Now at this point I am sure both men and women are uncomfortable with this subject. It is taboo, a social faux pas to speak of such things so let us get that stigma out of our systems. Aunt Flow, Silent Hill, T.O.M., red tide, maid doing cleaning in the Vagina Motel etc etc, call it what you wish but it is a fact of life.
I say this mostly because their is a social taboo, stating that periods are unclean and we should speak not of the process, Hell it is even in the bible, and insinuated by the global feminine hygiene conglomerates. Using words like "hygiene", and "sanitary". Some cultures went without anything to catch the blood, and saw the blood on the leg as a sign of health and fertility, very desirable traits, but I digress. The point is you shouldn't feel ashamed, or feel there is too much information among sisters. After all, more then half of the population will, have, or had a period.
The bad thing about all this sisterly sharing of blood though is every month we buy an 8-dollar box of disposables. Use one every four hours because of fear of leaks, and throw it away. There is plastic in the pad, paper boxes, paper pamphlets, plastic applicators, plastic around the pad, and every month we wear a few extra just for the spot days. That is a huge, amount of waste for every month, of every year, for 40+ years. In fact, the average woman will use 16,800 pads or tampons in her lifetime.
Not to mention all this plastic and 'sanitary' precautions is so far from the truth it is staggering. Rayon and cotton, are two crops which use pesticides heavily, it then gets shipped off to a dirty plant, to be touched by people, bleached the hell out of to make it appear clean and then over-packaged for the illusion of being sanitary. Our Vaginas are the single most absorbent part of our body so one can imagine the damage these pads can do.
Most pads and tampons are made from rayon, which is a fibrous fiber that leads to TSS. Since the tampons are inside you, the fibers can be left behind causing complications such as infections and Toxic Shock Syndrome. Very hygienic, no?
Also disposables use plastic as a waterproof layer, which doesn't allow our vagigidies to breath. This leads to bad smells, and on occasion enough of a humid environment that you can be prone to yeast infections, contact dermatitis, and itchiness. Allow air in and you will notice how comfortable you feel.
There are disposable alternatives. When searching for pads, search for pure unbleached cotton. These comes in pads and tampons, but are more expensive and can only be found in health food stores, but in the long run you'll find your happy vagina can breath and won't have harmful chemicals invading it.
For a more economical tampon alternative, many women swear by the keeper, which is a medical grade plastic cup that catches blood as opposed to absorbing it. This has the added bonus of not absorbing too much liquid, thus throwing off the health of your uterus. How it works is you insert it and it will catch the blood, every few hours you empty it into the toilet bowl. They usually run 25 dollars and can last five to ten years. They have disposables ones at Walgreens if you wish to give it a try, but really the main three (the keeper, moon cups, and diva cups) have gotten the best all around reviews. They come in two sizes, and they are just shaped better and most women report no discomfort. So it is probably best to invest once in the good ones.
Next is the reusable pad option, which I can personally vouch for. The biggest distributor of cloth alternatives is Luna pads and you can buy a whole set for about $75. Or you can buy them cheaper on EBay, Etsy and other craft communities. But if youre handy at sewing it can be a fun project. All you need is a little bit of 100% cotton flannel (these come in many fun prints) and a cotton terry towel you are willing to cut up. This has the added bonus of being custom built for you, such as a night pad that is longer on the front for belly sleepers, or custom fit for your pant size (Disposables are designed for size 6s, doesnt do much for the big gals out there). I find that the pads are very comfortable, like wearing thick underwear, as opposed to a thick hunk of humid plastic. Because the pad is sewn together the pads dont bunch or shift, greatly reducing accidental leaks and the need to constantly replace the pad. Also because of the material they are made from they are much more absorbent. In fact, most days I can go a full 8 hours comfortably on one pad.
They require a bit more work when you clean them, but nothing too intensive. As soon as you get home soak your pads for a few hours in cold water (cold water prevents stains from setting), and quickly hand wash them. At the end of your cycle you can toss them in with your laundry if you want them extra soft, but never use fabric softener; this can affect the absorbency of you pad. A good routine can prevent stains on your cute printed pads and oddly enough make you more aware and appreciative of your hoohoo and your feminine cycle.
I urge you to be informed and research on your own, there are even more alternatives then listed here. And the benefits are immeasurable, not only for the environment, but for ones health as well.
Be happy, be healthy, and revel in your period.
Menstrual Alternatives information:
BBC article [link]
Young Womens Health [link]
Places to buy alternatives:
Tutorials to make Cloth Pads:
What my cloth pads look like [link]