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Dear Sexpert,

I am tired of creating so much waste when I’m on my period! Are there any environmentally safe options for dealing with my period that aren’t too scary?

- The Fertile Conservationist


Dear Conservationist,

There are many alternative options to the disposable pads and plastic applicator tampons that are commonly sold in a grocery store or pharmacy, which create a lot less waste. Before reviewing these alternatives, I want to first address your worry that these products might be “scary.”

Menstruation, or shedding of the lining of the uterus, is a natural process that occurs in all women, and should not be gross or scary. It is a part of life! For many women, menstruation typically lasts only 3-7 days each month and results in shedding more than 20-60 mL of blood over the course of that time. If you ever feel like your period is abnormally long or heavy, discuss this with a physician at home, or with one of the clinicians at UHS. Additionally, some forms of birth control can interrupt your regular cycle or extend time between periods. Like with anything else, trying something new for the first time can be scary. Knowing your options and finding what is the best fit for you can help ease your concerns.

There are generally two types of products that you can use while on your period: external and internal protectors. When picking which products you would like to use in the future, keep in mind to only use what you feel comfortable and safe using. These products aren’t supposed to cause you pain or discomfort. They should make having your period more comfortable and manageable. One of the external options are cloth or reusable pads. While you wear them like you would a regular pad (in the crotch of your panties for the same length of time), instead of throwing them away after each use, you wash them so that they can be used repeatedly. Additionally, some companies sell “pad panties” which allow you to just wear these special undergarments that come in varying absorbencies so that you don’t have to wear a pad or tampon at all. These undergarments can be washed like you would regular panties.

For internal use, there are also a variety of options outside of cotton or rayon tampons with plastic or cardboard applicators. Some companies make tampons from organic cotton without applicators, which produce less waste. There is also the menstrual cup, which is a small cup made of silicone or rubber that you insert into your vagina, and it catches the blood before it ever leaves your body. After a few hours, you remove the cup, empty it, rinse it with clean water and then can reuse it. There are also sponges, man-made or dead sea sponges that you can insert into the vagina. The sea sponges can be used more than once after cleaning for up to 6 months. Conversely some types of synthetic sponges are meant for single use only, so be sure to review the recommended use. Finally, there are just simple reusable, washable tampons that are made from cotton, and can be as absorbent as regular disposable tampons.

If any of these alternatives sound appealing to you, I strongly encourage you to make an appointment with Sexual Health and Wellness at UHS to discuss which method would be the best fit for you. The clinicians can discuss the options and teach you how to use these products properly to achieve the best protection. Remember, a healthy and comfortable period is a happy one!

The Sexpert

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