Let’s talk about periods when you can’t use disposable sanitary towels…

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Yup, we are talking about periods today. Sorry, not sorry. It’s kind of a fact of life, that women have periods, it’s biology. I don’t often go into the realms of “TMI” on the blog, but I am hoping this will give you a bit of a practical insight into a part of life we still view as taboo. 

You see, I am allergic to disposable sanitary products. The stuff you buy in your local pharmacy or supermarket, in the pretty packets, that are thin, claim to be leak proof, keep you fresh and dry? They bring me out in a raging rash, with hives, and make me HORRIBLY itchy. Having an allergic reaction to anything isn’t pleasant, but when it’s in a personal area, it’s pretty hideous. 

After I had the tween, and was dealing with post partum bleeding, I really struggled. Post partum bleeding lasts longer than the normal bleeding of a menstrual cycle, and can be heavier. Once you get past the stage of needing the super thick pads they recommend to use for the first few days, you need a regular supply of sanitary towels, until your bleeding stops. For me, this was just over a month, on and off. Wearing the usual commercial sanitary towels, was frankly agony, as I not only was recovering from birth, dealing with hormones, learning to breastfeed (and all the glamorous things that entails, leaky, sore boobs etc) but I was raw, itch and sore down below thanks to those pads with wings and chemicals that absorb everything. 

My health visitor, was incredibly helpful, when I spoke to her at my six week check up and complained about the itchiness. She suggested washable sanitary pads. (at this point we were also looking at venturing into the world of cloth nappies as well, so whilst I was a little dubious, I figured it couldn’t hurt to look) 

At the time, it wasn’t that easy to find washable cloth sanitary pads in the UK, and they were very expensive. (this was 11 years ago, they are much easier to find here now) so I looked online at options in the USA and found several brands that seemed popular. I ordered a few to try, and when they arrived and I tried them, I was a convert and never looked back.

So, you are probably reading this and going “ew” and “why would you want to wear those?” and “but how do you wash them?” and “how unsanitary” but read on. 

Cloth pads are made of multi layers of soft cloth, usually bamboo or hemp is my personal preference. They are shaped like the disposable pads you buy, and they fit snugly. They are absorbant and soft, and feel comfortable. They do need to be changed a little more often than disposable pads, and it does take a little planning to use them regularly (but as we were using cloth nappies, this didn’t phase me) and of course, you do have to wash them.

This is the current brand I use, from Earth Wise

There are a few tricks to using washable pads, that make them work. You need enough to last for the days of your cycle when you need them. Initially this can be an expense, but if you look around you can find sites that sell them for a reasonable price, or you can look at home businesses who make them and sell them. (supporting local small businesses making products is always a good thing) or you can even contact some companies and they will send you a trial pack at a discount price. You will need to remember that you can’t throw them away, when you change them. At home, I have a waterproof bag, that I put the soiled pads in, and when i am out, I carry a small wash bag that fits in my bag, to store the used ones, to take home. 

To wash them, I found for me, the best way was to soak them in cold water with a scoop of salt, then wash them on a hot cycle in my machine. Don’t use fabric softener, like with cloth  nappies, it can affect the absorbency. Occasionally I give them an extra wash with some Napisan, to remove stains, and freshen them up. 

I find they last me about 2 years before they need replacing. 

The pros to cloth pads are

Kinder to skin, less chemicals, better for the environment (more on that below) and they do save you money in the long run. 

The down sides are

You do have to wash them (not an issue really but something to factor in) you do need to change them more often and plan to carry spares and the soiled ones. 

Why else do I like them, other than because they don’t make me itchy and sore?

Well, they are pretty, and comfortable. 

They also are better for the environment, even when you factor in washing them. Disposable sanitary towels contain plastic and chemicals that basically sit in landfill and don’t break down. Even the more environmentally friendly ones are not that great for the planet, and also they are less absorbent than cloth pads. Given that I use sanitary items monthly, and for a few more years at least, and have used them since the tween was tiny, I do feel it’s done something on my part to reduce my waste contribution to the world. 

I don’t use them when travelling, I will be honest. If I am on holiday and can’t do laundry, then I prefer to buy the eco friendly disposable pads, and use them. If I go somewhere where I have access to a washing machine, I will take my cloth pads. 

But what about tampons and moon cups, you ask? Surely they are less gross and don’t need washing?

Ok, so I am going to go a bit TMI here. Sorry. 

When the tween was born, I suffered from some rather awful internal damage, during her birth that required surgical repair, months of specialist gynecological physiotherapy to help recover and I have scar tissue and damage there that has healed but will never go away. I cannot use tampons or moon cups. The scar tissue I have doesn’t allow me to wear them, they are uncomfortable. So I can’t. Also, tampons are again not that great for the environment, so I am happy not to use them. 

So, pads it is, for me, and re usable ones. It works for me. It may not work for everyone, and is of course something of a lifestyle adjustment. But I have no regrets, and they appeal to the slight inner hippy in me, too. 

So that’s it, we can stop talking about periods (for now, I plan to share about dealing with talking about periods and sex with a tweenager in a few weeks) 

Have you ever tried cloth pads and did you like or dislike them? What do you like/not like about them? Would you consider trying them?

*this post is not sponsored or paid. The brand mentioned is one I happen to like  and use so linked to for informational purposes*


A Green and Rosie Life
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One comment on “Let’s talk about periods when you can’t use disposable sanitary towels…
  1. This is such an interesting post. Thank you. I’ve been toying with the idea of going cloth for a little while now for the economy factor (childbirth damage leaves a moon cup out of the question for me too). This has given me a lot to think about!

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