Friday, 30 September 2016

period talk - knowledge and sanitary products - the pros and cons of pads, tampons and the moon cup

Personally, I have no issues with talking about periods.  I don't find it disgusting or embarrassing, it's just a thing. I know there are people who have a problem with it (is it too uncouth?) so if that's you, I guess you won't want to read this post, where I talk about periods.

Discussion expands knowledge's good to talk! An intelligent male friend (in his thirties) shocked me recently by expressing his belief that 'women get cranky once a month because their vaginas hurt'. Sorry, WHAT? I responded with a mini period lesson (explaining that period pain is usually abdominal/back cramping and not a pain-in-the-vag. Also not all women get period pain. And not all women get cranky.) He commented that it's silly that sex ed is split by gender and that boys don't get taught about periods.

I think it's silly that in my experience, it's boys in particular that find periods so disgusting and avoid the subject which can lead to little understanding. (That is not directed at my aforementioned friend. I don't know if that's why he didn't know that periods don't tend to hurt vaginas. But I have been 'told off' by other male friends in the past, for openly talking about menstruation. I now tend to avoid the subject if I can see people are uncomfortable.)

I'm just finishing a really odd period. I thought it had lasted for just one heavy day and then finished but after a day of nothing I had spotting for about 3 days. I've had periods for 15 years but this freaked me out slightly. My friend says it's happened to her too though! Periods are weird.

Every single one is different, the PMS symptoms, the flow, the cycle lengths differ (for me, anyway). And everyone that has periods has a different experience.

One woman in my family doesn't understand why anyone makes a fuss about their period because she didn't have any pain or mood swings.

Another woman in my family had to have her womb removed because the pain was so bad and it turned out she had cysts. 

I used to vomit and feel faint from intense period pain. Thankfully, that hasn't happened for about 7 or 8 years now. These days my worst symptom is usually immense fatigue on day 1, which makes it difficult to function and I'm SO glad I no longer work in customer service on those days.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about in this post is sanitary products. I've used the main 3 - pads, tampons, mooncup - and I think they are all rubbish. Well, they all have their pros and cons. But really, I dislike them all for different reasons.

Pads are the worst.

Pros: They are external and penetration is not required, so if this is an issue, these are your guys. They are good for back up if your flow is heavy and you don't trust your tampon, or if your flow is light and you shouldn't use a tampon. There is no risk of pain, for example, you might find a tampon or cup painful if you have an infection or an injury or recently gave birth or have vaginismus etc.

Cons: They are hot and sweaty and messy. You are pretty much wearing a nappy and sitting in your own fluids. If you use the kind without wings, the pad may move. Maybe part of it will flip up and stick to you. If you use the kind with wings, it looks hideous (if anyone were to see you, like your partner, or people in a communal changing room). Sometimes the wings rub and irritate your bikini line. They need to be changed every 2-4 hours. They smell (not lots but enough). And scented pads is not a solution. I think scented stuff against your vagina is a bad plan. I accidentally bought scented ones once because feminine products seem to be universally badly labelled. I gave them to a colleague. I don't really use scented products at all, let alone on my vagina. Pads are also wasteful and environmentally unfriendly. I'm not even sure what they're made of but I'm sure they aren't recyclable!

Tampons are currently my happy medium but last week I had a shock. Did you guys know that you aren't supposed to flush tampons!!??? I have flushed tampons since I was 16! I swear the instructions said you could, back then. And I never read the instructions again after successfully learning to insert. But last week I read this article in the Guardian which explains that if you flush tampons, they end up in the sea or clog drains :( So I've binned used tampons for the very first time this month. Always learning!

Pros: They are internal and you can almost feel normal, as if blood isn't oozing out of you for 2-7 days. They are neat and discreet and easy to carry around. They are simple and clean, pop it in and go, pull it out and chuck it, repeat. They are comfortable and painless if you have the right flow for your tampon. (I usually use tampons for day 1 and 2 then pads for the rest because my flow gets too light.)

Cons: They can be drying, particularly if your flow is lighter than expected. There is a very small risk of toxic shock syndrome. They need to be changed every 4-6 hours. They are wasteful and environmentally unfriendly. I believe they are made of cotton but I don't know how the cotton has been treated, what chemicals were used etc.  They are extra wasteful when they come with an applicator. I'm not a fan of applicators, they make they whole thing bigger and more complicated and the main point seems to be so you can avoid touching your own vagina.

Last but not least, the moon cup.

Pros: It is internal and you feel normal. It can handle a lot of fluid. When I used one, I only needed to change it morning and evening, maybe with one extra change on day 1. You can feel a sort of pressure when it's full and you need to empty it. It is made of medical grade silicone and I believe it has no risk of toxic shock so you can leave it in as long as you like (within reason) with no worries about how heavy your flow is. So you can use it right to the end of your period. It's pretty easy to insert, just fold it and put it in it will unfold itself. It should last about 10 years, so less money waste and less environmental waste.

Cons: It can sometimes be uncomfortable to remove it. It all takes a bit longer that tampons or pads because you have to pull it out carefully and clean it up. And it can be messy. And if you dump the blood in the toilet, sometimes it sits in the bottom of the toilet and won't flush away. I may be open about periods but that doesn't mean I want the person after me to see it. Cleaning the cup is the biggest issue I had though. It's boring but has to be done. I had a special saucepan I reserved for boiling my cup to make sure it was clean. I kept it on top of the bathroom cupboard and it fell on my head one time. It hurt and I was so cross I slammed the cupboard door shut and the mirror cracked across. Oops. Also, no matter how carefully you clean it, the cup stains over time. Ugh.

I don't think I have my moon cup anymore. I gave up on it. But I'm feeling ready to give it another go soon. I think the pros are pretty strong.

Are you ok with talking about periods? Do you feel like there's a lack of understanding about periods? If you have periods, what sanitary product is your product of choice?

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