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Menstruation

kenyavillage

The gorgeous sunlight soon hid behind dark, looming clouds.  The Kenyan nurse kept looking nervously at the darkening sky and then shooting me shaky smiles, trying to tell me in very broken English that a storm was coming.

I didn’t panic immediately.  I had no idea what time it was, but we would be swooped up by the giant steel bird at any moment, right?  Right. Because I was very poorly prepared to spend the night in the mountains where I could barely communicate with anyone about my bleeding uterus.  I could hold my pee for another 12 hours. Skipping a few meals was not even a little bit of a problem.  I had enough clean water for 24 hours if I rationed well. But I couldn’t figure out a way around The Tampon Problem.

The sky started spitting on us and we heard the helicopter whirring in the distance.  The nurse and I packed up quickly, made the short hike back to the clearing just in time to meet the helicopter.  The pilot got out, threw our bags in the luggage compartment, dumped out all of our drinking water, and we were zipping through the air two minutes later trying to outrun the imminent storm.

Read Carrie’s full story on her blog at Our Stable Table… (Seriously. This may be the most epic period story you’ll ever read. AND there’s a giveaway! Check it out!)

MH Day Logo

Menstrual Hygiene Day is May 28th

May 28th, 2014 marked the first annual Menstrual Hygiene Day. Celebrations were held all over the world, from India to Uganda to Germany to right here in Portland, Oregon. We held our own event at a local feminist bookstore, where we screened the film Monthlies and held a group discussion about periods–check out photos from our event here!

We celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day because menstruation matters. Why? Because every girl deserves to go to school, even when she’s on her period. Because every woman deserves to live free from shame. Because menstruation is part of the process that creates life. Why wouldn’t menstruation matter?

And yet, we so rarely talk about menstruation! Maybe in hushed tones, in the ladies’ room, when we ask a stranger for a tampon. Or shyly, to our mothers, when we start our cycles and need supplies. Maybe it’s time we speak up.

This May 28th, we invite you to host a gathering in your community to celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day with us. The way you celebrate will be unique to your community, but we’ve collected some ideas for you below. We hope you’ll announce your event on the official Menstrual Hygiene Day website and get in touch with us to let us know what you’re up to. Make sure to take photos at your event and tag them #gladragspads on social so we can see them!

Not up for hosting? Help a friend make the switch to cloth pads. When you spend $20 on GladRags.com for yourself, we’ll include a free GladRags pantyliner for you to pass on to someone in your community. Just enter coupon code MHDAY during the month of May to redeem your pantyliner.

mh-day

Get Involved

  • Use #menstruationmatters on social media and start the conversation about why periods are important.
  • Host a gathering and use these handy 28+ conversation starters to get a dialogue going! Pro tip: start by establishing some boundaries that help participants feel safe sharing. Creating a judgment-free space — and assuring participants that their viewpoints will be treated respectfully by all — goes a long way in having an engaging discussion.
  • Share the Menstrual Hygiene Day infographic (see below) on social media to educate your friends about why menstruation matters.
  • Download activity guides and templates here and here.
  • Follow GladRags on Pinterest for boards and pins to motivate, inspire, and share.
  • Official GladRags Ambassadors can contact us for demo products, door prizes, stickers, etc for their event once they have a confirmed guest list with a minimum of 8 attendees.

MH DAY infographics

In my mind, our cycles are like well-worn paths through time and space. The moon circles the earth. Seasons follow one another. Tides come in and recede, yin transforms to yang. Each month our bodies reflect these natural rhythms.

Our cycles are one of the top indicators of overall health. For the most part, things flow smoothly. When they don’t, most of us reach for our old friend ibuprofen–hey, I’ve done it myself from time to time! But I’ve learned over the years that by engaging with my cycle I develop this amazing relationship with it.

13Ways

Showing my body the honor and reverence it deserves have helped me heal my cycle beyond measure. Here are the top thirteen ways I give back to myself every month:

1. Create a special place for yourself. This could be an altar dedicated to your moon time, a quiet corner of your home with a comfortable chair, or a place outdoors. Whatever it is, make it yours and return to it each month. Use it as you will: you can sit quietly, journal, meditate, enjoy a cup of your favorite herbal tea… whatever you need to do! By creating this space that you return to monthly, you send a subtle message that when you are in this space, it is “you” time.

2. Follow your cycle with a calendar. Engage in the entirety of your cycle: learn how long it is and how many days you bleed. How do you feel when you are ovulating or just after your period ends? Over time, this gives you insight into your unique cycle. You won’t have surprises month after month, and you’ll gain insight into how to shift what needs shifting.

3. Keep yourself warm. According to Chinese Medical Theory, when we are bleeding our blood moves deeper into our bodies and then begins to flow, leaving our outermost layers more exposed. Cover up! Try wearing a red scarf or hat. Focused heat on your lower back or abdomen can help ease cramps as well.

4. Take a gentle walk in the woods or other favorite outdoor spot….by yourself! This one kills two birds with one stone: you get some much-needed alone time to relax, reflect and just be, and the gentle exercise keeps your Qi flowing smoothly.

5. Eat healthy, nourishing meals. You may try to incorporate some red foods. Or (bonus points!) cook yourself up a big pot of something BEFORE you start bleeding. This way you can take it easy and take care of yourself all at once.

6. Notice how you think and feel about your bleeding time. Do you love it? Hate it? Would you just rather not think of it at all? Where did these feelings come from?

7. Return your blood to the earth. Our monthly blood is full of nutrients and stem cells that plants and microbes love. This is an opportunity for you to consciously give to the nutrient cycle. You can soak your reusable cloth pads in a jar of water and use that water for your garden or houseplants, or simply empty your menstrual cup into a container that you use to water plants.

8. Use this as a time of self-reflection. Is there anything you need to let go of?

9. Look at the big picture. Notice how you feel throughout your cycle. Take time for self care BEFORE you need it.

10. Get some rest. Your body is doing some intense work. Not only are you experiencing a blood loss but Qi moves the blood. Allow space for both to replenish.

11. Look at the moon. What phase is it in? Was it in this phase the last time you bled?

12. Give thanks. You experience an amazing microcosmic representation of the unending cycles of birth, growth, death and rebirth! Inside your body! You bleed–without getting sick and dying! Your monthly bleeding represents you ability to create new life, or whatever creative endeavor you like.

13. Just be.

About the author of this post:

martha eden

Martha is a Chinese herbalist and woman’s health educator. She draws on a background in Chinese medicine and ecology to give woman the information they need to heal them selves. Martha started www.jade-circle.net as a resource for women to find the information they need to connect with their innate beings.

 

 

whats-in-your-tampon

Here at GladRags HQ, we stumble across a lot of “fun” facts about disposable pads and tampons. Such as:

“In California, it is now illegal to feed the leaves, stems, and short fibers of cotton known as ‘gin trash’ to livestock, because of the concentrated levels of pesticide residue. Instead, this gin trash is used to make furniture, mattresses, swabs, cotton balls and tampons.

The cotton is too tainted by pesticides to feed to animals, but is totally fine for your hoo-ha?! Ugh. This delightful tidbit inspired Meagan to do a little extra research on the pesticide residues left in conventional tampons.

In her research, she found that NaturallySavvy.com sent a conventional tampon to a third party testing facility to test for pesticide residue.

Horror ensues, as the following pesticides are discovered: Malaoxon & Malathion: 1 ppm, Dichlofluanid: 1 ppm, Mecarbam: 6 ppm, Procymidone: 37 ppm, Methidathion: 5 ppm, Fensulfothion: 5 ppm, Pyrethrum: 66 ppm, Piperonyl Butoxide: 1 ppm.

Naturally Savvy breaks down each pesticide in their article, but here’s a nasty tale of only one of the pesticides found in tampons:

Procymidone: Found in relatively high amounts in our sample, it’s poisonous if absorbed through the skin, inhaled, or swallowed. It’s a possible liver and testes toxicant, which may also cause reproductive and developmental toxicity. It causes birth defects in some animals. Procymidone is listed on the State of California Propositions 65 Carcinogen List and the EPA’s carcinogen list. It’s also listed on the EU list of potential endocrine disruptors.

Meagan’s conclusion? “If I was stranded on a desert island upon which a lifetime supply of tampons had spilled and I was without my Moon Cup and GladRags, I would choose to free bleed on the sand. I would rather subject myself to a sticky, plastic pad than a tampon. I wouldn’t offer a tampon to my worst enemy. #byetampons”

tampon-worst-enemy

A note about organic tampons: After learning about the uglier side of conventional tampons, you may think that organic cotton tampons are the best solution – and they’re certainly much better! But better doesn’t mean best, especially when it comes to caring for the planet. Most are made of biodegradable ingredients, but because they’re a disposable item you’re going to need to eventually buy more. And more. And even more. If you consider the energy used in an organic tampon’s lifetime, from creation in a factory to transportation to your local store, then you’ll realize that they’re still much more of a drain on our natural resources than reusable pads or menstrual cups.

Sources:

    1.  Article 2, Section 2678 of the California Code of Regulations via http://www.bodyfueling.net/ARTICLES/cotton1.html
    2. http://naturallysavvy.com/care/is-there-pesticide-residue-on-your-tampons-our-independent-testing-gets-specific
    3. http://naturallysavvy.com/care/conventional-cotton-tampons-and-pesticides

This post comes to us via the inimitable Elle Griffin, whose guest post How to Sync Your Menstrual Cycle with the Moon is a fan favorite. Elle Griffin is the founder & editor-in-chief of Over The Moon Magazineand host of Over The Moon Radio. She is a writer, speaker, & Mariology scholar who adores throwing parties and writing young adult fiction novels; and she spends her spare time dancing ballet, sipping champagne, speaking French, and sharing all of the above on Instagram @griffinelle.

modern-rituals

It’s Time Our Rituals Get With The Times

You had the moment. The one where you felt like a shaken champagne bottle. You realized there was something more to you, to your body, to your existence, and this existential experience left you craving for ritual.

Oh they’re all the rage these days. The rituals where you burn your intentions in salt, paint your body with your menstrual blood, and sit in a circle outside under the moonlight. You know, the ones that make you feel like you’re an indigenous princess.

I know. I’ve done ‘em too. The thing is, we’re not an indigenous tribe (at least not if you’re reading this). We do not sleep outside under the moonlight on a regular basis and the bulk of our belief systems are no longer pagan (though for some reason we’re always trying to emulate their rituals).

We are connected right now, you and me, via computer screen. It’s amazing. You have access to knowledge that our forefathers would never have known, thanks to the internet. You will live longer than all previous generations, thanks to modern medicine. We get to be a community together, you and me, two girls with likeminded ambitions, though we may never meet in person, or even know someone in person who thinks just like we do.

The past is beautiful (and lord knows I dream of La Belle Époque), but so is the present. That’s why I believe it’s high time we stopped raiding our ancestors’ rituals. They’re great and all, but I also believe it’s high time our rituals get with the times. Here are some of my favorite (more modern) feminine rituals:

Rituals for the full moon

Instead of dancing around a fire with your top off howling at the moonlight and beating on drums. Try this: Grab a sweaty Soul Cycle sesh to spin away that extra energy, then get gussied up and have champagne with a friend (or lover) somewhere out under the moonlight and preferably loud (so you can laugh a lot… or kiss a lot).

Rituals for your menstrual cycle

Instead of sitting on bales of hay with your sisters and mother-in-law bleeding your sacred menstrual blood out into the earth. Try this: Invite your girlfriends over for a slumber party and watch movies that make you laugh (and cry). Feel free to order delivery and pamper yourselves with chocolate face masks from Lush. Down comforters and girl talk required.

Rituals to mark a special occasion

Instead of throwing your daughter a period party at the start of her menstrual cycle. Try this: Design a ritual that celebrates and symbolizes a shift occurring in your life. For my 30th birthday I wanted loads of ritual to mark the end of one phase of my life and the beginning of a new one. So I rented ball gowns from Rent The Runway, bought bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, hired a photographer, and invited all my girlfriends to my parent’s vacation home for a decadent weekend at the beach. Soon after, my husband and I moved from California to Utah to further cement the shift.

The point is: Want to host a Great Gatsby party in ceremony of your graduation from college? Go right ahead. Feel like celebrating 30 with ballerina toppers on your birthday cake? It’s all you. Choose old symbols or new, but the important thing is to choose rituals that suit your style, symbolize your significant moments, and help you usher in the new you in a significant way.

use-reusables-in-public

One of the most common fears about ditching disposables is how you manage your period while out and about. Fortunately, using reusables in public is just as convenient! We asked our followers on Facebook to share their best advice for changing reusable menstrual products in a public restroom. Here are our favorite tips:

How to use a menstrual cup in a public restroom:

“I have a stash of gynecological wipes like at the OBGYN for cleaning yourself before giving a urine sample that I carry in my purse to just wipe out my cup thoroughly before reinserting. It makes it very simple, I don’t have to leave the stall!: – Veronica

“Use TP to absorb the fluid in a cup – if you just pour it in the toilet, it might take 3-4 flushes to get all the residue to disappear.” – Kristi

“For my cup, at home and in public, I have a small squeeze bottle that I fill with water and squirt it all over (into the toilet) to get all the major stuff off, then I wipe it with a clean paper towel (cause tp breaks apart too easily). Not as quick as a wet wipe, but much less money, less chemicals and about as much waste.” – Shannon

“Have never experienced this because with the cup I only change it twice a day, morning and night. Once when I wake up and once when I go to bed.” – Kaylin

How to change cloth pads in a public restroom:

“I just take my purse or backpack (whichever I am carrying) with me. I have a little pouch for my pads in it; clean pads on one side and dirty pads on the other.” – Kitra

“Wet bag with clean pads inside with a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide inside my purse. Take the dirty pad off, squirt it with hydrogen peroxide, fold it, snap it and put in the wet bag. Rinse and soak when home.” – Jocelyn

“For cloth pads, I have a make up bag to put my soiled pads in and another color make up bag for clean ones.” – Nicole

Share your tips in the comments!

SexPeriodAnswers

On Thursday, we co-hosted a Twitter party with sexperts Heather Corinna of Scarleteen and Erika Moen of Oh Joy Sex Toy. Our highly informative (and frequently laugh-out-loud funny) #SexPeriod chat focused on how menstruators and their partners feel about period sex. Read on for a recap of our chat!

1. Sex with a partner and/or masturbation while on your period: great, gross, or just oh-whatever?

Most of our Twitter partiers agree: getting down with some sexy times during menstruation definitely helps with cramps. Some feel a little lower libido than usual, but for the most part it was a unanimous YES to this question (especially if you put down a towel first).

2. How have your sexual partners handled your period, or you theirs?

While one tweeter once had a young man tell her she was disgusting for wanting to have sex while on her period, a surprising number of partners couldn’t care less about a little extra lubrication! Way to go, non-menstruators.

3. Do you feel more or less sexy — or the same — whatever “sexy” means for you, when menstruating?

Aside from the cramps, bloating, constipation, and period zits, you’re feeling super sexy when you’re on the rag! And nothing’s sexier than a partner who soothes you during a particular bad bout of PMS.

4. Who finds their cycle influences your desire for sex? And how?

Some people find their desire is higher because they’re less afraid of accidental pregnancy. Others’ libidos drop due to hormonal impacts. In our Twitter party, many menstruators reported feeling most aroused the week leading up to their periods or when they were ovulating.

5. Do any of you feel any pressure to suppress periods (if that’s not what you’d want, ideally), especially when it comes to sex?

Most of us have skipped periods using hormonal birth control at least once, particularly when we were younger. Reasons included: long-distance partners coming to visit, staying at a significant others’ home and not wanting to stain their sheets, general convenience, or to avoid painful periods. Pro tip: if you’re going to skip a period, keep your OBGYN in the loop and always use a condom for back-up.

6. Why do you think people who treat or think of menses so differently than other body fluids do?

This question got responses ranging from blood is GROSS to societal fears of women’s bodies. Gloria Steinem’s famous essay If Men Could Menstruate was cited as an example of how menstruation might be viewed differently if men were the ones with periods… and then quickly devolved into a competition of who could fill their menstrual cup faster.

More questions & answers from our #SexPeriod chat participants:

Q: I’ve heard if you avoid sugar during/before shark week cramps aren’t so bad. Anyone know if this is true?

  • “Definitely helps me! And eating right in general.”

Q: Anyone noticed a heavier flow since going hormone free? Things haven’t been this messy since I was a teenager, or had a baby!

  • “My period got heavier and cramps worse when I got my copper (no hormones) IUD inserted”
  • “I’ve had the opposite! After stopping hormonal bc my period has been super manageable.”
  • “My flow was really heavy before my IUD”

Q: I’m hoping for some sex toy conversation because I am a sex toy n00b.

  • “I’d say definitely use non-porous toys or a porous toy with a condom, or there might be staining, etc”
  • “Some folks earlier were asking about periods and sex toys: easy to clean as usual, or just cover with a condom for ease!”

And of course, no menstrual discussion is complete without a few funny period stories:

  • Favorite ex-boyf period sex story: After we banged on a HEAVY flow day, he didn’t have anything to clean up the massacre… So, he walked out in nothing but a condom, COVERED in blood, and told his roommates, “Guys… I… I killed her.” Epilogue: All of his roommates screamed and ran out, & he was free to leisurely walk into the kitchen for a roll of paper towels.
  • True story: The first time I got my period, my mom had JUST finished telling me about it. After, I had to pee, so I went to the bathroom, looked down, and said “Uh… Mom…? What do I do now that I started?”
  • Menstruation confession: I’ve always found my period to be embarrassing since when I started we were at Buffalo Wild Wings. And my mom got so excited that she shouted it out at my dad, 4 bros, and everyone watching football.
  • When I got my first period I didn’t realize it because the color was brown instead of red, so I assumed I sharted w/out realizing. And when it kept reappearing throughout the day I was like “HOW AM I WET FARTING WITHOUT FEELING IT???” panicked at my mom and she explained what was happening. And then my whole family took me out for a pizza dinner and hugged me.My dad was so proud of me, the memory of his smile and hug that night is my default mental image of him.

Major thanks to our pals Erika and Heather, and everyone who showed up to tweet about sex and periods! If you agree that everyone deserves quality sexuality education, please support Scarleteen with a donation. Knowledge is power!


Erika Moen is the co-creator and cartoonist behind Oh Joy Sex Toy, which is a weekly comic reviewing sex toys, sharing sex education, and generally promoting sex positivity. She is a queer, 16 year comics industry veteran, wife, and cat mom in Portland, Oregon. Be sure to check out her comic review of the Moon Cup and GladRags Pantyliners!

Heather Corinna is the founder of Scarleteen. She’s also an activist, writer, artist, teacher and community organizer. She has been widely recognized as a pioneer of both women’s and young adult sexuality information and education online, having brought inclusive, feminist, creative and comprehensive sexuality content to the web and beyond since 1997.

moon cup and pantyliner

This post is brought to you by Iris, one of our fabulous Campus Ambassadors and former GladRags intern. She wrote the below piece for her university’s newspaper. Thanks for spreading the word about reusable menstrual products, Iris! You rock!

Tampons are gross. So are maxi pads. They affect everyone living on this planet, regardless of sex or gender. Over the course of a lifetime, the average woman (it should be noted that not all women have periods, and not all people who have periods are women) will spend $3,500 on disposable menstrual products. That’s about 8,000 tampons or pads, generating mountains of bloody, disgusting waste that will sit in our landfills forever. Disposable menstrual products are made of wood pulp, with chemical additives and fragrances, and they contain (trace amounts of) a known carcinogen, dioxin, due to the bleaching process that they undergo.
Fortunately, there are alternatives! Sustainable, hygienic, comfortable, convenient, alternatives: reusable menstrual products. So keep reading, for yourself, your friends, your family, and your planet.

There are two main types of reusable menstrual products: menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads. Menstrual cups are the bomb. Made of medical-grade silicone; they go inside the vagina, like a tampon. You buy one, for about $30, once or maybe twice in your lifetime. They only need to be emptied 2-3 times a day. Unlike a tampon, they collect, rather than absorb, liquid. This greatly reduces the risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), which comes from over-absorbent tampons drying out tissue and resulting in small tears that allow bacteria into the bloodstream. Similar to tampons, you can run, swim, bike, etc. with ease and comfort. They just need to be rinsed or wiped with toilet paper after being emptied, and then washed with hot, soapy water every month. There are a lot of urban legends and few sad but true stores of menstrual cups getting stuck inside of people. This shouldn’t ever happen. Menstrual cups do require a little practice, but they will come out with a little maneuvering.

Menstrual cups don’t work out for some people, with excuses ranging from, “I just can’t even”, to personal preferences, to medical conditions such as endometriosis. Luckily, there are always reusable cloth pads. These can be purchased in a wide variety of designs and pretty patterns/colors, or DIY sewn by hand. Unlike disposable pads, which have a plastic lining that traps odor and can lead to chafing and infection, they are breathable and supremely comfortable. They, are, contrary to popular belief, not difficult to keep clean; just rinse and then toss in the laundry.

All reusable menstrual products require a little more cleaning than their disposable counterparts. But ask yourself, which is really more disgusting? Having to deal with a little blood, or piling up foul, rotting disposables for someone else to deal with in the future?

Want to go buy some of these wonderful products? Check out Portland, OR based GladRags (gladrags.com) for a very helpful website with FAQs and a great selection of pads and cups.

10 ways to soothe menstrual cramps

We polled our Facebook followers to find out their favorite tricks for beating the PMS blues. Here are our top ten picks from their suggestions to keep your period from cramping your style.

1. A naturopath told me to take extra magnesium (a large amount is in very dark chocolate!)
2. Rub lavender essential oil on belly.
3. Earth mama angel baby monthly comfort tea. And a hot bath.
4. Heating pad, couch and a good movie!
5. Red raspberry leaf tea.
6. I like using Yogi tea; “Moon Cycle” gets rid of my cramps every time. Of course, I only get cramps if I eat chocolate, which is really hard to resist sometimes!
7. Vitamin B6. It helps pregnant women with morning sickness, so I decided to try it for my period “morning sickness” and cramping.
8. A glass of wine, the perfect muscle relaxant!
9. Heat. Either those heat patches or heating pad or hot bath. Relaxes the muscles.
10. My answer is a little naughty. (We’ll leave this one up to your imagination…)

What’s your go-to comfort remedy for when cramps get out of hand?

Halloween is just around the corner! If you’re still looking for the perfect costume, fear not: we’ve collected our top five favorite period themed costumes here for your inspiration…

 1. Feminine Protection

Bonus: it’s a great use for all those leftover disposable tampons you have now that you’ve switched to reusables.

2. Uterus (and other reproductive parts)

Your perfect last minute costume! Just wear all pink and hold your arms out like fallopian tubes.

3. Aunt Flo & a Box of Tampons

Don’t leave your partner out of the fun. Flip a coin to see who gets to be Aunt Flo and who has to be a box of disposables. We’d tell you to go as a menstrual cup/cloth pad instead, but let’s be honest: tampons are WAY scarier than reusables.

4. Reusables & Blood Droplet

Cloth pads and menstrual cups are soooo not spooky. Make sure to give your most serious metal face while wearing a costume like this, or people will just think you’re cute.

5. Vulva

You can spend the entire night correcting people: you’re not a vagina, you’re a vulva. This photo was shared with us by Doula Zoe, who won a costume contest with this masterpiece!

Not feeling inspired? Maybe this year you can just stay home and craft spooky little ghosts out of tampons…

Happy Halloween!