sensitive part at that, and finally plastic, chemical filled pads draw the fluids from your body, which can be painful, although I must stress it is not scientifically proven, a lot of people report that cramping is significantly reduced, or disappears and flow in lighter with reusable methods.

Quotes From CSP Users

"After having kids we became more conscious of keeping our planet clean and safe. I began an exercise of looking at my rubbish (weird I know) anyway, I would pick one thing every now and then to try and change in order to reduce our waste. Amongst the first were my sanitary products. I looked into it and got myself a couple of menstrual cups and then looked at CSP. I preferred the pads to start with, and it took me a while to get used to the cups. I now love both and I am proud of myself for making the change. Plus, all the beautiful designs out there are lush!" - Katerina

"I use CSP pads for heavy days and period pants for lighter days. It's reduced discomfort for me (along with remembering to drink lots more water when menstruating), is dead easy to manage and has saved me loads of money. There are so many option available now and brilliant accessories like mini wet bags to store used pads when out and about etc. Its very easy to adapt to. We have also found found period pants have been great for my 12 yr old who has just started their periods too. Most pants are dark coloured which reduces the possible distress of seeing the red flow in contrast to white paper pads. As she is Autistic she was quite anxious about about it all but this has made it easier for her to adjust to the experience." - N

"I changed to CSP 5 years ago. I bought pads from 3 different makers to try. One brand I just hated, it didn't suit my body at all. One fitted brilliantly but I didn't like the fabric absorbency It has a cotton outer layer. The one I liked the most was fleece, I bought an entire set in different sizes. I do find them easier to wear with tighter trousers or jeans to keep them in place. I noticed a change in my periods when I made the swap. I had less pain and I bled for 3 days rather than 4 after a few cycles. Before CSP I used an eco disposable brand so I was surprised at the change. I've spoken to many friends who also noticed similar changes."

- Zaphira

"I use CSP and they have honestly changed my life, without going into too much detail I have a really unusual flow which makes tampons impossible to use and disposable pads can't cope with it. I used to have to change disposables every 1-2hrs and always had to wear night time ones which are long and rub. CSP are so soft and more absorbant, I only change every 3-4hrs now and they don't rub!" - Jenny

"I started using csp after switching to cloth nappies with George (now 7). I couldn’t contemplate using plastic stuff on me if I was using cloth on the baby. Between babies, I didn’t get much chance to use csp, and breastfeeding meant I didn’t have cycles for ages after they were born. But I’ve been using csp consistently for over a year now, and can say that cloth is soooooo much more comfortable. My periods are lighter and (sometimes) shorter than they used to be, and much much less painful. There’s no way I’d go back to disposable now. I did use eco disposables before George, but apart from not feeling as guilty about plastic consumption, I can’t say they were particularly comfortable or better than non eco ones. I now think of disposables as much more ‘eeewwwwww’ than cloth!"

- Angharad

"I use a moon cup." - Hannah Woolmer

"I always found tampons really convenient and never had any problems with them, but over the last few years, I’ve become far more aware of just how much small, sustainable changes can help the global effort to look after our planet. I was put off menstrual cups for so long, because of the word ‘suction’, it just sounded uncomfortable and a little scary to be honest. I was scrolling Instagram one day, when I saw someone raving about the Nixit menstrual cup and was intrigued when I saw that it was suction free. I bit the bullet and ordered it and I can honestly say, it’s brilliant! So easy to use, simple to empty and clean and quick to sterilise between cycles. I also have a couple of pair of WUKA period pants, which are great for lighter days, or if you know you’re due on. I’m really glad I’ve invested in these items and by the time my daughter starts her periods, these will have become the norm in our house and we will automatically gravitate towards purchasing similar for her." - Steph Gore

At Forest Friendly I stock handmade cloth pads from another independent business ‘Cute Cloth’, Mooncups and Natracare eco disposables.