How to have a mindful, sustainable and plastic-free period.
When I first saw the little pool of blood in my panties age 13, I’m not going to lie I was pretty confused even though I knew this would happen to my body eventually. I was lucky that I grew up in a pretty progressive household, which meant I could talk openly to my mother about it and she explained why this was happening and how to use a panty liner and a tampon without there being awkwardness. My dad brought home a bunch of white lilies for me that evening when returning from work with a note saying ‘congratulations on becoming a woman’ - yes, I know, he’s the sweetest #daddysgirl.
So after that I knew this was going to be a monthly recurrence and I have probably complained about the nuisance of it more times than I care to admit aged 14-18. In school I was vaguely taught about the biological process behind it, but that never really came without the ‘ik factor’ and screeches coming out of the boys corner. Some girls in my school had very strong cramps and literally couldn’t move out of bed the first few days of their periods, a few struggled with it’s regularity and others, like me, were super lucky to have minimal symptoms and a regular cycle. My symptoms are usually extreme fatigue the day before and on first day of my period (during stressful times I get some cramps). Not too bad.
However, I never really understood the magic of a period. It was something I had and simply needed to deal with. It wasn’t until this year, when my mom and sister gave me the book Period Power by Maisie Hill as a gift - very rarely has a book changed my life this much. Suddenly I had more respect for what my body than I had ever had. From the structure of the vulva, demystifying the hormones, explaining the wet patch in your knickers and the different phases of the cycle (she categorises the phases into Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) to social issues like period poverty and period leave - this book is a MUST READ for any menstruating person (people of all gender identities can have a menstrual cycle). Really really highly recommend you read this, because we don’t even know the half of it when it comes to our periods - or at least I didn’t! Now I find myself going back and forth in the book, underlining important passages and really noticing all my bodily functions as part of a cycle (a lot of it finally makes sense!). I take my temperature and I write down my moods, I check other indicators and make my cycle work for me.
I just had to share this fantastic book with you, but there is a couple other things about periods I wanted to get into. The plastic factor - did you know that conventional menstrual pads are made form 90% plastic and tampons contain plastic too? According to the Marine Conservation Society for every 100m of beach, around 4 pads, panty-liners and backing strips, along with at least one tampon and applicator are found. There is however a lot of plastic-free and even waste-free products available on the market now. I have been using one and the same menstrual cup for the past two years now and absolutely love it. It’s made from a natural, medical grade silicone and is super convenient because you can leave it in for up to 12 hours simply empty it into the toilet, rinse with soap and water and put it back in. After every period you then boil it in hot water for 10 minutes and store it until next time. I absolutely love this system because I ‘change’ it only mornings and evenings and it doesn’t become an inconvenience during the day or while travelling. You produce zero waste and it’s so much cheaper - I paid £20 for my cup and have used it for two years already, you do the math!! I have recently also invested in a pair of period underwear which is basically normal underwear with a pad sewn into them which gets cleaned when you wash them. I’ve mostly been wearing that on the last days of my period where I have very little flow and don’t necessarily need my cup. I don’t wear it on days with heavy flow as I don’t love feeling the wetness, which you also feel wearing pads - but that’s just a personal preference. For anyone not super into these options there is also reusable pads which you can wash in your machine, bamboo pads and organic cotton tampons with a reusable applicator.