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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.

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.

via Tressugar

via Tressugar

This 70s advertisement for New Freedom pads is truly the stuff of my nightmares.

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.

a new cycle bookcoverIn celebration of the launch of A New Cycle, our period-positive guide to a healthier period, we’re introducing you to the contributors! We hand-picked our favorite women’s health experts to write chapters for A New Cycle on their area of specialty. Read on to get know this week’s featured contributor, or click here get a free preview of the book when you sign up for our newsletter!

 

 

 

Meet Andrea Shuman, author of Chapter 7: Menstruation in Ayurveda!

Why is menstruation important?

Menstruation is important because it binds us, as women, to the cycles of the earth and moon. Our monthly cycle cleanses our womb, allows us to refresh, renew, go within and contemplate. Our blood is a gift, keeping us in touch with our fertility, our overall health and reminding us when we need to slow down or reevaluate. Every month, we are gifted with the opportunity to know ourselves deeper and, if we really listen to our bodies, take the time to turn our focus inward and replenish our souls for the coming cycle.

What inspired you to write your chapter?

I was inspired to write about menstruation in Ayurveda because this is the venue through which I made peace with my own cycle and finally made my body healthy! Ayurveda shows us the difference between what is common and what is actually healthy. Ayurveda takes into consideration the seasons, the moon, the earth, the time of life and constitution of the woman to create an individual path to healing. I believe that women would be well served to read this chapter and explore more about how Ayurveda can help her repair and renew her cycles.

Too many women suffer and get too little relief from a western medicine model that uses synthetic hormones to help her ignore her cycles rather than heal them. Fertility issues are on a sharp rise in this country, as evidenced by the growing “fertility industrial complex” of drugs and procedures. Our menstrual cycle is the best place to start in determining obstacles to fertility and to begin the healing. The more that women use their cycles to connect to their body to get real and effective messages, the better luck we will have in reversing this sad trend of diminishing fertility.

As a young woman, I did not learn that my cycles were something to celebrate, but rather, something to suffer through or push away. It is my mission to convey to the young women of today that their bodies are sacred, intelligent and worth listening to.

Do you have a personal story about menstruation you’d like to share?

As a young woman, I suffered with cramping so severe that walking was a challenge. I was on prescription painkillers by the time I was 14, and on birth control pills before I was even sexually active to help “control” my periods. The painkillers dulled my senses and made me feel detached, and the birth control pills caused severe weight gain and mood swings (just what every teenager wants). I grew to “hate” my periods and often wished I did not have them at all!

A nurse practitioner then suggested, when I was 17, that I take the Depo Provera shot, to stop them entirely. I took the shot for one year, lost my cycles, lost my libido, and became depressed: It took more than a year after stopping the shots for my cycles to return. All through out my 20s I then had not only severe cramping but, as a result of my 2 years of absent menses, completely irregular cycles skipping months at a time, feeling plugged up and lethargic.

At 22 years old, I found Eastern medicine in the form of Acupuncture. I started addressing my diet and using herbs to clear out the stagnation and regulate my cycles. This helped tremendously, and clinched my feeling that Eastern medicine, with its 5000 years of experience in dealing with menstrual difficulties, was a better road for me than the experimental, drug-driven methods of the conventional OB/GYN methods.

In my late 20s, I found Ayurveda and was able to fine-tune my body and prepare for the conception of my child, using the ancient methods of Pancha Karma cleansing and good diet. I am happy to say that, through all the years of struggles with my reproductive organs, I am healed, the mother of a perfectly healthy child, and the caretaker of a happy, well functioning body and a smooth cycle! I am a true believer in Ayurveda and Eastern medicine to bring about balance in women’s health, and I now specialize in helping other women heal themselves completely and holistically!

What kind of menstrual protection do you use?

I got my first set of GladRags in my early 20s. While I went back and forth from organic disposables to reusable menstrual products and the “Instead Cup”, I now have a mix of Moonpads and GladRags (both are amazing companies from the very town I live in!).

AndreaAndrea Shuman is co-founder and co-owner of The Ahara Rasa Ayurvedic Center and has been in private practice for 17 years as a bodyworker and alternative health professional. Through her own life experience, Andrea was called to specialize her studies in Ayurvedic Medicine, herbs and bodywork for Women’s health. Andrea attended the California college of Ayurveda in Nevada City, CA from 2007 to 2010. Many years have been spent in the quest for knowledge of the body-mind and spirit connection. This quest has led to travels and practice around the world, finally settling in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

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.

Ever wonder what the first tampon brand was? While women have been stuffing absorbent materials (including wool, moss, and softened papyrus) into their vaginas since Ancient Egypt, the first commercial brand on record appears to be Fax, an “internal sanitary napkin.”

Even in the 1930s manufacturers were featuring white swimsuits to sell menstrual products, it seems!

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.

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.

Like this vintage Stayfree Deodorant Pads print ad, featuring gymnast Cathy Rigby:

Do you think those girls in the background are more impressed by her ability to rock a lemon-yellow leotard or her island-breeze-scented pad? (Pro-tip: menstrual odor is often related to plastic-backed pads trapping in moisture).

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.

a new cycle bookcoverIn celebration of the launch of A New Cycle, our period-positive guide to a healthier period, we’re introducing you to the contributors! We hand-picked our favorite women’s health experts to write chapters for A New Cycle on their area of specialty. Read on to get know this week’s featured contributor, or click here get a free preview of the book when you sign up for our newsletter!

 

 

Meet Jessica Kolahi, author of Chapter 5: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Your Cycle!

Why is menstruation important?

Menstruation is important because it allows for deep insight into the overall health of our bodies. It can be an indicator for old traumas or stagnation, or where we are needing nourishment and additional support.

What inspired you to write your chapter?

Our menstrual cycle is not an isolated event in the body. It affects, and is affected by, all systems in the body. I find that acquainting ourselves with all aspects of our menstrual cycles, even the parts that are less than pleasant, can tell us so much about how our body, as a whole, is operating. Our menstrual cycle is a guide for whether our daily habits are bringing us more in alignment with ideal health, or farther towards dis-ease.

Do you have a personal story about menstruation you’d like to share?

When I was 16, I was encouraged, like most women in my generation, to start birth control. I can’t remember the exact reason I was prescribed it at the time, but I remember thinking that it was a wonder drug. As a young woman, I always dreaded my cycle, and felt embarrassed by it. With birth control, I could completely manipulate my cycle and skip my period so it wouldn’t “ruin” my camping trips or vacations.

When I was 21, I started to wonder about the long-term effect of taking extrinsic hormones. I decided to stop birth control and see what would happen to my body. The scariest thing is that I had no period for 6 months. It was as if my body had completely forgotten how to ovulate and menstruate on it’s own. A gynecologist prescribed me progesterone, which started my period one month, but then, after waiting 3 more months for menstruation, I sought out help in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Within a short amount of time using Chinese herbs and Acupuncture, my cycle completely regulated and I began to feel more in tune with the natural rhythms of my body. In this time, I had become aware of how important it was to me to listen to what my body was telling me, and to use this information to create wellbeing.

When I look back on my teenage self, and recall all the shame I had over menstruation, I feel grief. I wish I had been able to feel more connected to my body through honoring my menstrual cycle, and all the wisdom it could impart to me. Moving forward, I am grateful for the understanding that every symptom of menses is only a message from our body about what needs to be healed.

What kind of menstrual protection do you use?

I use the Lunette Cup during menses (day and night) for the entire cycle, and a GladRags pantyliner in addition for the first 2 days. I feel good about being a small part of changing the environment, and get the benefit of having complete insight into the color and flow of my cycle through the cup!

Last year, we visited Jessica at her office to get her perspective on PMS, Chinese Medicine, and estrogen dominance. Check out the videos we recorded below!

jessicaJessica Kolahi is a hormonal health and fertility specialist, and the owner of Vitalize Acupuncture. In 2011, she received her Masters of Science from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, and moved to Portland, Oregon, to actualize her vision of opening an integrative medicine clinic for women.

With ten years of experience in alternative medicine, Jessica is passionate about educating women on how to heal themselves while cultivating awareness of the potential that all of us have to live a life of greater vitality and well-being.

a new cycle bookcoverIn celebration of the launch of A New Cycle, our period-positive guide to a healthier period, we’re introducing you to the contributors! We hand-picked our favorite women’s health experts to write chapters for A New Cycle on their area of specialty. Read on to get know this week’s featured contributor, or click here get a free preview of the book when you sign up for our newsletter!

 

 

 

Meet Emily Ruff, author of Introduction to Lunar Charting!

Why is menstruation important?

As women, our creative power is often symbolized through our menstruation. For generations before us, women honored this power personally and collectively … and at the same time, women were persecuted at many historical moments for this power.  Honoring the sacredness, sexiness, and simple power inherent in our menstruation gives us the opportunity to honor those women before us – both those who held this power up, and those who were held down because of this power.

What inspired you to write your chapter?

As women, our creative power is often symbolized through our menstruation. For generations before us, women honored this power personally and collectively … and at the same time, women were persecuted at many historical moments for this power.  Honoring the sacredness, sexiness, and simple power inherent in our menstruation gives us the opportunity to honor those women before us – both those who held this power up, and those who were held down because of this power.

Do you have a personal story about menstruation you’d like to share?

A few years ago, coming home from a vacation, I was in line at the airport and opted out of the x-ray scanner.  In a time of increasing security measures, this choice of course meant I would be physically screened.  At the time I was menstruating, and wearing my GladRags.  The security staff who conducted my screening seemed concerned after she patted me down.  I asked if there was a problem, and she asked if I was wearing a pad. “Why yes!” I said, quite excited, and began gushing about the wonders of cotton reusable pads.

Looking quite confused, the woman shuffled over to her supervisor, and from their kiosk forty feet away, I observed lots of conversation punctuated with quizzical looks my way.  Several male officers were called over, and pretty soon a small army had commenced.  The female officer walked back towards where I was standing, but would not make eye contact.  I asked her why I was still being detained, and if I could move along as I had a plane to catch.  She muttered something hardly distinguishable, and still would not look at me.  I asked her point blank if my menstrual pad was a problem.  She mumbled something that sounded affirmative, and I offered to take it off to show it to her.  She got quite flustered as I reached down to pull up the hem of my skirt, repeated the word “no” a few times, and scurried back to her supervisors.

Time passed and I continued to watch a half-dozen security staff talk to each other, look at me, look back at each other, over and over.  After nearly twenty minutes of waiting patiently, I discretely tucked my hand into the waist of my skirt, quickly unsnapped my GladRag, and pulled it out without anyone noticing.  I held it in my hand for a few minutes, at which time the security officer, and her suited male supervisor, began walking back my way.  When they got within a few feet of me, I stuck my hand out and asked “Is this what you were worried about?”  Much to their horror, my GladRag was presented in my outstretched hand.  (Disclaimer: I was also using my DivaCup, so my cotton pad was actually perfectly clean.)  Aghast, the woman grabbed a plastic bag, opened it and held it out for me to place the pad into.  She walked it over to the X-ray belt to be tested.

While she completed this task, I engaged her male supervisor.  I asked why I was detained for wearing a cotton pad, offered him some education on the environmental impact of disposable pads and tampons, and reminded him that he himself emerged into this world from a vagina that bled just like I was right now.  The entire scenario brought a touch of humor in its irony, but in reflected was also wrought with a deep sadness, sadness for the antiquated social norms of our culture, but especially for the female officer who found herself in such a state of shame and embarrassment when presented with the raw truth of another menstruating female.

After this experience, my gratitude deepened even more for the work of Tracy and GladRags, and other companies like DivaCup and Jade & Pearl, whose hard work gives individual women a powerful option to reclaiming a sacred trust of our own bodies, and through that work are creating ripples from each of us that help heal a cultural wound in our collective body, one moon cycle at a time.

What kind of menstrual protection do you use?

Over a decade ago I switched from organic disposables to GladRags or similar homemade versions coupled with a DivaCup.  I haven’t looked back!  These choices not only allow me to step into my power of environmental responsibility related to my menstruation, but give me the opportunity to harness the creative power of my menstrual blood and offer it intimately back to mother earth through using it to nourish sacred plants in my garden.

emilyruff

Emily Ruff is a community herbalist and director of the Florida School of Holistic Living in Orlando, which features a comprehensive curriculum, community clinic, and teaching garden. Emily studied herbalism across three continents under many indigenous healers, including herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, whom she credits as one of her biggest inspirations. Her academic studies include ethnobotany and women’s studies, and she is a flower essence practitioner.

Her line of products, Orenda Herbal, have been prepared since 2004 with love and locally grown ingredients. Emily has taught frequently at national conferences and regional events, and is also the organizer of the annual Florida Herbal Conference.

Emily stewards an herbal urban homestead in central Florida, where in daily practice of meditation and digging her fingers in the dirt, the plants continue to be her greatest teachers. A frequently published author and dynamic teacher, you can learn more about her work and projects at emilyruff.com.

a new cycle bookcoverIn celebration of the launch of A New Cycle, our period-positive guide to a healthier period, we’re introducing you to the contributors! We hand-picked our favorite women’s health experts to write chapters for A New Cycle on their area of specialty. Read on to get know this week’s featured contributor, or click here get a free preview of the book when you sign up for our newsletter!

 

 

Meet Ashley Annis, author of Chapter 1: Fertility Awareness!

Why is menstruation important?

Menstruation is important because it’s part of the female experience. Much of our culture is based on linear ways of thinking and being, and I think it’s important that women understand and appreciate their cyclical nature. I think if we understood and honored menstruation more, there would be less hatred between women and more respect for our needs, emotions, intuition, and differences.

Why do women need to know about Fertility Awareness?

Fertility Awareness is a wonderful gift! As a birth control method, it is effective and has no side effects. It can also help women and their partners enter into important conversations and balance responsibility for birth control between both people (the women chart their signals and communicate their fertility status to their partner, the partner has to be supportive and willing to work with the woman’s fertility patterns).

The more I use Fertility Awareness though, the more I find benefits other than natural birth control. I’ve learned to accept the different phases my body goes through and use my cycle to my advantage (i.e.: needing more rest during menstruation, writing and making to-do lists during my ovulation energy, cleaning and organizing and letting go during the pre-menstrual phase, etc.). One of the more important parts of understanding my cycle has been that I don’t try and push myself as hard when I’m bleeding because I know I am more sensitive and slow during that time. Instead of thinking, “Gee, why aren’t you being more productive right now? This is terrible!” I can now say, “It’s okay, Ashley. Be who you need to be today. In a week things will be different and everything that needs to get done will get done.” I’m much more at peace with myself now that I honor my cycle.

Do you have a personal story about menstruation you’d like to share?

I remember one day in junior high using a pad that was too small and having some blood soak through to the outside of my jeans. I was so embarrassed and frustrated and confused. After that day, whenever I got my period I would think, “This is so stupid. I never want to have kids and I never want to have a period and I hate being a girl. It’s not fair!” I kept this mindset with me for a long time.

I had been coming to appreciate my cycle more and more once I got older, but learning Fertility Awareness is what really solidified the change in me. Any hatred and anger towards my period was completely eliminated once I understood the bleeding was part of an even greater monthly cycle, and the monthly cycle was part of an even greater life cycle. I didn’t have the depth and connections I needed to love my body and my cycle until I learned Fertility Awareness. I’m so thankful to be a woman now, and even thankful for my bleeding. It gives me a chance to slow down, to contemplate my body, and let go.

What kind of menstrual protection do you use?

I’ve been using cloth menstrual pads since 2009 and a menstrual cup since 2011. I couldn’t believe no one had told me about reusable menstrual products sooner! They were more comfortable, cheaper, and gave me a much more aesthetically pleasing menstruation. There was always something sort of weird and disconnected about seeing my bright red blood on a completely white, sterile pad. It felt unnatural. It felt like something was “wrong” or that I should see a doctor. Bleeding on cloth feels much safer, as strange as that may sound. I feel much more at home with my body.

For awhile, I would mainly use the cup since it seemed easier and cleaner. I didn’t like feeling the blood, so the cup was great. Lately though, I’ve found that I have far less cramps if I use only cloth pads during my bleeding, and I also find that I am much more calm and balanced if I just let the blood flow and accept my menstruation. My period is always a learning experience, so I try to be open and do what feels right for me at the time.

ashleyA modern-day Xochiquetzal (goddess of fertility, female sexual power, pregnancy, childbirth, and household crafts), Ashley uses her knowledge and passion to educate and empower women at all stages of life. Along with natural birth control classes and selling handmade menstrual pads, Ashley also aspires to work as a birth doula, lead feminine healing retreats and young women’s circles, and become an expert on herbal medicine. To contact Ashley, please visit lovelyfertility.com.

menstrual hygiene day

 

May 28th is the first annual Menstrual Hygiene Day and we’re celebrating by talking about why menstruation matters!

In Portland we’ll be screening the award-winning short film “Monthlies” and having an in-person discussion. If you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love to have you join us!

So what is Menstrual Hygiene Day? It’s a day to start the conversation about menstruation. It’s time to break down the taboos about this natural bodily process so we can start solving problems that women and girls around the world face every month–problems that aren’t talked about due to the shame and fear surrounding periods.

We think menstruation matters because…

Every woman deserves access to safe, healthy menstrual protection. — Tweet this!

Girls shouldn’t have to miss school simply because they can’t afford sanitary pads. — Tweet this!

Your period means your body is functioning just as it should! — Tweet this!

Women’s bodies should not be sources of shame or fear. — Tweet this!

Your cycle is an opportunity to connect with your body’s natural rhythms. — Tweet this!

More ways you can help celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day:

  • Use hashtag #menstruationmatters to tell the world why YOU think periods are important to talk about.
  • Donate to an organization like Days for Girls that provides reusable menstrual supplies to women in need.
  • Read our book A New Cycle to learn about healthier periods. Bonus points: be seen reading it in public!

a new cycle bookcover

In celebration of the launch of A New Cycle, our period-positive guide to a healthier period, we’re introducing you to the contributors! We hand-picked our favorite women’s health experts to write chapters for A New Cycle on their area of specialty. Read on to get know this week’s featured contributor, or click here get a free preview of the book when you sign up for our newsletter!

 

 

Meet Barbara Loomis, author of Chapter 2: Align thy Uteri!

Why is menstruation important?

Menstruation connects us to the rhythms of nature. It connects us to the moon cycle and to the seasonal microcosm within each of us. Everything in nature has a season of budding growth, bloom, letting go and then going deep into the roots. I see the menstrual phase as a time to go within, cleanse and restore. Plants and trees aren’t expected to bloom year round, they need time to replenish and restore, as do we. I see menstruation as my Winter within my month and ovulation as my Summer.

What inspired you to write your chapter?

I wrote about uterine alignment because that’s what I do, I align uteri and I teach women how to align their own uteri. As the great Maya Shaman, Don Elijio Panti once said, “The uterus is the woman’s center. If her uterus is not in proper position and good health, nothing in her life will be right. She will be as out of balance as her uterus.”

Do you have a personal story about menstruation you’d like to share?

The first thing that comes to mind is when I just started my period. I reluctantly went to the corner store (which was also a liquor store BTW) to buy my first box of “sanitary napkins.” My heart sank when I saw two middle aged men hanging out at the check out counter reeking of booze and flirting with the cashier. I don’t know their names so I’ll call the guys Jerk and Dumb A** Jerk. I wandering around the 200 sq. foot store, hoping they would leave, but I could tell they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So, I walked up to the counter with my big box of Maxi pads. The pads were so big back then that the box was about as tall as I was (or at least that’s how I remember it). Dumb A** Jerk looked at the big box of pads and then looked me up and down and said, “smells like fish in here!” All three of them (female cashier included) busted out laughing as I fumbled for my cash.

I felt shame and intense anger at a time when I should have celebrated the sacredness and power of being a woman. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the sacredness of my cycle until my mid twenties. To this day, I believe the shame and anger contributed to my intense mood swings and menstrual cramps. Obviously, we can’t control the ignorance of others, but we can help young women feel empowered and positive about menstruation. This is one of the reasons why I do what I do. And why I send my nieces congratulations gift packs at menarche. Things to include in a menarche gift pack: a hand written note of congratulations and support (welcome to the club!), GladRags, chocolate (real chocolate) and a period book written for girls explaining all the things they want to know about puberty but are afraid to ask. A celebration dinner or ceremony would also be nice if you live near them. …and a gift certificate for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lessons (oh, if I only knew Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when I walked in the convenience store back in 1985!).

What kind of menstrual protection do you use?

I use GladRags! I’ve used them for a couple of years now. I feel more connected to my flow since I’ve been using them. I can actually feel when my uterus sheds my menstrual blood. It’s different than a cramp, it doesn’t hurt at all, its just unobstructed flow like nature intended. It feels like a release rather than the resistance I felt with tampons. It’s interesting how I feel at ease when my uterus is at ease, if she’s cranky and has to work against an obstruction, I’m cranky and nothing in my life flows. I’m not saying tampons cause physical obstruction (although in some situations they might), but tampons felt like an energetic obstruction to me. Aunt Flow needs to flow!

barbaraBarbara Loomis is a Restorative ExerciseTM specialist and certified practitioner and educator of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® as well as a Chi Nei Tsang and Visceral ManipulationTM practitioner. She combines abdominal therapies with Restorative ExerciseTM for reproductive and digestive health. Want to bring a workshop to your area or find out more about Barbara’s services? Visit nurturance.net, or find helpful reproductive and alignment information on her blog.

Did you know there’s a crazy variety of ways you can fold your menstrual cup? If you’re having trouble inserting your cup, try switching up your folding technique to one of these:

  • The C Fold: fold your cup in half, then fold it in half again so the rim looks like the letter C.
  • The Punch Down Fold: Use one finger to push part of the rim into the base of the cup, then pinch the sides together for a slimmer way to insert your menstrual cup.
  • The 7 Fold: Fold your cup in half, then fold one corner down to touch the base of the cup.

Need a visual? Check out Meagan’s video tutorial, which includes an “expert-level” folding technique!

Which fold is your go-to? Have you invented your own tried and true technique? Comment and let us know!