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Fill that bra!
WARNING NOTE: In this post, I discuss a female bodily function and the products associated with it in more detail than some people are comfortable with. If this is likely to bother you, DO NOT READ THE POST. I am not interested in OMG UR SO GROSS comments. THANK YOU.


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A Lunapad, showing off its flannel-y goodness.


Some backstory to this post: I bleed. I bleed thick and heavy. At irregular intervals. With serious cramping and fatigue from anemia. And I can't for the life of me use a tampon without excruciating pain.

That means I've been heavily reliant on disposable pads since I was 12 years old, but disposable pads have not been good to me. They give me diaper rash and suck the moisture out of places that should never be dry. They chafe and poke me in sensitive places. They produce a huge amount of icky and socially awkward trash. And I ALWAYS seem to run out at the end of one period and not have one in my purse when the next cycle comes around.

It wasn't until I took a women's health course in college that I found out there were other, more environmentally friendly and body-friendly, options available. There are reusable latex or silicone cups that catch blood (the Keeper, the Moon Cup, the Diva Cup), natural tampons made from sea sponges that can be rinsed and reused, and--what meant by far the most to me--menstrual pads made of cloth rather than plastic and paper. The standard design is a flannel top layer, an inner absorbent core of terrycloth or fleece, a layer of nylon mesh to prevent water leakage, and then a plain cotton backing. Wings extend from either side--they wrap around your underwear and fasten with a snap to keep thing in place. A simple but extremely functional design. Some designs add a pouch or bands across the front and back of the pad to hold an insert, which allows you to wear the same pad longer by simply switching out the insert.

Some additional research into cloth pads turned up two different ways to acquire cloth pads: buy them from someone else or make my own. Patterns and advice on what materials to use are freely available on the web, and in fact there are diy_pads and cloth_pads communities on LJ that are MORE THAN HAPPY to tell you how to do it. I, alas, have no sewing machine and little free time to make pads. Buying it was.

Lunapads is one of a couple major web retailers of cloth menstrual pads and alternative menstrual products, GladRags being another. There are also many, many smaller sites, cottage industries essentially--there's a good list of them with comparison information here. I chose Lunapads because they had the best deal on a kit that would give me enough cloth pads for an entire period, because they had a holder/liner design that made it easy to change pads, and because their pads came in the most varied and interesting fabrics. Yes, yes, the love of pretty fabric is shallow, but if there were ever a time of month where I need a little superfluous pretty in my life, my period is it.

Since the kit was rather expensive, I asked for it as a Christmas gift (and praise be that I have a very understanding mother). This turned out to be perfect timing as I started bleeding on Boxing Day. By the end of that period, I was convinced that I would never go back to disposables. I have now been through a second period with my Lunapads, and it has only cemented my resolve.

So what convinced me? First, they are much more comfortable than any disposable I've ever tried. Blood is wicked away from the skin, but internal secretions are not. The fabric breathes well and prevents diaper rash. IT IS SO DAMN SOFT AGAINST MY SKIN. It is the difference between wearing flannel underpants and a diaper, that's how comfy it is. Most of the time, I don't even remember that the pad is there. Also, the lack of chemicals and wet plastic means that there isn't the horrible stagnant blood smell of a used disposable pad. (For those of you who are wondering how I hold onto a piece of bloody flannel if I'm in a public restroom, the kit came with a small, opaque nylon envelope. I simply fold the pad over so the bloodied surface is on the inside and slip it into the envelope. No mess at all, and I don't have to search for a trash can.)

Second, there's the self-sufficiency and the money saved. As long as I have my Lunapads, I do not have to remember to drop a ridiculous amount of money on glorified napkins every month. Nor am I forced to rush to the store if my period shows up unexpectedly. As soon as I do my laundry, I am completely restocked for the next period. (A note on cleaning: it's really not any worse than tending to a pair of panties that got bled on. All you have to do is soak in cold water before tossing them in the washing machine and they're as good as new.) At the rate that I use them, the pads will pay for themselves within 8 months, and they're designed to last for 5 years or more.

Third, there's the environmental impact. Disposable pads and their packaging are a huge amount of bulky, very non-biodegradable waste. Reducing my personal contribution makes me feel much better about myself.

The fourth reason is all about the feeling better about myself. Having more control over my period just puts me in a better mood, makes it less of a mental burden and more of I can do this. This is something that is echoed by a lot of women who have switched to cloth pads, that the choice simply makes them feel more connected with their periods and less antagonistic towards the whole process.

For any woman who reads this, I would wholeheartedly suggest considering cloth pads or another alternative menstrual product. If you feel that it's not right for you, there's nothing wrong with that. Every woman has her own preferences. But it's not right that women are, by and large, not aware of real, viable alternatives that exist if disposables just don't cut it. Informed, personal choices about menstruation may not be as literally life-and-death as choices about HRT or contraception or abortion, but they nonetheless are a women's rights issue and should be treated as such.

Comments

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gishkishenh
Feb. 10th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC)
You know- the first perosn who told me about Lunapads was a guy. Yes, I might surround myself with "odd" men, but hey, those are the kind I like. Big on being an environmentalist [both he and I], we were discussing the concept of multiple modern-day things that just kill in the long run. I remember a fellow friend bringing up diapers, and my friend brought up the pads. I looked into them, but admit was skeptical about the whole issue- the hygiene, the wahsing.. the entire affair. But as time is passing by- and I read comments like these- I'm beginning to be VERY convinced about them. Specifically since my period is no-where as heavy as yours, and added the bonus that I don't get the chafing or rash (ouch man, that had to SUCK)- something like this is very doable and very tempting.
I'm seriously switching over.
Thanks for the input! Very few women actually want to share about this sort of thing (again, maybe it's me and my "odd men", but the guys seem to want to know more and *do* no more than some women I know!)
thenakedcat
Feb. 10th, 2008 07:23 am (UTC)
Huh, wow! That's actually kind of awesome that you heard about it from a guy! The only guys I can say for sure know about cloth pads are A) the ones who were in that women's health course and B) my dad because Mom would have told him what was in that very carefully sealed present. I've always been rather appalled at the immature OMGWTFBBQ way men react to menstruation, because it didn't bode well for living together later in life. It's very cool to hear about men who are informed on menstruation issues, and also cool that you're considering making the switch! Hooray!
addicted2crafts
Sep. 20th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
yeah, I never cared for the idea that some men have that a woman who's menstruating is dirty, or unclean, or somehow less ok to be with or around during that time, who refuse to hug, or kiss, or cuddle or touch them.

Viewing sex at that time of the month as undesirable, ok I get, but the entire woman? No, I don't get it.
hidden_gems
Feb. 10th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
I remember your other post about this, and I'm still tempted. I started menstruating when I was 15 (late for everything XD) and so I've had over 10 years of disposable pads and nothing else (because they were what my mother gave me and we never really talked about it anyway), and especially in the last few years it's become more and more uncomfortable. I recently decided to act on it and am now partially using tampons, which I consider a lifesaver even if it's still pretty awkward at times.

But I will definitely bookmark all those links and remember this for the future, because my period is very heavy as well and it's still a major pain in the ass every time and gosh, I don't want it to be that way forever, no way!
thenakedcat
Feb. 11th, 2008 12:28 am (UTC)
There's a lot of unnecessary shaming and silence around menstruation, and I think it's such a waste because it keeps women tied to uncomfortable, unhappy habits. It's great that you're considering switching!
hidden_gems
Feb. 11th, 2008 09:33 am (UTC)
It wasn't necessarily to do with shaming and all, just that we've had this unfortunate habit of... well, not talking about a lot of things. But I'm happy that I've partially switched to tampons. I'm still stupidly happy every time, it's quite sad XD I'm sure the novelty will so soon, but at the moment it's still "OMG I forgot how different it was!!"
quakey
Feb. 12th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
At some point I'll be posting about this as well. (Possibly with a free trial offer, since I sew and am having fun trying different patterns and options.) I definitely second Kim's suggestion to try them, although the decision is ultimately up to you. =)
hidden_gems
Feb. 12th, 2008 09:24 am (UTC)
*giggles, imagining a pad with 13th Division symbols on it*
quakey
Feb. 12th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
Wow. That would be frightening yet awesome. XD
quakey
Aug. 14th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
Out of the blue, are you still interested in trying cloth pads? I have four pads sitting here, completely unused, seeking a good home. There's nothing wrong with them; I just made a few too many and these are extras. I considered just sending them to you as a surprise birthday gift ... but I doubt that a package of pads is the sort of thing you want to accidentally open in front of your boy or parents. XD

They're the same general shape as the pad in my icon, and one is even that color.

If you want them, I'll consider them a very belated birthday gift and ship them your way. ^__^
hidden_gems
Aug. 14th, 2008 07:29 am (UTC)
Oh wow, really?? I would definitely be interested, but are you sure you just want to give them to me? It might be a bit tricky with the current living situation, but I could definitely try. I'm doing pretty well with tampons these days (it's only been about 6 months) but I unfortunately discovered they're not enough at night (oh G*d, what am I, a teenager? XD) and I could definitely do without the chafing and all.

But I have question. How long are the pads? Like I said in my first comment here, I bleed heavily and I always have to go for "ultra" disposable pads.

So err... if you're really serious about this, I'd pretty much love you forever and could... draw you something? That's kind of all I can do in return ^^;
quakey
Aug. 14th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm sure. They're not doing anyone any good if they just sit by my computer and look pretty. XD

They're about 9" long, fairly big profile. It's hard for me to say how I compare to "heavy" bleeding, though I'm going to guess I'm more of a "medium." One of these is PUL-backed (AKA waterproof), so that will probably be useful for you. *ponders* Perhaps I'll pull out my sewing machine and try a few "heavy" experiments. XD

As long as you have something to soak them in and something to carry them to the washing machine in, I think it's pretty easy to be discrete, even in a mixed household. :) However, be prepared to feel like a teenager the first cycle with them. I certainly did. :P
hidden_gems
Aug. 14th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
9" long and fairly big profile sounds good. If you're 100% sure, I'll give you my address in a private message. I cannot promise that I will use them right away because I'm a chicken like that, but I definitely will try!!
quakey
Aug. 14th, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
I actually got your address from Lotus, so that's taken care of. ^__^
hidden_gems
Aug. 14th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
<333
(Anonymous)
Apr. 17th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
For those of us with heavy periods!
If you are one of us who suffers from heavy periods , you must try a product called "UndiePads". They are disposable underwear with a built in pad. The pad is super long and super absorbent. It can last up to 12 hours ( personal experience), especially for the night time. Both of my girls are ballroom dancers, and they absolutely love UndiePads. They wear them to school, without worrying about leakage, to the dance rehearsals, and at night. No worries, no embarrassing moments, and they look and feel just like regular underwear. Wear them and then toss them away. OMG, we can't imagine our lives without these underwear.
I'm not sure which stores sell them, but I get them online at www.undiepads.com
laurabryannan
Feb. 10th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
What a great post! I've been fortunate to be able to use tampons for my childbearing years, but I can imagine this information would be a godsend for many struggling with the hassles of disposable pads.

I'd like to link to it as a resource for others, if that's okay. Thanks for doing all this wonderful research!
thenakedcat
Feb. 11th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
Tampons definitely have their own advantages, but even for women who use them almost exclusively, cloth pads can be very useful for overnights and such.

Feel free to link wherever! I deliberately made this a public post so that it could be shared.
3_jane
Feb. 10th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Five years?!?? Holy moly! That would be ... actually, you could probably build a small fort out of the equivalent number of disposables. (And, having said that, I don't know if that's a fun mental image to carry with me, or just a creepy one. Stupid brain.) I might have to try these out. 8D
thenakedcat
Feb. 11th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Five years is actually only the median--some women have been using the same pads for up to ten years. It isn't so odd if you think about it: assuming you are using your pads about 12 times a year, surely a good piece of flannel can stand up to at least sixty washings.

Also, the image of a castle built out of disposable pads is awesome! Especially those huge boxy pads that come from restroom vending machines.
7owti5
Feb. 11th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Odd men are all around us.... Like Gish, I was talking to this guy 2 weeks ago and not 5 words left my mouth after "period" before he cut in and said, "oh yeah, Glad Rags!"

He gets a gold star for that.
thenakedcat
Feb. 11th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
Indeed he does! It's so awesome to find guys who don't react stupidly to women's bleeding.
laurabryannan
Mar. 2nd, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
Hey, I've got to tell you that these products have helped me with a skin condition I've been battling since my son was born (eight years now)--contact dermatitis "down there" that developed when I was forced to use commercial pads and liners after I gave birth. Unfortunately, even after I stopped using them, the problem remained no matter what I did to treat it.

So, what worked? Organic cotton pantyliners! I saw the products and got a ping, tried a few out and they're helping! They were right about the pesticides irritating some folk's skin. It's only been a few weeks, but everything is MUCH better, so thanks again for sharing this wonderful information.

Oh, and BTW, I've been told that everything on the site will be 20% off this month.
thenakedcat
Mar. 2nd, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
Your story is an excellent example of why alternatives like organic cotton liners NEED to be out there, and I'm so glad you've found some relief at last!

Also, SAAAAALE! 8D
(Anonymous)
Jun. 16th, 2008 06:29 am (UTC)
downside of tampons
the thing about tampons that a lot of women don't hear about (as usual thanks to sexism in business) is that tampons are bleached with an incredibly toxic chemical , of which small amounts remain in the tampon so that they are "nice and white." i also heard that chemical makes us bleed more so you go through more tampons. many scientists think that long-term tampon use (as in one week for every month of your adult life) is a large contributor to cancerous effects in the female reproductive system (cervical cancer, uteran cancer, cysts, etc). gross huh?? bleached cotton tampons putting chemicals into my body, what a depressing thought, anyway, maybe that fact might help women stop using them and maybe using cloth pads. one scientist i cant recall her name, is trying to outlaw the bleach in US, i heard it has already been outlawed in Europe???
(Anonymous)
May. 3rd, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
A greatful sister
Thank you!!! It is amazing what we intelligent strong women take for granted. There are quite a few women (myself included) who ignore the irritation caused by using these commercial pads. I have had irritations for years and just ignored them because they were not too uncomfortable; however these irritations if ignored could lead to something more sinister. After reading your site, I spent quite a while researching pads. Looked a luna pads which I cannot afford; When your cycles are ridiculously heavy you need a lot. Found: Moon Loon pads, Pink daisy, Rhythm and Blues which are much more affordable and just as good. The Rhythm and Blues are perfect for heavy flow and fold completely out allowing them to dry quickly.

For the persons who think this discussion is gross, picture a landfill full of dirty pads ... nuff said.

I also found you after checking out reviews on washable pads. Keep up the good work.

Peace.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 15th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this! I have been searching for environmentally responsible alternatives to conventional pads for a while, but had trouble finding good, positive reviews on the reusable cloth pads. You answered all the questions I ever had (and then some I didn't know I had!) and have definitely convinced me to make the switch. If nothing else, it'll save me a few dollars next month.

Thank you for providing such a frank and thorough review of something that more women really do need to become aware of!!
thenakedcat
Sep. 15th, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
You're more than welcome! I just wanted to get the word out and it has made me so happy to see that there's an audience for this. May I ask, if it's not too personally revealing, how you found this page, Anonymouse? I'd just like to know who is linking to my journal to thank them.
pzam
Oct. 10th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
someone else
you're the first result in a google search for "cloth menstrual pad reviews".

thank you!
(Anonymous)
Jun. 24th, 2010 05:17 am (UTC)
Just Ordered Some!
So I just found out about these today and I was like whhhaaattt??? I gotta try 'em!

I have my share of vag issues so I want to see if cloth pads/liners help in any way. So my #1 problem is that I sweat...like a man...everywhere. I'm wondering if cloth liners will help wick the moisture away on a daily basis. Also, Candida albicans is like my homie. So there are plenty of periods where I can't even wear tampons. I'm not worried about protection since my periods are rather light and short. Any other product recommendations? Has anyone used the panties?

A.R.
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