I cried when I first started my period. For me, my period welcomed me to a woman-hood that equated a whole secret society where what happened monthly was private, silenced, and maintained behind closed doors – I didn’t want this. I was far from ready to give up that simplistic naiveté that came with childhood and exchange it with the host of menstrual-related issues that would soon ensue.
I grew up in a household of three women. The relentless cramps and reproductive-related symptoms that both my mother and sister experienced monthly would now become my reality as well. The silver lining was our shared empathy that meant we spoke freely and openly about our issues. We brought each other heating pads, tea, chocolate, held each other’s hair back when the nausea was overwhelming, and gave each other space as well as forgiveness when our sharp-tongued PMS said what we shouldn’t have.
This routine naturally brought a womanly bond so unbreakable, as well as rare and remarkable understanding from both my father and brother as they could only sympathize with what they thought it meant to be a women.
Finding Balance & Treatment
The real issue, however, is that we accepted our experiences as normal – a matter of what it meant to be a menstruating woman, symptoms we would have to learn to live with monthly. I was examined regularly and on birth control long before I was having sex. I was given hormones, pain killers, and told about the necessary feminine hygiene products I would begin using. But doctors never really discussed what was actually happening in my body, on a deeper level, or how to restore balance naturally. The onset of my period introduced me to a standard toolkit that seemed to be required – much like school texts, not something you tried out or changed up, and definitely not something you questioned. These staples for my monthly period seemed like a first aid kit meant to cauterize the bleeding verses supplying a level of healing that I was after.
So, it wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s when my monthly symptoms grew so bad that they interfered with my work, relationships, and daily activity all too regularly. Doctors didn’t seem to have the answers and I finally began to question the experts and do my own research. Between the luxury tax on feminine hygiene products and the unregulated and undisclosed ingredient lists of these products, my research lead me down a horrifying rabbit hole revealing the far too many issues related to all things women’s health.
Here’s What Every Woman Needs To Know
The business of feminine hygiene products is a 3-billion-dollar a year, highly unmonitored, unregulated industry that does not require full transparency of ingredients to be labeled, nor do companies have to include chemicals used in the processing of these ingredients. Much of this is due to the fact that most feminine hygiene products and tampons are actually considered medical products.
Why should we be concerned with the Feminine Hygiene Industry?
The vagina is the most permeable organ in a woman’s body, absorbing 10-80% more than when exposed to the same toxins orally. Despite there being very little clinical data to indicate these products are clearly safe or harmful, when many of these products are tested for toxins by third parties, they contain ingredients and chemicals that are known allergens, carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and endocrine disruptors such as artificial fibers, pesticide residues, bleaching agents and artificial fragrances.
Perhaps there are not enough clinical trials to correlate these products to many of the symptoms women experience on a monthly basis, but the fact remains – women use approximately 11,000 tampons in their lifetime and women’s reproductive related issues are on the rise. We have unknowingly allowed ourselves to be guinea pigs to the feminine hygiene industry and trust health experts to ease our doubts, when we should be trusting our own instincts and reflecting on how these products have affected our own health. Each of us is different and therefore will display symptoms differently. Part of the growing discussion on women’s health needs to be talking opening and freely about our experiences. It's time to take responsibility and expertise out of the hands of these conglomerates and putting it into the hands of women.
It has been nearly 100 years since woman fought for the right to vote, the tampon was invented, and women joined the workforce. While there is undoubtedly movement and headway as women are uniting worldly, more than ever and on multiple levels, I am still confounded of the fact that we still need to break the ice, demand these discussions, and question answers at all. Regardless of the multiple layers of issues and work to be done, at least it’s a conversation that more and more women people are willing to have openly and unapologetically.
Cross cultures, cross generations, and genders, there is a gap and a grave silence when it comes to women’s health that we need to shatter. I am honored to be a part of this discussion.
Getting Educated & Choosing Safer Products
Below is a list of upgraded, redesigned, and redefined women’s products. Many women are reporting easier and less painful periods, restored hormone levels, and even shorter, lighter flows by simply switching to these purer products that use organic and natural materials.
1. LOLA Tampons
Products | Organic tampons & pads delivered to your door.
Mission | LOLA’s founders set out to create an organic tampon and a brand that was completely transparent with customers about the ingredients in its products.Since launch, LOLA has also donated 100,000 feminine care products to low-income women and girls across the U.S.
2. Cora Tampons
Products | Organic tampons with PBA-free compact plastic applicator, delivered via subscription.
Mission | Cora’s team believes “that time of the month” should never be a source of shame, harm or uncertainty. (Also: excessively pink packaging.) And it should never keep a girl from getting her education. For every month’s supply of Cora you receive the company gives a month’s supply of sustainable pads to a girl in a developing country so she can do anything during her period.
3. Jade Pearl Sea Sponge Tampons
Products | All-natural sea sponge tampons, soft, & durable.
Mission | Jade & Pearl creates natural personal care products that are reusable, recyclable and sustainable. Their sea sponges tampons are free of chemicals, bleach, chlorine, fragrance, dyes or synthetic materials.
4. Diva Cup
Products | Reusable menstrual cups
Mission | Diva Cup is committed to offering women a sustainable, easy-to-use, cost-effective and eco-friendly feminine hygiene product to conventional options. Our innovative products of The DivaCup and DivaWash are empowering women while also changing the face of feminine hygiene around the world. All products are chemical-free, follow national standards in Canada, the United States, Australia and other countries, and they are not tested on animals.
5. Moon Cup
Products | Silicone, reusable menstrual cups
Mission | Mooncup creates soft, medical-grade silicone menstrual cups designed by women as a convenient, safe and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads. They aim to make the experience of periods more positive, healthy and ec-friendly.
6. Glad Rags
Products | Reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups
Mission | Glad Rags’ mission is to provide high quality, sustainable products and positively transform the experience of menstruation. The are a registered B Corp and a proud to partner with UnTabooed, to bring reusable menstrual products to menstruators in the U.S.