The Products We Use When We Bleed Matter.
Our menstrual blood makes big money for businesses like Tampax, Always, Playtex, P&G, Kotex and O.B. These companies thrive off our menstruation and do so with no concern for our health. Their products contain chlorine bleach, dioxin, rayon, dyes and synthetics - all toxic chemicals and known cancer causing agents. This is especially concerning when you know that the vagina is the single most absorbent portion of the body.
Whereas organic cotton tampons use hydrogen peroxide (a naturally occurring disinfectant), these mainstream products use chlorine bleach to whiten and disinfect raw materials - the cheaper option. Dioxin is then produced as a byproduct of this process. Studies show dioxin collects in the fatty tissues of the vagina and has been linked to abnormal tissue and cell growth, cancer, endometriosis and is disruptive to the endocrine system. Additionally, when these products are used, small parts of the tampon fibers can break off and stay in the vaginal canal, which have led to bacteria infections and less commonly, Toxic Shock Syndrome. Currently, the FDA doesn’t require menstrual product manufacturers to disclose ingredients or conduct testing to determine their products’ long-term effects on our bodies. Essentially, these companies are unregulated and so their harmful practices are protected.
Perhaps equally damaging is the way these companies perpetuate a culture of shame and disassociation around menstruation. I grew up seeing these companies run ads using blue liquid in place of blood with women in white outfits playing sports, while referring to their products as feminine ‘hygiene’ products. The message I took from this as a young girl was that 1. my blood was dirty and socially unacceptable, 2. when I am menstruating, I should pretend as if I’m not, and 3. I need these products to serve as ‘protection’ against my own body.
This narrative contributed hugely to my developing relationship with my body and cycle. Through the practice of menstrual cycle awareness, I’ve been able to dismantle this way of relating, though sometimes it still rears its head. I now see the bleeding time as sacred. I see it as a powerful opportunity for self-reflection, creativity and insight. Honoring this space I have access to once a month has become a central practice of my life.
If you are not already using organic cotton products, please consider doing so. This is a simple way of taking our power back. Going a step further, if you are using a tampon with an applicator, I would encourage you to buy ones without. Applicators act as a barrier and suggest that we are uncomfortable with touching ourselves. There are also beautiful sustainable options like the menstrual cup, reusable pads and period underwear. On average, menstruators throw away 250-300 pounds of tampons, pads and applicators in their lifetime, which give us some insight into the burden our environment bears from this collective practice of disposable menstrual products.
As our blood is very nutrient dense and stem-cell rich, it nourishes the walls of the vagina as it flows down and out. For this reason, and to support the downward movement of matter and energy that is happening at this time, I recommend using products that allow for this process to happen- i.e. ones that do not rest inside of you. My personal favorite is period underwear. They’re sustainable, comfy and supportive of my flow. One practice I recommend trying when you have the space to: wear a long dress or skirt you don’t mind getting blood on or buy one secondhand and wear while bleeding. There is something truly healing and powerful about allowing your blood to flow unhindered.
I don’t believe there is one right way to bleed. But I do believe in the importance of bleeding sustainably - in ways that consider the health of our body and Earth. Menstruation is the fundamental process that allows for life’s continuity. It is more than deserving of our respect. One way we practice this is by being our own protector when it comes to the choices we make for our blood.