Shortly after I got married I read some things on the dangers of conventional feminine hygiene products and started to buy organic cotton ones. I noticed right away a difference and continued using them up until a little while back when the place I got them from stopped carrying them. I went back to conventional and just plugged through with them for a few months before I realized I needed to make a change. I began to research again why I even should go natural in this area and some more alternative options. I realized this was something I needed to post about! I realize this is kind of a personal topic and can be a little awkward to read, but it is a really important one to consider for the sake of your health and your daughters, nieces and granddaughters so I hope you will stick with me as I share a little about the dangers hidden in these products and some easy and great ways to go natural.
Let’s take a look at some of the contents found in pads and tampons.
-Plastic: Plastic contributes to the growth of bacteria which can lead to yeast infections and excessive bacteria build up. BPA and BPS which are found in plastic have been studied for the possibility that they can disrupt embryonic development and lead to heart disease or cancer. One sanitary pad can contain as much plastic as four grocery bags. If a woman uses 4 pads a day for 5 days that is the equivalent of about 80 grocery bags in one period. That can add up to a lot of plastic exposure over the years not to mention how bad throwing these away can be to the environment!
-Dioxin: Dioxin is a chemical known as one of the “dirty dozen” by the World Health Organization and is considered a persistent organic pollutant. It is actually a banned toxin and considered to be carcinogenic (something that can cause cancer). The way it is found in pads is due to the bleaching process. Feminine hygiene products contain rayon which is bleached to create the white clean look. This combination produces dioxin and the testing of pads and tampons have shown them to contain this dangerous chemical. Dioxin exposure can lead to cancer and once a person is exposed it can remain in the body for up to 20 years after exposure storing in the fatty tissues of the body and there is no safe level of exposure to dioxin. Along with cancer, dioxin exposure has been linked to abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs, immune system suppression, hormonal and endocrine disruption, abnormal cell growth in the body and endometriosis.
Phthalates (or DEHP): This is a chemical used to make plastic more flexible and has been studied for its possible link to disrupting gene expression as well as multiple organ damage.
Pesticides: Because feminine hygiene products also contain conventional cotton there can be high levels of pesticides found on them as well. Cotton is one of the most highly sprayed agricultural products as well as being genetically modified. These pesticide residues can remain on the cotton and then be absorbed into your system.
Odor Neutralizers and Fragrances: Synthetic odor neutralizers and fragrances can be harmful to the body and are considered to be possible carcinogens as well as disruptive to the endocrine system.
Others chemicals: These are the main few but there are also multiple other banned chemicals that are detected in trace amounts in these products as well as adhesives, polyethylene and artificial colors.
Harm to Our Bodies:
So these chemicals have been linked to so many harmful things in the body let’s just recap these as well as the other things that these little chemical bombs have been studied for:
-Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
-Disruption of the endocrine system
-Excessive bacteria and yeast growth
-Toxic Shock Syndrome (A syndrome specifically linked to tampons due to their encouragement of excessive bacteria build up. This can be deadly.)
-Immune system suppression
-Abnormal cell growth throughout the body
-Birth defects, disrupting embryonic development and increased risk of miscarriage
-Link to heart disease
-Specific potential risk of cervical, ovary and breast cancer
-Possibility of encouraging longer and more severe cycles with increased discomfort!
These dangers of feminine hygiene products is seen as so high that a bill was even introduced at one point to suggest more research be done to the links between the use of these products to cervical, ovary and breast cancer. This bill was dismissed though and never looked into.
It seems that these things are especially important to consider if we look at some of the common things that women in our time struggle with. Cysts, cancer, fertility problems, painful cycles, endocrine and hormonal imbalances and heart disease are becoming very common problems in our day and age. Switching to natural options is not only easy but there are multiple options out there so each women can decide what works best for her and can then avoid exposure to these dangerous chemicals each month.
Why do we not know about these?
Basically the FDA has categorized feminine hygiene products as “medical devices”. When something is placed in that category the manufacturer is not required to disclose the ingredients. When Andrea Donsky founder of Naturally Savvy contacted the company that makes Always pads to find out the ingredients she was simply told they contained foam and a product called infinicel. However pads and tampons have been studied and tested and while we don’t have a detailed list of ingredients these products have been shown to contain these dangerous chemicals.
How can these chemicals even get into our system?
It may seem strange that these chemicals can even get into our system since we don’t consume pads or tampons. While we definitely wouldn’t think of consuming these toxic chemicals, how can they effect us at all through our skin or vaginal area?
The skin is a direct line to the bloodstream so applying things externally can actually be more dangerous than consumption since it bypasses the natural defenses of the digestive tract and directly enters the bloodstream. Not only that but the skin around and in the vaginal area is highly permeable so they are likely to enter the bloodstream faster and in larger concentration. In addition tampons can cause micro tears which can encourage further bacteria accumulation and even more access for the chemicals to be absorbed.
So now that you might want to make a change, what are the alternatives?
I’m glad you asked! There are a few great alternatives out there! I will share below the most common options and share any experience I have with the ones I have used.
Menstrual cups are small silicone cups that are directly inserted into the vaginal cavity. They sit low so do not bother the cervix and because that area is made to be flexible they are not known to cause any damage as the body flexes to accommodate the cup and then relaxes back into place when it is removed. They are made of high grade silicone so do not contain any latex and shouldn’t cause any allergic reactions or discomfort. They also are not known to encourage bacteria or yeast growth. Because they are smooth silicon they generally do not lead to micro tears either.
These cups are gently inserted and then are removed and emptied. It is generally recommended that they are emptied at least twice a day and are known to be fine throughout the night whereas tampons are not recommended to leave inserted all night long.
I have used a menstrual cup and found it to work great. I found it a little awkward to use at first, but if you are used to tampons you may not find it awkward at all. Once you get used to it though I found them to work very well.
There are two size options, size 1 being recommended for women under 30 who have not given birth and size 2 for women over 30 who have given birth vaginally or by cesarean. You can find more information and answers to questions on the Diva Cup website. You can also purchase them there or on Amazon.
Organic Cotton Pads and Tampons
There are multiple brands that offer disposable pads and tampons that are made of organic cotton and do not contain the other additives or bleaching. These pads and tampons work just like conventional ones without the hidden hazards.
I have used organic cotton pads regularly and have found them to be just as absorbent as conventional ones as well as being comfortable and not bulky. These are my favorite choice for a disposable option such as when I am going to be out all day or for convenience. The only brand I have personally used is Natracare and they offer multiple pad sizes as well as pantyliners and tampons.
Here are a few options:
Cloth pads may sound a little weird at first, but since it is probably what women used for ages before conventional pads came out, it is definitely worth looking into!
Cloth pads are basically just like disposable pads only they are made of fabric and are washed and reused. There are multiple places that you can purchase them, Glad Rags being a well known source for these pads. While this is initially a pricier route it pays off in the long run since they are washable and reusable. They are also more gentle on the environment since you aren’t disposing of them.
This is a newer option to me that I decided to start exploring as I was preparing this post. The initial investment in cloth pads was definitely worth it but was a little out of my budget to purchase enough right now to cover a whole cycle. So I began to explore the option of making my own. I discovered that they are super easy to put together and while it still requires a little investment in material, they were way easier on my budget than purchasing pre-made ones. I will be getting a post up soon with a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own so stay tuned if you are interested in this route!
I found the cloth pads to feel a little bulkier than normal pads but were so comfortable in other ways as they just felt like soft underwear. I was surprised by how absorbent they were and am definitely excited to make more. You simply want a trash can or other container with a lid near the potty. You can then place your pads in there or even have them pre-soaking in cold water if they are heavily soiled. You then just run them through a washing machine load by themselves and dry and store for your next cycle.
There are multiple different options for purchasing cloth pads including organic, day pads, night pads and pantyliners. I will just include a couple links here which will hopefully get you started. I will add in a link for the post on how to make your own as soon as it is up!
You can also go directly to their site to watch for sales and specials!
These are all three great options and work well to meet these needs during our cycles without exposing ourselves to these harmful and dangerous chemicals. I am grateful to have found these options for myself and for my girls when they reach this stage of life. I hope this helps to get you started in going natural in this area and finding the option that will best suit your needs!