Living an environment friendly life is one of the top priorities of millennials. Millenials realize that they must care for the world they live in as much as they care for themselves. In fact they realize that just caring for themselves is no longer a viable option. They realize that to love themselves – they must love the environment. As parents of millenials – as our teenagers attain puberty and take their first steps into the adult world, it is important that we support them in their endeavor to save the environment by helping them choose personal hygiene products that will not damage the environment by ending up in landfills.
Fortunately, to handhold us as we choose and use environment friendly products for menstrual hygiene are individuals like Luvena Una Rangel and Priyanka Jain. Both women are crusaders for the environment and also for chemical free, healthy living. And they champion the use of menstrual cups and cloth pads right from the time teenage girls begin their periods.
In this article Luvena starts by introducing menstrual cups for teenage girls and Priyanka wraps it up with a guide on how to choose and use cloth pads.
About Luvena Una Rangel
Luvena Rangel is a Holistic Health Practitioner and one of Bangalore’s leading Yoga Anatomy and Wellness Educators. She is the founder of The Curvy Yogi and educates yoga teachers in health sciences as well as in Ayurvedic Lifestyle, Meditation and Inclusive and Accessible Yoga. She is an alumnus with Honors of the American College of Healthcare Sciences in Holistic Health and comes with a keen sense on environmental awareness and individual responsibility.
About Priyanka Jain
Priyanka is a firm believer of “Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” She is the founder of hygieneandyou.com – a website that promotes sustainable living by building awareness about eco-friendly menstrual hygiene practices. The site provides answers to all your questions about sustainable menstrual hygiene practices. She conducts awareness sessions in Delhi-NCR. Through her YouTube channels in multiple languages, she aims to reach the masses and educate them about importance of women’s health along with smart, sustainable products – menstrual cups, cloth pads, period panty, labia pads. She has her own brand – SOCH Reusable Menstrual Hygiene Products (www.sochgreen.com). She is a member of pan India campaign – GreenTheRed (www.greenthered.in) – a volunteer collective of individual eco warriors promoting sustainable menstruation
How to choose the right menstrual cup for your teenage daughter – a guide by Luvena Una Rangel
As we move into more conscious choices for living, it is quite natural for our children to also lean towards making more aware ones – not only around matters of public concern and interest but also for their own individual preferences and needs. Personal hygiene and product choices present an array of sustainable options for us to choose from and as conscious parents, it helps us to assist our daughters in making an educated and aware selection for their menstrual needs – not only because it seems to be the politically correct discussion to have these days, but also because sustainable menstruation is one the kindest conversations we can have with our children to co-create a cleaner planet. Of course, the conversation by itself holds the potential to open up doors for better, deeper and more trusting communication and understanding between parents and their teens.
Amidst the many sustainable menstrual hygiene products available today as options from disposable pads and tampons that only add to the landfill problem our planet faces, one product that stands out distinctly is the menstrual cup which has been steadily gaining popularity in urban India and is advocated by a number of doctors and health educators as a device worth choosing.
What is a menstrual cup?
It is a small bell-shaped soft, flexible device with a small stem or knob, made of medical grade silicone that is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid (blood and uterine lining). The cup is removed, by tugging on the stem or knob, every 6 to 8 hours to empty its contents, rinsed and reinserted to continue using throughout the menstruating days. This makes the product reusable, with a lifetime of about 10 to 12 years!
Now, I understand that as Indian parents, some of us may be culturally spooked by the idea of having our newly menstruating daughter insert something into her vagina, with concerns over losing her virginity. The practical fact is that some girls may tear their hymen a little when inserting the cup, but that can also happen naturally in girls who are physically very active. It would be helpful for parents to openly communicate with their children that virginity, as a concept can only be lost through sexual intercourse. These open conversations once again rebuild confidence in the teen and help allay any fears.
How to choose the right menstrual cup for your daughter
Menstrual cups come in a few different sizes, and young girls, especially those who have just started on their period would be best suited to the smallest size available. Most cups come with the packaging that explains the directions of use, but it would help to try inserting the cup before the period is due to get used to it – it does take a few tries sometimes to get the right fit. It may also be a good idea to back up the first few days of cup use with a pad to prevent any accidental leakage.
One of the more important benefits on a personal level is the matter of hygiene. Sanitary napkins and tampons (another menstrual hygiene product that is inserted into the vagina), both collect and soak in menstrual fluid. Sanitary pads hold the fluid and bring it in contact with bacteria in the air that may add to the smell and cause irritation and infection. Tampons, have the more dangerous probability of causing Toxic Shock Syndrome by being left unchanged inside the body for a long time. The cup takes care of all these issues as it collects the fluid inside the body and prevents exposure to air.
How to clean menstrual cups
Cleaning the menstrual cup during the period days is usually just a rinse in clean water. After the period, menstrual cups can be sterilized by boiling in a pot of water for 3 mins. Some manufacturers may also have the option for sterilizing capsules or microwaving.
How to store menstrual cups
Storing the menstrual cup in cotton or breathable bags or pouches between cycles is important to maintain the product material by allowing for ventilation. Airtight containers are best avoided for this very reason. The cups are also small and discreet enough to be carried in the school bag when the next period is expected – or unexpected, as the case usually is with young girls!
Advantages of using the menstrual cup for teenage girls
Overall, the menstrual cup offers the teenager today, the freedom to engage in an active lifestyle complete with sports, swimming, gym, dance and everything they can think of doing without the added worry of a mis-positioned sanitary pad and/or staining and also be allowed the opportunity to really understand her body as well as her menstrual cycles. And of course, the added benefit to the environment.
How to start your teenage daughter on reusable cloth menstrual pads – by Priyanka Jain
There are lots and lots of benefits of using reusable cloth menstrual pads. Cloth pads do not have the chemicals that disposable pads are full of. Cloth pads do not end up in landfills and damage the environment. Switching to cloth pads therefore – is the easiest way to go back to the basics. And to be good to yourself while being good to the environment.
Start your daughter off on cloth pads as soon as she starts her periods. And if you have a million questions about how to use cloth pads – find them answered here by Priyanka Jain.
Can cloth pads be worn in school and while playing?
Yes. Cloth pads have been successfully used by girls in school and while playing. The chances of a leak from cloth pads are the same as the chances of leak from a regular pad. And safety measures like a like labia pads or period panty can be used for additional safety
How often do cloth pads need to be changed?
It is ideal to change all pads – regular and cloth at least 4 times a day. This is from the hygiene point of view – to prevent infection. More frequent changes may be required depending on how much the flow is and which style and size of cloth pad you are using
Do cloth pads smell?
The normal smell of menstrual blood is very mild and usually not noticed. Disposable pads stink when blood reacts with toxic chemicals/plastics in the bad.
A bad smell may arise if the pad has not been changed for long hours (more than 6 hours) – due to the accumulation of bacteria exactly the way underwear begins to smell if worn for too long. It is best to change often and wash thoroughly to avoid smells.
Are cloth pads healthy and hygienic?
Yes. The hygiene of the cloth pad depends on how well the cloth is washed, whether it has been dried thoroughly and in the sun and how it is stored. Always make sure the pad is completely dry before using or storing.
How many times can I use each pad?
On an average a cloth pad can be used 50 – 150 times. A set of cloth 8-12 cloth pads can last you around 3 – 5 years. How long cloth pads last depends on the brand you buy and your technique of washing and storing them.
How do I carry a used / soiled menstrual cloth pad?
If you need to change your pad while you are not at home – it is best to fold the pad with the soiled side inside and put it into a zip lock pouch. When you come back home – the pad can be soaked in water for a while and then washed as usual.
Do cloth pads leak? How can I avoid leaks?
Just like disposable pads – cloth pads can leak too. A cloth pad with a leak proof layer are less likely to leak but there is no guarantee that they will not leak. The best way to avoid leaks is to change the pad frequently which is also advisable from the hygiene perspective.
What is the best way to wash cloth pads?
Soak the pad in regular (not hot) water for an hour and then hand wash it. Or soak the pad in water for a while – give it a scrub with the hands and then machine wash it. Both ways are fine.
How do I dry them?
The best way to dry pads is to dry them in bright sunlight. This also ensures that they get disinfected. If sunlight is not available, you can hang in airy location. Do not iron them, as it may damage the leak-proof layer inside.
How to choose the right cloth pad?
First decide what type of cloth pad you will use
There are two basic types of cloth pads
The ready to use pads – These come in one piece with all the layers stitched together. The top and bottom layers are skin friendly fabric and in between these are several layers of absorbent fabric. These come with wings that can hold the pad in place in the underwear
The Holder and insert pads – In this type the holder is made of skin friendly fabric which has wings attached to it. The absorbent cloth is removable and can be inserted into the loops provided on the holder.
Then select the size that suits you
Width – For young girls who are just starting their periods and do not have a heavy flow – choose narrow pads. Around 6 cm in crotch width. For larger girls with more flow, widths up to 9 am are available
Length – the length of the pad used will depend on the size of the person using the pad – so a petite girl will need a smaller length pad than a larger girl. The length chosen would also vary from day-to-day depending on the flow – with longer pads beings used for heavier flow days
There are several brands that manufacture cloth pads now and for a beginner – it is best to buy different lengths styles and fabrics initially to hit upon what works.
Introducing reusable menstrual products when your daughter begins her periods is an extremely important step in guiding your teenager towards responsible adulthood. It is a step towards turning them into adults who realize that their actions have consequences – not just for them but for everyone around them. And that they must always think before they act.