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Menstruation

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!

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In preparation for Halloween, we asked our fans on Facebook to share their spooooookiest period-related story. Here are a few of our favorites: 

“I used to wear tampons until one time I was at the mall and I felt sticky stuff trickling down my leg. Period blood. My tampon fell out and I don’t even know where it went. I am a super heavy bleeder and this was a super sized tampon! So that sucked!” – Amy

“Mine actually started for the first time ever in the cemetery. We were playing in the cemetery when I felt it. Weird place to get it.” – Kristin

“When I was 12, my dad took me to the woods. It was hunting season and had snowed. I had my period and thankfully was wearing a pad so I got out and peed behind the truck. My flow was heavy, so the snow turned more red than yellow. I didn’t have any TP so I shook dry and pulled my pants up. My dad got back to the truck and we started to leave. As he’s turning around, he sees a bright red spot in the snow. He circles around looking for a blood trail. I never told him him it was me, but my Mom thought it was hilarious.” – Michelle

“I pretended to have PMS once in sixth grade to be “older” and “cool.”  After my embarrassing fit I got home only to see that I had, in fact, started my period during the hissy fit.” LauraAnn

“I got my period while in a paddleboat in my bathing suit in the middle of a lake. What a mess. My friend made me get out and swim beside the boat the whole way back.” Melanie

“I was 16 and grew up in a conservative church. I didn’t have a boyfriend, but was interested. My mom took me to an all boy’s choir event at our church that had boys as old as 18. I had it in my head that I could charm one of them while talking with them after the concert. Unfortunately it was a really heavy flow day for me and I only wore one pad, with no backups. I didn’t understand my own period at that point to have known better. On top of that I wore a WHITE skirt! By the time the concert was over, my mom and I stood up to applaud and she immediately noticed the whole back of my skirt was bright red. I could have crawled in a hole and died. My mom pulled herself up behind me, guided me by the waist and we left. Thank God she didn’t panic. That was I think the last time I ever wore white or anything light colored while on my period.” – Amanda

“When I was in high school I went to live with my dad. Well, when that time of the month came around I didn’t have any money and didn’t want to ask my dad or my mom (who I wasn’t speaking to) so I used mountains of TP as a makeshift pad (that I later flushed to hide from my dad) and clogged the toilet. That conversations with my dad about proper disposal and how I should have asked him for money for what I needed… most embarrassing thing ever.” – Michelle

“While babysitting, I was sitting on a little girls bunk bed and bled through my pants. I had to tell the mom. Thankfully none of the kids found out while I was watching them. I felt bad for the mom who had to deal with period sheets and telling the kids the sheet was no good. Before I learned to keep track of my cycle, I only wore black pants.” – Janice

“It started with white shorts and a cute boy. And ended with me practicing my cheerleader toe-touches and high jumps in front of him, not knowing my period had chosen that moment to show herself.” – Kelli.

We know that for some people, reusables can seem really scary at first. So once again, we asked our fans to share what they think is scarier still. Your responses horrified us (and some really grossed us out), too. Here are our top picks:

What’s scarier than blood from your own uterus getting on cloth pads?

1. Stepping on a slug with bare feet and it squishing between your toes!
2. The used condoms and tampons that used to wash off of our apartment building roof when it rained…
3. A landfill full of other people’s dirty disposable pads. Biohazard?!?
4. An 8 hour old tampon.
5. Chemicals near my vagina
6. Finding plastic tampon applicators on the beach – gross!
7. Vomit. Hair from the bath tub drain. Centipedes.
8. Stepping on dog poop your son didn’t scoop up in the yard…
9. Bleach up in my hoo-ha
10. Amtrak bathrooms
11. McDonald’s

What’s scarier (and far more likely) than a menstrual cup getting lost in your body?

1. “Period funk” smell from using tampons and disposable pads!
2. Waking up covered in millions of spiders… then jumping out of bed only to find the floor is covered in snakes!
3. Getting a contact stuck behind your eyelid
4. My son vomiting in my mouth
5. Daleks.
6. Not knowing my body well enough to know a menstrual cup can’t be lost in the vagina.
7. TSS!
8. The chemicals in tampons and disposable pads. And the community blood bin that everyone uses to put their disposables in.
9. Starting your period with no menstrual products on you.
10. Being eaten by a dinosaur.
11. Zombie apocalypse.

Comment with your own spooky-scary story about menstruation… we’re waiting anxiously by the campfire for your scariest tale from the womb!

period_gratitude

I originally titled this post “4 Reasons I Like my Period” but then realized that “like” is not exactly the right word in this situation. Do I really like the feeling of the mild cramps signaling my upcoming period? Do I like the deeper, more raw emotions I’ll inevitably experience each month? Not really, but I’m grateful for my period and all it brings. Here’s why.

1. My period makes me listen to my body.

When I treat my body poorly throughout the month, PMS symptoms worsen. Ate a bunch of sugar all month long? Hello, awful cramps. Didn’t get enough exercise? Here’s some bloating, enjoy. My body uses my period as a way to communicate with me–I just have to listen.

2. My period forces me to slow down.

I have a tendency to overbook myself, to bite off more than I can chew, to not say “no” to something even when I really need a break. My period reminds me that I need to practice self-care, especially during this time of the month. For tips on self-care during your menstrual cycle, read this post about reflection and ritual to honor your cycle.

3. My period makes me listen to my heart.

If something’s bothering me during the month, my menstrual emotions will force me to deal with it. Crying at the drop of a hat? There’s something deeper going on that can no longer be ignored. And that’s a good thing.

4. My period connects me with the cyclical nature of life.

What do the phases of the moon, the changing of the seasons, and menstruation have in common? They’re all cycles of rebirth and death, fallow and fertility, activity and introspection. How cool is it that our bodies follow the same natural rhythms? And: have you ever considered syncing your menstrual cycle to the moon?

How about you? Why are you grateful (or not) for your period?

 


About the author of this post:

tracypuhl is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. When she’s not in the office, you might find her attempting to run a faster 10k, traveling, practicing yoga, or pointing out how cute her cats are being right now.

 

I took a poll on reusable cloth pads on my Facebook page. The comments I got were rather interesting. Some of my friends knew little or nothing about them. Some (especially men) sent me messages telling me this is a private issue and if I want to talk about it, I should call a meeting with the girls and women rather than posting it in public. Shouldn’t we talk of issues that affect us?

Menstruation is seen as women’s issue in my country. The men don’t involve themselves in this issue unless they are in the health sector or selling them. Its a taboo to talk about menstruation in public, when you raise the issue people shy away from contributing. They’d rather send a private message warning you not to post ”such issues” in public. When will we talk about issues that affect us, especially when girls miss five days of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels? Shouldn’t we talk about it? I believe talking creates an awareness and shows people there is a need and will be compelled to focus on dealing with the issue and help keep our girls in school.

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Teacher Esther and girls from Misyini Primary School

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Chief Ndoo accompanied us to Kivulu Primary School

What I have learned during my stay here in US is to speak out, create an awareness and not be afraid of what others think. I speak menstruation matters because I am concerned about the girls who miss school and am looking for a sustainable way to provide for them sanitary towels. People out there don’t know what is going on out there. People don’t know girls use unhygienic methods during their menstruation. Well, it’s about time I speak on their behalf and ask people to donate sanitary towels. To tell girls and women of the options that are out here, options that are safe, clean and sustainable. Let’s involve all stakeholders, leaders both men and women, to support our girls.

I like the way we talk about anything in GladRags, talking about periods is seen as normal. I must say at first I felt uneasy talking about periods at my workplace. Here people are open and won’t criticize, people respect your opinion.

So let’s start the conversation about menstruation matters till every girl and woman can afford sanitary towels, not just any but has a choice to choose that which is safe and healthy for them. Let’s make sure they live a stress free life any day of the month :)

Have A Lovely read!

Maureen


 

About the author of this post:

maureen

Maureen runs Donate A Pad Initiative, and is a Mandela Washington Fellow 2014, Young African Leader. She is passionate about empowering young girls to complete education and is a mentor. She loves telling her story to inspire people to reach out to their dreams and be more. “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”~Aldous Huxley

 

Welcome to Period Pieces, our journey through the bizarre and beautiful cultural history of menstruation. Inspired by #throwbackthursday, we serve up our favorite ads, images, and factoids about periods throughout the ages.

This week’s Period Piece comes to us via the Society for Menstrual Research, one of our favorite sources for women’s health information. On the surface, the advertisement below for Kotex’s appears to be just like most other ads from the era–promising the “utmost daintiness of a person” who uses the product, featuring stylish women in lady-like dresses, et cetera–but thanks to the smart folks at SMR, we get to see another layer.

kotex nepenthe

 

Check out the name of the ship, printed on the the life saver hanging on the ship’s rail: Nepenthe. As the SMR points out, “nepenthe” is a literary nod to a magical potion that makes the user forget his woes (see: The Raven and The Odyssey for references to nepenthe) . These smart women appear to be setting sail on Kotex’s soft, deodorizing pads to forget their menstrual woes–really, to forget they’re on their periods at all.

What do you think of this advertisement? Should menstrual products make you forget about your period?


About the author of this post:

tracypuhl is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. When she’s not in the office, you might find her attempting to run a faster 10k, traveling, practicing yoga, or pointing out how cute her cats are being right now.

 

Universal education is one of the millennial development goals set to be achieved in the world by 2015 — we have less than 500 days to go. According to UNICEF, there are 31 million girls of primary school age not enrolled in school. How can we achieve this goal when girls are not enrolled in school or drop out due to early child marriages and other cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), poverty, lack of school fees, sexual violence and lack of SANITARY TOWELS.

How can we achieve this goal when girls miss close to 5 days of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels? Girls from poor families use unhygienic methods during their menstruation such as old pieces of clothes, tissue papers, cotton wool, feathers, and old goat skins. Others end up engaging in transactional sex in order to get money to buy sanitary towels. This exposes the young girls to risks of getting HIV/AIDS and some end up pregnant, thus dropping out of school. There was a feature aired by citizen media in Kenya in 2013 showing the dire need of sanitary towels in rural Kenya. Sad how something that should be considered as a basic need is assumed to be a luxury.

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Pic courtesy of UNICEF

According to Ministry of Education in Kenya, there are 2.5 million girls aged between 9 and 18 years who need sanitary towels in Kenya. The government only caters for 568,925 girls from primary school (class 6-8) from 7,141 schools in 142 districts, which is only a fraction leaving out close to 2M girls who are in need, the demand is high.

Due to this gap I founded Donate a Pad initiative in December 2012 to try and help in my community. The initiative is mainly run from my salary and a monthly contribution from my best friend Mona Manani. Every month I buy sanitary towels and donate to 200 girls who cannot afford sanitary towels in the rural area in 9 schools in Kitui, Kenya. Basically girls who cannot afford sanitary towels miss school close to five days in a month hence affecting their performance and lower their self esteem hence affecting their confidence in school.

Donate A Pad ensures that the girls are in school by providing sanitary towels, their self esteem and dignity is restored. Since I started we have noticed the performance of the girls has improved and they are more confident. I also provide mentoring programs by connecting the girls with mentors to guide them through their education and career choice. The girls write to me sharing their dreams of what they want to be in future and how Donate A Pad is helping them in achieving their dreams. It’s so fulfilling to see girls excited about education. This inspires me to do what I do to make sure the girls are in school. No girl should miss school because they lack sanitary towels.

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Teacher Esther distributing the sanitary towels

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Chief Ndoo, Edna, Maureen and Kivulu Primary School with their Sanitary Towels.

So I have a plan in the near future of starting a manufacturing firm that will use agricultural waste materials such as banana fibers and papyrus to make affordable sanitary towels that will cater for the demand of sanitary towels as well as keep the girls in school. Am also doing a research on other sustainable alternative options such as cloth pads and menstrual cups that can be used to cater for this lack. We are also thinking of growth and soon we will be in Kisii, Meru, and Lesotho I will keep you posted as the plans unravel. Hopefully one day we will be able to donate to all the girls that need sanitary towels.

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Maureen at Makerere University displaying the biodegradable sanitary towels

As of now you can donate a pad and help keep a girl in class. Did you know with only KES 396 ($4.50) you can keep a girl in school for the whole year?

I believe if you educate a girl you educate the whole community, and Nelson Mandela summed it all by saying “Education is the only weapon we can use to change the world.” 

Have a lovely Read,

Maureen


About the author of this post:

maureen

Maureen runs Donate A Pad Initiative, and is a Mandela Washington Fellow 2014, Young African Leader. She is passionate about empowering young girls to complete education and is a mentor. She loves telling her story to inspire people to reach out to their dreams and be more. “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”~Aldous Huxley

 

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At the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC

My name is Maureen Muthengi, also known as Mo by my family and friends. I run Donate A Pad Initiative, this initiative is merely ran from my salary and my best friend Mona Manani (she’s such a darling and very generous) contributes monthly to ensure we keep the girls in school. Every term we donate sanitary towels to 200 girls from poor families in 9 schools in Kitui County. I’m passionate about empowering young girls to complete their education and am also a mentor. I have a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree (First Class Honors) from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and a Certificate in Project Management. I work at a refugee camp in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kakuma, Turkana.

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#TeamKE at the YALI 2014 Summit

In June 2014 I was selected to participate in the Young Africans Leaders Initiative that was started by US President Barack Obama to mentor young African leaders who are change agents in their communities and making positive social change. 50,000 young people from 54 African countries applied and 500 were selected. In my country, Kenya, 5000 applied, 1000 were interviewed, and 46 were selected. I am among the 500 Africans who were selected to be Mandela Fellows and we were placed in 20 best universities in USA. The thought of it makes me feel privileged and honored to be in the inaugural group of young African leaders.

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Fellows I met at the YALI Summit

I was placed in University of California Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy for six weeks, which is the best public policy school in USA and the world. I took courses on Public Policy, International Affairs, Strategic Leadership, and Environmental Studies among others which broadened my perspective on leadership.

President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama addressing Mandela Washington Fellows at the YALI 2014 Summit

At the end of July we attended a Young African Leaders Summit in Washington DC hosted by President Barack Obama where various leaders, governors, business leaders and experts talked to us. We had talks with the Honorable John Kerry, Ambassador Samantha Powell, Ambassador Rice,  USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and First Lady Michelle Obama, among others. I was starstruck  and awed to be in the same room with these great leaders.

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#TeamKE with US Ambassador to Kenya Amb. Robert Godec

I was blessed to be selected by First Lady Michelle Obama with 35 other Mandela fellows for a round table meeting to discuss girls accessing education in Africa. I felt so honored that she supported what we were doing to enhance girls’ education in Africa. This just gave me more energy and strength to continue supporting the girl child to complete education.

Mo

with Ambassador Samantha Powell

One of the great benefits of the Fellowship is I met Young Africans who are doing great works in their countries. I was inspired by each one of them, we talked about the challenges we were facing back at home and we exchanged ideas on moving forward. I will maintain the network, it’s very helpful especially for growing Africa to a better place. Thereafter I also got an opportunity to attend the US-Africa Heads of State summit. I got to attend meetings held by one campaign. It was great sharing our views as Young Africans, but the most important thing was that we realized we had to create our own solutions for Africa.

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US Secretary Hon John Kerry shook our hands after the talk :)

We also attended a ONE Campaign concert–Femi Kuti performed–that was really cool. We got a chance to meet Cabinet Secretary Hon. Anne Waiguru in charge of devolution and youth affairs just to share on various ways we can collaborate and work together on Youth Empowerment. Finally, we had a meeting with US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec. He is just a great man. We shared with him our experience in US and what we learned from the university.

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Cabinet Secretary Hon Anne Waiguru with some of the Mandela fellows from Kenya

In August 2014, I was placed in GladRags in Portland, Oregon for my internship. GladRags manufactures cloth pads and menstrual cups  and promotes positive attitudes towards menstruation. Just the perfect place for me! I will basically apply what I learned in University of California, Berkeley and also get knowledge on how I can grow Donate a Pad initiative as we look for sustainable solutions to keep girls in school throughout the school year. I believe Education is the best weapon that can change our world. If it were not for education I wouldn’t be here.

GladRags is just the best place to be, I have an awesome boss and great work colleagues. I must confess it has changed my view on reusables and this month I’ll try the Moon Cup ;) (story for another day)  In the few days I have been here I love working at GladRags as we are empowering and changing women lives by providing them with comfortable, sustainable protection.

I would be where I am today if it were not for the love and support of my family and friends. I give all the glory to God for opening doors for me. It’s not by might nor by power but by the spirit of the Lord.

Have a lovely read!

— Maureen

Welcome to Period Pieces, our journey through the bizarre and beautiful cultural history of menstruation. Inspired by #throwbackthursday, we serve up our favorite ads, images, and factoids about periods throughout the ages.

Imagine you’re twelve years old, and you’ve just discovered a stain in your underwear. It’s your first period. You don’t totally understand what’s happening, so you pull up your pants and run downstairs to tell your mother. You expect a hug, a calming caress, a kiss on the forehead. Instead, she slaps you across the face when you tell her.

cartoon faces

If you were a young Ashkenazic Jewish girl 50 years ago, this may have happened to you. While it’s by no means a common custom these days, some mothers may still give a firm tap upon learning of her daughter’s menarche. The purpose and origin of the “menstrual slap” is unclear. Some traditions say that it’s to bring a quick rush of blood to the face, pulling it away from the lower abdomen and relieving a potentially heavy flows. Others see it as a harsh awakening: the transition from girlhood to womanhood made punctuated with a physical action. Either way, it’s a fascinating example of the strange and unique customs throughout history to “celebrate” a girl’s menarche.

Learn more about the tradition of the “menstrual slap” at the Museum of Menstruation.


About the author of this post:

tracypuhl is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. When she’s not in the office, you might find her attempting to run a faster 10k, traveling, practicing yoga, or pointing out how cute her cats are being right now.