Even though we are living in the 21st century, periods are still a negative issue. Period poverty affects 1 in 10 women in the UK. Add to this period taboo and the confidence level of girls and this can have massive negative effects on women and also the environment.
As I have got older, and especially since having my children, I have come to understand my body, my biology and my periods much better. Having knowledge gives me more control and choice over my period and how I 'deal with it.'
Then I found out about the environmental impact of my period and I knew I had to make a change. Did you know that sanitary products are estimated to produce over 100 billion pieces of waste every year, with up to 2.5billion sanitary items being flushed down Britain's toilets each year, most of which end up in our seas and on our beaches? Even in landfill sanitary products take centuries to degrade in landfill as over 80% of single-use period products contain synthetic materials and plastics. So, last year, I made the switch to CSP and I wish I had done it sooner. If you are an avid follower of all things sustainable and zero-waste you may see people referring to CSP: but what is it?
What the heck is CSP?
CSP refers to Cloth Sanitary Protection (I have also seen it referred to as cloth pads, mummy cloth, mama fluff, vagina blankets or my personal favourite; Muff Fluff!).
I’ll admit I was a little dubious about CSP, because you know, ewwww, but it’s so much better for you; the planet, your purse and your intimate health will all benefit, as there are no chemicals or stickiness, just breathable natural fibres, which can be used and reused by washing in your machine. Imagine, the small fortune you could save over your lifetime!
Huge bonus: absolutely zero waste. I would suggest for your whole cycle you would need 10-15 CSP and a wet bag, but you could have fewer and wash more regularly.
Going out in my Period Pants
You can also get ‘Period Pants’-kinda self-explanatory but here goes anyway. A pair of knickers with the ‘pad’ bit inside so you simply pop them on and change the whole pair of knickers when you need to change. Maybe a bit faffy for work/school etc. but super-comfy, super-effective and PERFECT for nighttime. I love mine! You can even buy them at Sainsbury's now, along with your (plastic-free) weekly shop!
Pads will usually be made up of three layers; a waterproof backing layer to prevent leaks (often fleece), an absorbent core and a top layer which sits against your skin; the fabrics used are usually hemp (natural and absorbent) or organic cotton (completely natural), charcoal (helps conceal any odours), bamboo velour (supersoft), or microfleece (synthetic fabrics, dry really quickly).
Cleaning these products isn't as difficult as you might think either. The recommendation is to rinse out under cold water, then pop in a wet bag to prevent stains setting. When you have a collection, simply pop in the machine up to 60 degrees, (you can even wash them with cloth nappies if you're using them). As with cloth nappies, fabric softener is not recommended, as it can damage the fibres. Then hang to dry. Easy peasy.
Raise A Cup
Some people prefer a menstrual cup, such as Mooncup, others feel a bit squeamish about using one (if I'm honest, this includes me!). Using a menstrual cup certainly means 'connecting' with your period. There's lots of choice of cups out there and there's a lot of info and even various little online tests you can do to help you to find the right cup for you.
Whatever the brand, cups come with full instructions and handy diagrams and a little stem attached to the cup that you use for removing it, which can be trimmed to the right size, to make it comfortable. Most people don't even feel it once it's in place correctly. Inserting and removing can be a little tricky at first, but with a little patience you can soon get the hang of it and it causes no problems at all. You can wear it to sleep, you may only need to change it every 6 hours or so, you can pretty much forget about your period! And again; zero-waste. A cup should last as long as you need it to and it just needs washing and sterilizing and you're ready to go again.
When it comes to reusable menstrual products (as always), I would strongly recommend, getting one or two different sizes, brands and types and find what works for you individually as it certainly isn't one size fits all here. But, there are plenty of options available; different sizes, lengths, prints and styles all suitable for various budgets too so why don't you give it a go?