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The Privileged Life: An Open Conversation about Menstrual Hygiene

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Guest Post by Surabhi Pendharkar

I was talking to a female friend of mine, discussing how menstrual cups have changed my period life drastically. She had her hesitations about menstrual cup, like every person who hears about it for the first time does. She told me that maybe I can talk so freely about the menstrual cups, periods and in general taboos around periods is because I’m living a privileged life! Not everyone is privileged enough to break the norms and try out other options. I initially hesitated to accept it mentally. But when I thought about it clearly, I realised that I’ve been blessed with an extremely privileged life, indeed!

My parents never consider periods as a taboo or impure or something that should be shushed about. I do realise that they being educated and rational doctors is the main reason behind it (Oh yes, there are educated and irrational doctors too!). I am never told to sit aside, to not visit temples, to not attend a pooja whenever I’m on my periods. The only thing I am told is to rest whenever I am in pain. I’ve stayed with my three younger brothers in Pune for last few years. None of them has ever reacted awkwardly to period stuff. I remember a brother of mine purchase a pack of sanitary napkins for me, as I was feeling too low even to stand up. So the point is that, yes, all the people in my closest family are super cool and I’m privileged that they are my family.

So here I am, taking advantage of all my privilege, presenting you all the eco-friendly (sustainable) alternatives to sanitary napkins and tampons that I know about.

  1. Menstrual Cups: This one is a total shift in lifestyle. They are made from medical grade silicon, which is usually used in transplants. It is an inert material, which doesn’t react with your body. In India, we sadly don’t get it over a medical store counter yet. But one will find different companies selling different types of cups on internet. My personal favorite is Rustic Art. One can order it online, sanitize it by keeping it in already boiled, hot water for 10 minutes and it’s ready to use. It does take 2-3 cycles on an average to learn to use it properly. Give it some time, be patient and don’t give up! Unlike pads, cups collect the menstrual fluid. When the cup is full, take it out, rinse it with clean, flowing water and re-insert it. It is not as easy as it sounds, I admit. But don’t give up on this one. Once you learn, it’s all worth the effort. There’s no skin rash, no dampness, no sudden outbreaks like in case of pads. It’s possible to swim, dance around, play sport even on your worst days. One cup costs around 800-900₹ on average. But it lasts for atleast 5 to 10 years. A single cup can save you A LOT of money! Also you’d be avoiding all those blood stained plastic pads from going to landfill or handled manually by cleaning workers. Even a sight of an old, used pad in a public toilet gives you creeps! Then why should someone else really handle your blood stained pad? I’ve been using cups for more than 3 years and I will never go back to pads. It’s AWESOME and I swear by it.
  2. Cloth pads: Another personal favorite. Our old generation Indian women were indeed wise in this case. They just didn’t have access to clean cloth pads every month and that used to lead to vaginal infections. But now one can find variety of cloth pads on internet. I’m currently using a fully cycle kit by eco femme. I use it as a backup to my cup whenever I don’t have access to clean toilet. Cloth pads are so much breathable and soft compared to sanitary pads. They are made from soft and absorbent cloth. Not all of them are 100% natural, but all of them are 100% reusable and way better than pads and tampons. One would use it as a normal disposable pad, soak it in cold water with detergent for half an hour. Then wash it with flowing cold water with your hands. Do NOT use brush. Dry it up in good sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Fold up the dried pad and keep it in your cupboard for next use. Now this one sounds simpler compared to cups, isn’t it? Like cups, cloth pads are also bit costlier as compared to pads. But then both are reusable for years and hence they save you lot of money in the long run! I swear by this too!
  3. Period panties: These are washable and reusable panties which absorb menstrual flow. They are just like cloth pads, except that they are not pads. Depending upon the flow, one can choose from different sizes of panties. Use them and wash it just like cloth pads. Thinx is the leading brand in period panties. I’ve not used these personally, so I can’t give an honest, personal feedback. One can check their reviews on internet.
  4. Biodegradable one time use pads: These are use and throw pads like the normal ones. Except that they are made up of natural absorbing materials like cotton. So as the companies claim, they are 100% biodegradable. I’m a bit skeptical about these, as I think they must conditionally biodegradable. And most of the companies don’t care to provide the conditions. Anyway there’s no harm in trying it out.

That’s it! Shift to any of these four, and believe me, you’d be doing yourself and our mother planet a big favor! Shifting will take time, it’s okay! Just open your mind and don’t be rigid to shifts and changes.

Why did I write such a long post on this platform, which is shared by half of the population who don’t get periods every month? Well, I remember the last time when I spoke about menstrual cups, couple of my male friends told me that ‘they had never even heard of it. It sounds amazing and they would definitely inform the women in their life about it.’

That is my goal- to spread the knowledge! To let people know that periods can be made sustainable with a mindful approach!

About Author: Surabhi Pendharkar is a teacher, a classical dancer & an environmentalist. As a nature lover, she is learning to live a zero waste lifestyle.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are of author’s own and is not sponsored by brand! Author has consented for use of their content.

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