In periods of menstruation, tampons and sanitary pads have long been the obvious solutions. However, many of them contain chemicals (including when they are labelled organic). However, there are healthier alternatives that could meet your requirements and change your habits.
On average, a woman uses more than 10,000 sanitary pads during her lifetime. Protections that often contain many chemicals that come into contact with the genitals (already that’s not great) and which, also, at the end of the route, end up polluting marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
Among the chemicals found in sanitary towels is glyphosate, a herbicide that the WHO has classified as potentially carcinogenic. The tampons contain residues of dioxins, phthalates, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and furans. All of these substances combined are toxic and can have harmful health effects. According to anses (the National Health Safety Agency), the “deficient concentration” of the presence of these products is not dangerous. But with this information in mind, we feel less inclined to place a tampon or disposable towel near (or in) our vagina.
Fortunately, more environmentally friendly and natural alternatives have become more numerous in recent years. We’ve selected four:
1. Menstrual Cup
The menstrual cup is one of the most popular alternatives to tampons because its use is very similar. It comes in the form of a small silicone or rubber cup that must be folded to insert into the vagina. Once placed, it is allowed to open, and a “venous” system allows it to stay in place. To remove it, pull on the small tab (which can also be shortened with scissors if necessary) and pull the cup down. The suction cup effect will then be interrupted by pushing one side slightly inwards, emptying it into the toilet, rinsing it and putting it back in place. Simple, effective.
The menstrual cup should be sterilized before each start of the cycle. It should be emptied every 4 to 8 hours depending on the flow and washed before replacing it. Warning: like the tampon, the cup can, in sporadic cases, cause a toxic shock syndrome it is therefore necessary to respect these hygiene rules to limit the risks.
Sold for a price ranging from 20 to 30 euros, a single cup can be reused for 5 to 10 years, making it an investment that is both ecological and economical.
2. Menstrual panties
While many women are initially sceptical of the comfort and functionality of menstrual panties, those who have tried it can no longer part with it. Far from giving the impression of wearing a diaper, they are made of ultra-thin absorbent fabric fibres and a protective layer that avoids staining one’s clothes.
Most menstrual panty brands offer different options depending on your preferences (some even offer thongs) and your flow. They can be worn for up to 12 hours in a row and reused for 3 to 7 years. With a price that varies between 20 and 40 euros per panties, they are far from cheap. However, when you take into account the savings in tampons and towels that they will make, it is obvious that the investment will be quickly depreciated. We are talking about a saving of 50 euros in the first year only!
3. Reusable Sanitary Towels
For a smooth transition, reusable towels are perfect. Made of cotton and machine washable, they do not contain chemicals, do not block the menstrual flow and are therefore safe for health. Just use the right fasteners to attach them to the panties, and you’re ready to face your day’s schedule. The towel can also be used in combination with the menstrual cup for optimal protection on days of higher flow.
Many brands offer towels with attractive colours and patterns to combine glamour and comfort. Some towels are also sold with their own fabric pouch to carry them more easily. Different formats are depending on the abundance of the flow and how you use it.
With a price that varies between 5 and 10 euros per towel, they are a little more affordable than the alternatives listed upstream.
4. The free instinctive flow or free-flow instinct
This method from the United States is to listen to one’s body and feel when the flow of rules arrives to go and evacuate it at the right time. And in cases where you don’t have access to amenities, you have to learn to hold it in yourself by contracting the muscles of the perineum. It is, therefore, a practice that requires a little training before you can master it, but it allows you to no longer use a tampon, towel or cup. The planet (and your wallet) will thank you!
Learning to master the technique takes an average of 4 to 5 cycles. The idea is to train to acquire a certain body consciousness to perceive the signals sent by the body as it evacuates the flow of rules. It is advisable to train during the cycles when you can stay at home (it will not be complicated in the next few weeks) as you will probably have to go to the toilet often the first time. During the night, some women manage to maintain the reflexes they have acquired during the day, but for others, it will be necessary to use hygienic protection or protect the sheets.
Note that this method will probably be less suitable for women with less toned perineum (who have just given birth or have had several children). If you have bleeding periods (due to wearing an IUD, for example), it may also be more complicated to apply.