by Deirdre O’Donnell
As a young woman in her college years in the middle of an economic struggle, I feel that information regarding healthy and cost-efficient alternatives for menstrual care are rather hard to come by. I spend a lot of time seeking out magazine articles, advertisements, zines, books, and websites that have an abundance of information on this topic, and I have put together a little bundle of tips and new ideas for those out there on the rag!
Firstly, let’s talk about alleviating cramps. The best way to avoid cramps is by preventing them from happening or becoming severe. Instead of (or in addition to, if you find necessary) using pain killers from the convenience store, one thing that can be done is a diet change. Although many people crave salt just before, during or after their period, salt is one thing that can intensify cramps, as can processed foods such as white bread, and it is recommended that the individual lower their intake of these foods. In addition, foods high in vitamin A (oranges, spinach, and other greens), vitamin B6 (soy, green veggies, nutritional yeast), potassium (bananas, oranges, carrots, potatoes), and calcium (broccoli, almonds, seaweed, oatmeal) are also recommended for alleviating cramps. Another way to alleviate cramps is to exercise. Going for a jog, power walk, bike ride, or doing floor exercises that stretch the abdominal muscles are all ways of reducing tension. Hot compresses or baths can also help relax the muscles to reduce tension, as can having an orgasm! What is a better excuse to masturbate, have sex (however you define it), go buy yourself a new, safe sex toy, or even make your own with a cucumber and a condom? Be creative, and make yourself happy. Every person is different, and so are their tricks for menstrual relief, if it’s necessary at all!
Personally, I have a nine day period and severe cramps, but one thing I changed that actually helped was my menstrual devices. I have used a variety of tampons in my life, usually supers because I have a very heavy flow, and I still was always very uncomfortable. I had to change them every three hours, felt cramped up in my abdomen, and never wanted to get off the couch. Now, tampons might be great for you! This is only an account of my personal experience, and again, all of our bodies are very diverse. When I switched to the Diva Cup, I found that my cramps decreased tremendously. It felt less like something foreign, like a thick piece of stiff cotton inside me. I felt more flexible and breathable, and was more comfortable leaving it in for my full, hectic days running all over campus and trying to exercise in between. The point is, there are so many products out there that we have to seek out because their businesses are not marketed in the mainstream that we see on MTV and is so accessible to us. There are products out there that may be better for your body, your wallet, and the environment! Menstruation can be something simple, that we can experiment with and play with and see what works best for us, so I have also provided a rundown of various menstrual products/devices.
In addition to the pharmacy bought brands of pads, tampons, and pantiliners, there are also organic equivalents to these products that do not contain harmful bleaches/chlorine that can be absorbed by the vagina. These brands often do not have applicators, and if they do they are probably cardboard for health and eco-friendly reasons. They range from about 3-10 dollars a package, approximately, and they are disposable just like the non-organic brands. There are also brands of pads that are made from fabric, that are washable/re-usable and made in designs you can pick out to match your personality or mood. There are generally cotton inserts and various covers that come with the pads. They come in different sets of all different price ranges. These brand names are GladRags and Lunapads, and their websites are provided below. Other alternatives are known as Diva Cups, Moon Cups and Keepers.
All of these devices are menstrual cups that are worn inside the vagina and are flexible, and act as catchers of blood leaving the cervical opening, known as the oz. They can be changed far less often than pads or tampons, and have a lower risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, as well. They generally cost between 25 and 45 dollars, and are sold online and in health food stores. They come in various sizes, depending on if they have given childbirth or not, and come in silicone and latex form. Their websites are also provided below. The final alternative is a sea sponge to be inserted into the vagina and collect blood. These are often sold in drugstores in the cosmetic section but can also be purchased online. These may be rinsed out under faucets and habitually cleaned with vinegar, and can last 3-6 months if well taken care of. They can be purchased for very little money, often only a few dollars in pharmacies or beauty supply stores. As you can see, there are many different products to choose from to prevent bleeding on our clothes and school desks or wincing in pain on the ground, and they are made for all different types of people, different lifestyles and different incomes. This way, you can have a happy period – really.