Managing Your Menstrual Flow

Are You An “Innie” Or An “Outie”?

No, we're not talking about your belly button.

The first decision you need to make is whether you want to use a product that catches your menstrual flow inside or outside your vagina. For internal use, options include tampons and menstrual cups. For external use, options include disposable and reusable sanitary napkins or pads.

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Some have a strong preference. For others, the decision may vary based on factors such as the amount of bleeding, time of day, or planned activities.

If you do prefer to use tampons it is recommended that you change your tampon at least every 4 to 8 hours and that you use the smallest size to manage the volume of your menstrual flow. In other words, don’t use a Super Plus tampon on a light flow day so you don’t have to change your tampon very often. Also, it is recommended that you take a break and don’t use tampons constantly during your period. Taking these precautions will help prevent a rare but serious infection associated with tampon use, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

Insider tip: Hot yoga class and sanitary pads don’t mix.

Scented or Unscented?

Frankly, this really shouldn’t be considered an option. Most gynecologists advise their patients not to use scented tampons or pads. It is normal if you may notice a subtle change in your body odor, and specifically your vaginal odor when you are menstruating. So when you are standing in front of a shelf of feminine hygiene products it is hard to resist the promise of a deodorizing scent.

Beware, although it may be tempting to use these perfumed products, they are a very common cause of irritation and inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis) or vulva (vulvitis). If ignored, the inflammation can become chronic and result in a condition known as vulvodynia.

Try other strategies like frequently changing your product. As a rule, it is best to go with the unscented options.

Want to Go Green?

Most of us use some type of disposable feminine hygiene product.

Recently, there has been a lot of information on the internet about the safety of many of these disposable products, the main concern being exposure to environmental toxins.

  • One concern cited was possible exposure to toxic amounts of a chemical called dioxin resulting from the bleaching process used to make the rayon or rayon/cotton blends in these products so intensely white. In response to these claims, unbleached natural cotton disposable options gained popularity. However, the FDA has stated that current bleaching methods are dioxin free. It does note that the natural products used to make menstrual products like rayon, cotton, or rayon/cotton blends may contain trace amounts of dioxins, but that these amounts are so small that any health risk is unlikely.
  • Another concern is that the cotton used to make tampons may be tainted with traces of the chemical glyphosate. This chemical is found in GMO cotton and is a known chemical disruptor of your endocrine system.

But, let’s face it, managing your menstrual flow creates a lot of non-recyclable trash, and this is not so great for the environment. But the convenience and ease of using disposable tampons and pads cause most of us to shy away from green alternatives.

You can replace typical disposable menstrual products with non-disposable options. If you prefer using pads try switching to cloth sanitary napkins. If you prefer using tampons, try a menstrual cup.

It is important to remember that these options require more contact with menstrual blood than the disposable options.

Cloth sanitary napkins need to be washed. So, you will need to come up with a system of storing and possibly carrying around menstrual blood-soaked cloth napkins.

The menstrual cup does not absorb menstrual blood like a tampon does. Instead, it collects it, hence the name “cup.” You will need to remove the cup empty it, rinse it off, and reinsert it. In other words, things can get a little messy.

These green alternatives may take a little time getting used to, but if you are up to the challenge these safe green alternatives are not only better for the environment they are more economical for you as well.

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  • Tampons and Asbestos, Dioxin and Toxic Shock Syndrome; FDA, CDRH.