As the stigma around menstruation is slowly but surely decreasing, a lot of menstruators today have turned towards using reusable sanitary products in India. Though the shift is visible, the misconceptions regarding menstruation continue to bombard. Most of these misbeliefs shun other menstrual products that are in fact healthier for both the body and the environment and highlight plastic pads as the only period product that is practical and should be widely used.
According to statistics, one disposable pad is made up of ninety percent plastic, which is equivalent to almost four plastic bags. On average, a menstruator uses 15-20 pads per month, depending on their cycle and flow, resulting in up to 100 plastic bags or more per month. Disposable pads also don’t offer a very comfy, light feel as they are extremely itchy and cause several skin problems such as burns, infections, and rashes due to the amount of plastic and chemicals laced into them.
There are many reasons why disposable pads are preferred to more sustainable period products like menstrual cups and cloth pads. Manufacturing companies mostly lean towards disposable pads as they are a more commercial product and menstruators need to buy a pack every month. Due to this, disposable pads are also heavily advertised.
The stigma around menstruation makes people shy away from trying other menstrual products. Many people are skeptical of products like menstrual cups and tampons because they are to be inserted into the vagina, which is an extremely new and unfamiliar concept in India. One more barrier is that menstrual practices are passed down through generations. If one menstruator is using disposable pads, it is highly likely that they will teach the same to their menstruating children or siblings.
Reusable cloth pads are heavily stigmatized, as many believe that they lead to infections and are unhygienic. In reality, cloth pads are extremely easy on the skin and safe to use. They don’t itch, as they do not block sweat or moisture and are soft. High-quality cloth pads are made up of organic cotton, which is safe for the environment too. The only area where people falter is maintenance. Cloth pads just need to be washed in the same way as underwear. Cloth pads may seem unusually expensive, but in the long run, they are also more cost-effective than disposable pads.
Menstrual cups are mostly infamous due to the fear of the unprecedented concept of having to insert them, relating them directly to a menstruator’s virginity and not health and wellbeing. Despite so much resistance, the feedback from menstrual cup users is surprising and optimistic.
One menstrual cup can last for more than 10 years. Menstruators also say that they feel as if they are not wearing or using any kind of device. Surprisingly, rural menstruators have been very accepting of menstrual cups, as they are subjected to more physical labor and also because they don’t need to worry about their pad supply running out or not being handy when needed. Menstrual cups can be used for almost eight hours at a time, but clinical tests show that the cup can even be used for up to 24 hours without causing any issues.
Products such as these are one of the best chances a menstruator has at reducing period waste and practicing a safer, healthier, and more sustainable menstruation.
However, changing traditional menstrual practices to more unconventional ones is a seismic shift, and every menstruator should talk about it with their gynaecologists or at least do research before taking that step. Menstruation should first be about comfort, keeping environmental factors in mind.
Photo credits: Cliff Booth
Written by: Harshaali Jejurkar
Edited by :Prahlad Madhu