Here are some sites to look at if you are interested in feminine care products that don’t use disposable plastics or bleach:
http://manymoonsalternatives.com (pads, diva cups)
I’ve considered making my own, and now may be the time, since I’m over fifty, and I’ve been doing this for many years now, and maybe I’m just tired of throwing away money on a natural process like this. As one young woman said to me in the personal-care aisle of the store, “It’s hard enough being a woman! Why does it have to be so expensive?”
Personally, if I had a heavy flow, I’d probably choose a commercial product for those days, and use a washable product the other days. I’ve never tried a Diva cup – I have reason to think it would not be a good choice for me. (This is a reusable internal “catcher” – many women love them as actually more convenient than the usual products.)
I truly dislike that tampons, as useful as they are in some circumstances, have at least some nylon in them, rely on bleached fillers (excuse me!) and often come in a plastic applicator – which ends up in trash, which ends up dumped somewhere, and ends up washing into waterways. Plastic applicators were so common on the beaches of Chesapeake Bay that we called them “beach whistles.” It is possible to hunt down all-cotton, non-bleached alternatives, but again – cotton is an expensive fibre to produce, and we are just throwing it away. (Some cities have composting programmes for menstrual products, but like all protein composting, this requires higher heat tha the average composter.)
Now, let’s be sensible here. Our female ancestors didn’t have a lot of periods in their lifetimes. They got pregnant, nursed babies when they weren’t (and sometimes when they were) and their fertility cycles were farther apart. Because we don’t get pregnant as early or as often, and most women don’t nurse their children for more than a few months, ours are monthly. So we try to suppress that fertility with birth control, and we try to manage the sloughing off of the uterine lining. This is not “bleeding” in the technical sense, as it is uncirculated blood.
Maybe we have too many periods, or we don’t manage them well. Girls reach puberty and first menses younger and younger. This may be related to diet or even estrogen-like compounds in water as well as food. It might be part of a natural genetic cycle that pushes our girls to maturity faster when food supplies are high. It certainly needs more research and consideration.
Keeping our daughters on a natural foods diet, and avoiding excess weight gain will probably help delay menstruation. Our children now eat too much fat, and are too sedentary. Fat produces estrogen. So using a low-animal fat diet, lots of whole grains and organic vegetables and milk products (especially milk products) may slow down the rapid maturation of North American girls. It might help prevent estrogen-related cancers.
As for ourselves – there are ways to prevent heavy periods. Keeping body fat low and gaining muscle will help a lot to balance the estrogen levels. One thing more women need to do is cut back on stressful activities. DON’T multitask all day, every day! (By this I mean have too many distractors in front of you – computer, phone, cell phone, book, paper to read…) Driving is very stressful – if you can cut your work commute or the hours spent shopping or carrying kids to activities, do so. Give yourself a “down” day just before your period starts. Get off your feet for a while -stay out of the gym, cut back on that long daily walk, have someone else cook. While regular exercise is necessary to keep a good cycle and to keep weight gain away, it can be stressful on top of all the other stressors.
Find some herbal teas that work for you. Chamomile is good, and there are many proprietary blends on the market for women. Avoid caffeine and sugar.
This is all common sense advice – but if you are having heavy periods, you definitely need some rest. This was the best advice a midwife gave me when I had trouble about fifteen years ago and I was facing a hysterectomy. Get off your feet! Literally, she meant – I had to take three days off work and go to bed. I’ve kept that advice since if my period starts heavy. Nicholas will insist that I get into bed, elevate my feet, and let him do things. (Not always successfully, mind- but you can live on peanut butter sandwiches for a while.) You may think “I haven’t got time…” but I would advice you to find it. Don’t be a martyr over your period.
The menstrual separation laws of some older cutltures were not to punish the women or keep the men “clean.” That was just the excuse. Because women’s periods came more rarely, they were moved to a special place for rest and care. Older women cooked for them, family members did the household chores. It was like a spiritual retreat for some. I think this is a marvelous idea.
I really think we need some honest discussion amongst woemn about birth control itself, as well. The hormone-based birth control spills into the water system as urine, and may be causing all sorts of problems. Barrier methods are – well, messy, inconvenient and often disposable and nonrecyclable. (There’s an ehw factor involved.) Other methods are invasive (IUDs) and may cause complications like heavy periods or infections. The natural methods require a “normal” cycle, counting days and a good deal of self-restraint at times. (If you are young and in love, that may be too much to ask, as we all know.) There are herbs that can help suppress ovulation, but their efficacy and safety are unproven. I’m going out on a limb here, but part of the discussion has to be the push to lower population levels worldwide. What does that mean? Why is that a hot issue? Who is behind all this? (As we say in America, “Follow the money.”) Even if we are not feminists in a political sense, have we bought into Betty Friedan’s critique of the “feminine mystique?”
We don’t discuss women’s health care and the spirituality of our lives as wives, mothers and caregivers in a Christian context. Women end up looking to the neopagans for these things, which won’t help in the long run, really. Why can’t we face the fact that women are different, have different needs, physically and spiritually, and the church is a place where we could be supporting each other in that?
Would your church be willing to sponsor a women’s health care group or seminar that focusses on wellness? We seem to be willing to go all-out on breast cancer, to the point where it is a bit of a cult. Why aren’t we addressing the health of women (and children and men) on a daily basis, in a truthful and realistic way?