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A blog from the women of GladRags and our customers too.

Discussions on menstruation, environmental living, women's health, relevant politics, and other interesting matters - we like to go with the flow around here.

strawberries

 

Coming soon to GladRags.com: adorable strawberry print pads! Help us name it and you could win a GladRags cloth pad in this print. Comment below with your name idea by Valentine’s Day to enter!

P.S. Hop on over to our Facebook for a bonus giveaway this week!

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.

Once again, Gwyneth Paltrow is in the spotlight for doing something nobody seems to understand. At least this time it’s not “conscious uncoupling”: now, she’s advocating vaginal steams.  Since the news broke (hooray for celebrity vaginas being big news, amirite?), we’ve seen a number of articles both for and against vaginal steaming.

Vaginal steams are a fairly well known practice in natural health communities, and here in the weird world of Pacific Northwest it’s not a totally mind-boggling concept. That said, none of us at GladRags have ever tried steaming anything but our faces. Born skeptics, we asked our friend Zoë Etkin to shed some light on the topic of v-steams. Zoë is a birth & postpartum doula, menstruation educator, and poet in California.

vaginal-steams

GladRags: How do vaginal steams work?

Zoë Etkin: There are a few different set ups, but the basic idea is that you sit over a pot of steaming water (with or without herbs). The set up I have is a box with a hole drilled in the back where you thread the cord of a hot plate/burner. You set a clay pot on top and fill it with water and dry or fresh herbs. Then you put a toilet seat on top and take a seat. It’s important to keep your feet and upper body warm, so socks and a blanket are good to have with you. Also a towel or blanket over your lap to keep the steam in. I use herb sachets made by a local company called Chick Food. 

GR: Why would someone do a vaginal steam?

ZE: I will preface this by saying that there are no medical studies supporting these claims, however, vaginal steaming is an ancient practice and has been passed down for generations in Korean, African and Mayan cultures. Someone might steam because… they have an irregular menstrual cycle, they have lower back or pelvic pain, they have hemorrhoids or perineal lacerations from birth, they have an imbalance in their vaginal pH, they experience vaginal dryness, etc. 

GR: Generally we think of vaginas/uteruses as “self-cleaning.” What makes vaginal steams different from interference we see as harmful, like douching?

ZE: This is an excellent question. Vaginas are absolutely self cleaning most of the time, however sometimes imbalances do occur and women don’t always want to use the typical treatments. Vaginal steaming offers a gentle, non-invasive way to help restore balance. Douching is forcing water and scents and other yucky things up into the vaginal canal. Steaming touches the outside, the vulva.

I was arguing the benefits of v-steams with someone and they were under the impression that v-steams were done by spreading the labia and somehow funneling the steam into the vaginal opening. Not so. The steam is not funneled in any manner–it lifts up from the pot of herbs and warms the vagina from the inside out. Just as a body steam does. The steam increases blood flow and oxygenation to the pelvic area–which is healing.

I’m reading more and more that the common practice of “RICE” (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to muscle injuries is being discouraged in favor of heat. Ice restricts blood flow, and does decrease swelling, but in restricting blood flow, it makes it so that healing properties in new blood are unable to make their way to the area. Heat encourages the new blood to come, and thus bring repairing properties to the injured space. Same concept with the v-steam–especially for perineal healing. In Squat Birth Journal’s issue a few months ago, a midwife described how she saw better outcomes by applying hot packs to the perineum after birth rather than ice. She said she had to do less suturing to those women and that if they continued applying heat in some form (sitz bath, etc.), they would heal much faster. 

GR: It sounds like the steam is the most important part. What purpose do the herbs serve?

ZE: The steam element is very important. I can’t speak to the precise efficacy of the herbs because I’m not an herbalist–which is why I get my herbs from Chick Food. Mugwort is used a lot in steaming and is said to be helpful in regulating the menstrual cycle. There’s even a hot tub full of mugwort at the Korean spa I frequent. There are other herbs that would be good for various situations–good to do your own research about which herbs to use. 

GR: Some articles about vaginal steaming claim that the practice can solve all kinds of feminine woes, including ovarian cysts to uterine prolapse. Is there reason to believe that vaginal steaming can actually help these conditions, or is it more of a general health/relaxation practice?

ZE: I think there is reason to believe it can help particular ailments, but since there aren’t clinical trials, it’s hard to give a resounding YES. It’s definitely good for general health–but many women claim it to have helped them with specific issues. I tread the line on yes/no since I’m a doula and can’t be giving medical advice. It’s hard with these non-western practices because they have stood the test of time and I do believe in ancient wisdom. In regards to other people’s health, I always say: check with your care provider. 

GR: Can you tell me about any personal experiences of vaginal steaming?

ZE: My personal experience is that I have seen it benefit a lot of women I do steams for. But me personally, personally, I have found it to be very relaxing for my low back (sciatica), 

GR: You offer vaginal steaming sessions as part of your services, correct? What’s a typical session like? Do your customers tend to be first-time steamers or seasoned vaginal steaming pros?

ZE: I do, mostly offering them to women healing perineal lacerations after birth. Always first time customers. Basically, I offer mine as an intro to the experience and then encourage them to create their own home set up and to do them regularly. 

GR: Does it matter when in your cycle you do a vaginal steam? Should you do it before your period? After? DURING??

ZE: Yes, contraindicated times would be pregnancy and menstrual bleeding. I think steaming before and after can be nice. Can clear out the old brown blood. 

GR: What would you say to someone who thinks vaginal steaming is just another annoying Gwyneth Paltrow-inspired fad?

ZE: I would say they probably haven’t done any research into the practice. From the anti-steam articles I read, none of them demonstrated any understanding of what steaming entails. They all likened it to douching–which I would never do, nor recommend to anyone. Someone even accused those who steam of perpetuating anti-woman notions like the female body is dirty and needs to be cleaned up. I find that to be a ridiculous assertion. Yes, the vagina self cleans and should generally be left alone, but there are reasons to support our vaginal health, and I do believe steams can do that in a very gentle, non-invasive way. Furthermore, I question why people are up in arms about hot water near a vulva when people are still putting toxic cotton tampons IN their vaginas… talk about changing the vaginal flora! I liken v-steams more to sitz baths. Gentle, external, but the warming properties have a lot of benefits. 

GR: Anything else you want to add?

ZE: Paltrow might not be the best v-steam ambassador, but she’s not the first celebrity to try it publicly. Tia and Tamera (Mowry) went to the same spa on their tv show years ago! No one freaked out back then…


Our verdict? V-steams may not have any proven medical benefit, but you might find them relaxing! Plus, the practice itself comes from ancient traditions that deserve our respect. As always, be careful about the herbs you use, and (obviously) don’t squat over water so hot that the steam will scald you.

In the spirit of science, a few members of the GladRags team have agreed to try vaginal steams for ourselves. Check back in a week or two when our periods end for our reviews! Until then: have you? would you?

GR_Best_Advice

We polled our Facebook community for their best advice for newbies to cloth pads and menstrual cups and they came through with TONS of great tips! We hope this advice helps anyone who’s considering making the switch. Read on for our customers’ top tips for newbies to reusable menstrual products:

“Unless you have a really really heavy flow, you don’t need to empty your cup in public. I was changing mine every few hours, like I used to with tampons. No need! And empty it when you shower–cleanup is a snap.” – Katie

“You don’t have to go “all in” right away. You can use the cloth during the day with disposables at night, or when you are out, until you’re comfortable enough to switch completely.” – Amanda

“Treat your cloth pads like you do your underwear in the sense that you don’t have one style or size of undies, so let your pad basket reflect diversity too.” – Chris

“Keep trying until you find the right fit/item for you. It’s not one size fits all and you’ll be glad when you find what works for you!” – Jennifer

“My cramps and flow decreased tenfold! Best investment I ever made!” – Victoria

“Have patience. It will take you a few months to get the hang of using a Moon Cup.” – Wendi

“Yes, the start up cost totally sucks, but well worth it because in the end it’s much cheaper!” – Zacci

“Use a dab of water-based lubricant to make inserting a cup easier.” – Jasmine

“As a woman, 28, who NEVER got the hang of tampons and HATED how they felt, I was reluctant to try the Moon Cup-but I bought one anyway. I have had absolutely no problems getting used to and/or using my Moon Cup. The size and feel is so good that I barely notice it’s there at all. Sure, I still use pads, Glad Rags, for most of my cycle now-but the Moon Cup has made my transition so much easier.” – Michelle

“Watch the cleaning videos.” – Elisabeth

“Take some time to try it out first on a day or two when you don’t have to go to work and be under pressure (I guess it depends on your work place). I also carried disposables for a while until I got completely used to it. So worth it!” – Jenny

“It’s SO much more comfortable!!!!!!! K, that’s not advice. But omg they are!” – Mel

Do you have any tips for getting started with reusables? Share them in the comments!

december-challenge

In December, we challenged our ambassadors to give reusables as gifts and help more women find a happier menstrual cycle. Once again, they totally rocked it!

  • Krystle gifted Moon Cups & cloth pads to her friends and family, and used reusable gift wrap for all her presents
  • Becca crafted cute reusable heating pack covers for a fun, comforting gift
  • Kelly gifted a Moon Cup to herself!
  • Zoe included a cloth pad in a white elephant gift exchange
  • Breana gave all kinds of reusable goodies, including a menstrual cup and “unpaper” towels
  • Becca and Brandi gave cloth pads to their sisters, and many other ambassadors gave the gift of happy periods to their friends!

Our winners, Krystle and Breana, each won a Pantyliner Plus 3-pack! Want to get in on the fun? Apply here.

The winning name? Hoot Couture! Thanks for playing!

owl prints

WHO WHO can help us name our newest print? You could win a GladRags Day Pad in this print if we pick your submission! To enter, comment on this blog post with your suggestions (as many as you’d like!) by Monday, January 5th.

We’ll pick our favorite name on the 5th AND add the print to the site–so even if you don’t win, you can still nab a fun floral PantylinerDay Pad, or Night Pad on GladRags.com!

Please note: when commenting, you must log in or enter your email address when prompted — if you leave a comment as a ‘guest’ we won’t be able to contact you if you’ve won!

Many of our customers have been contacting us about regulations put in place by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We appreciate the concern of our customers, and wanted to clear up some misconceptions about how the FDA works with cloth pad companies, as some widely shared articles appear to be misinformed.

The FDA has classified cloth menstrual pads as Class I medical devices for many years.* Back in the 90’s, we went through the long process of FDA submission to get our products registered, and have been paying an annual fee since. Neither the medical device classification of cloth pads, nor the annual fee, are new developments.

Unfortunately, many independent makers of cloth menstrual pads were unaware that they were required to register with the FDA to legally sell their products. Some have recently been notified that they are required to pay the fee (which is about $3700 and due by the end of the year). Of course, without having planned for that kind of expense, many now find themselves scrambling to make the payment.

While we wish our friends in the cloth pad community the very best, we believe that the fact that the FDA is paying attention to cloth pads is actually a good thing! If the FDA finds it meaningful to ensure that cloth pad makers are registered, it means that cloth pads are growing in popularity and becoming more mainstream. In fact, the FDA has even loosened up regulations for reusable menstrual products in general this year by no longer requiring “pre-market notification” for these products (which had an associated fee and lots of labor).

And yes, we think it’s silly that menstrual pads are classified as a “medical” device (because menstruation is NOT an illness!), but we’ll continue to follow the rules until we can change them. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions about how GladRags works with the FDA–we’d be happy to help clear up any confusion!

*before the FDA had a classification for cloth menstrual pads, they were classified simply under “menstrual pads–unscented.” You’ll find that GladRags still shows that classification as the cloth menstrual pad category has only been added in the past few years and doesn’t affect prior submissions.

Edited to add: Disposable pads and tampons are also classified as medical devices. Disposable pads and reusable pads are both Class I medical devices, while tampons and menstrual cups are both Class II medical devices.

It’s no secret that we’re fans of reusables around here! During the holiday season, we think it’s extra important to keep the planet in mind and avoid buying disposable junk when there are reusable options available. Read on for information on our #GiftReusable photo sweepstakes and the reusable items that made our gifting list this year.

GiftReusables-Cover-Photo

For every disposable product, there’s a reusable option to replace it. Between 12/5 and 12/19 we want you to help us find these reusable products, especially those that you’d love to give (or receive!) this holiday season. Your photos earn you entries into a drawing to win a prize-pack that includes a stainless steel pint glass, reusable water bottle, and insulated thermos from our friends at Klean Kanteen; any single item from the beautiful sustainable clothing selection at prAna.com; and a $75 shopping spree from GladRags.com.

To enter:

1. Snap a photo of a reusable gift idea.

2. Share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

3. Tag with #GladRagsPads and #GiftReusables.

Open to residents in the US only. Photo description MUST include both #GladRagsPads and #GiftReusables.

Need inspiration? Here are five reusable gift ideas we’d love to give or receive this season!

mason jar kittens

paper towel roll

organic hankie

  • If you’re the crafty type, whip up some reusable coffee sleeves so your friends can sip their coffee in style. DIY instructions here.

diy coffee cup sleeve

  • A sweet lunchbox set like this nautical themed package from Blue Avocado makes a great gift for anyone on the go.

530

 

And of course, we always recommend the gift of GladRags! We so often hear “I wish I’d tried cloth pads sooner” from our customers; if you have a pal who’s on the fence, why not support her in making the switch by sending a GladRags gift certificate her way?

What are your reusable gift picks this year? Snap a photo and let us know: make sure to tag #GladRagsPads and #GiftReusables to be entered in our fabulous sweepstakes!

november-challenge

In November, we challenged our ambassadors to take big steps in educating others about reusables. We were blown away by their actions! Want to get in on the fun? Apply here.

  • Teresa worked tirelessly to be a resource to her student health center
  • Iris wrote an article about reusable menstrual products for her campus newspaper
  • Breana and Brandi each made informative, educational flyers (see below)
  • Zoe and Becca held menstruation-themed meet ups
  • and too many of our ambassadors to name had one-on-one conversations with friends, coworkers, family members and more!

brandi there will be bloodbreana info sheet

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.