Tampons and menstrual pads have a huge ecological impact. They are made from petrolium derived products, they are chemically treated and they end up in landfills, incinerators or wastewater by the ton. The bleaching and manufacturing process uses big amounts water and energy. Some figures:
In 1999, about 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads, and 700,000 pantyliners were flushed down the toilet daily.(1) In the US and Canada alone, more than 12 billion pads and tampons are tossed annually. The average woman throws away between 10,000 and 15,000 tampons, pads, and applicators over her lifetime. (2)Aside from it's environmental impact, there's also the toxicity of menstrual supplies. everyone's heard about Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is a rare bacterial infection. They can also trigger allergies. But most of us don't realize that tampons are bleached using chemicals, mainly chlorine dioxide. The FDA's cautious stance on this is that chlorine dioxide, though elementally chlorine free, can still "theoretically generate dioxins at extremely low levels,"(2). When you use a tampon made of rayon, the process to transform wood into rayon uses hundreds of different chemicals, some residue is bound to linger on. Furthermore, even though they are individually wrapped, they are not sterile (and you are inserting them inside your body). If you research the topic, you will find that there is great dispute to how many illnesses may be caused or influenced by tampons, but the fact that there is dispute should already make you wary. Better safe than sorry.
Commercial menstrual pads aren't harmless either, they can be the cause of chronic vulvar itching and irritation, caused by the chemicals in the pad and the chafing of the skin from contact with the pad.
Menstrual blood in itself is not irritating to the vulva, even if in contact for 48 hours.
Knowing all this, I set out to green my period too. And as a very welcome side-effect, reduce the amount of stock I had to have, since getting your shopping done here in Congo is rather tricky and very irregular to say the least.
I bought a trial pack of cloth pads of different shapes and sizes at a mom-owned handmade store I also bought some cloth diapers from, and I also got the DivaCup. I have yet to use the pads, as I didn't have washing facilities at my disposal during my last period, but I did use the Divacup.
|Image: Mama's & Kindjes|
There isn't a lot too it and certainly nothing to be afraid of. The DivaCup comes with a multi-language manual where everything is neatly explained, and if that isn't enough, you can find a lot of support online.
Basically all you do is insert it with one of the described techniques and rinse it with a neutral soap every time you need to change it.
It said that you only have to change it a couple times a day, but as I tend to pee rather often, I found myself rinsing every time I went too the bathroom (at least I got to practice my skills).
A neat thing about it is that you discover how much you bleed, which for me was a huge amount, much more then the leaflet said (my daily flow was what they predicted for an entire period).
When inserted correctly, you don't feel the DivaCup at all, and you can wear it at night, in the bath... You don't need additional pads or liners (but I would suggest using them in your learning phase, as things can get a little messy when you're still trying).
Overall, it was a big success and I would recommend it to everyone. it isn't any more 'dirty' or 'icky' or whatever then using a tampon, it reduces the amount of stuff you have to carry along when you're flowing and it's a one time investment (which you will have won back after three or four periods).
An alternative to the DivaCup is the Lunette, made in Finland,which I haven't tried myself.
(1)Recycling and Waste Reduction Statistics
(2)The Environmental Magazine, The Hidden Price of Feminine Hygiene Products