Happy Friday, Feronians! You will not regret giving up 4+ minutes to watch this video.
It. is. hilarious.
Happy Friday, Feronians! You will not regret giving up 4+ minutes to watch this video.
It. is. hilarious.
Last year we wrote about alternative menstrual products that included the reusable pad cloth, seasponge tampons, disposable softcups, and reusable softcups. Though we briefly mentioned that a downside to regular tampons are the chemicals they contain, allow me to elaborate.
Dioxin. Dioxin is a chemical byproduct of the bleaching process that tampons go through (the cotton and rayon that make tampons), and the FDA has been contemplating its effects in women for over a decade. There are currently no formal reports on the amount of this chemical that manufacturers include, as the information is not disclosed to the public. Though the amount of dioxin that the FDA claims is within the tampons is “below detectable limits,” a 2005 study found “detectable” levels of the chemical in seven brands of tampons.
In 2010 the World Health Organization published a report about the dangers of dioxin in humans, and stated that:
“Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. Chronic exposure of animals to dioxins has resulted in several types of cancer.”
The FDA has insisted that the amount of dioxin found within tampons is not a threat to humans, you must draw a conclusion for yourself. A menstruating female can go through upwards of 16,000 tampons in her lifetime, through which she is likely to expose her fragile vaginal tissue to dioxin with each use. Do the numbers add up to something dangerous? For now, it is up to only you to decide.
For an easy chemical-free tampon solution, check out Seventh Generation’s Organic cotton tampons, which are free of dyes, chemicals and fragrances. While a bit pricier than regular tampons, I managed to find them online for less than $5.
Yes, that’s a haiku, what can I say; I really love my Nuva Ring. I spend a lot of time at work counseling women on their birth control options, and I’ve noticed that sometimes when women request the pill, it’s with a sigh and a “Well I’ll just try to set my phone alarm or do it when I get up in the morning,” after telling me how last time they just couldn’t remember to take it. You know, I can’t take pills either. I’m forgetful, and worse, when I do remember sometimes I’m just too lazy to get up and go to the other room to get them. Luckily I discovered the Nuva Ring. We’ve all seen the commercial with the annoyingly catchy jingle (Oh oh, oh oh oh oh!), but it’s still something a lot of women aren’t very familiar with.
The gist: It’s a plastic ring, you place it at the top of the vagina by your cervix, where it releases hormones over the course of 3 weeks and prevents ovulation, just like the birth control pill does. The Nuva Ring site does a nice job of explaining how to insert it: “After washing and drying your hands, remove NuvaRing from the foil pouch. Holding NuvaRing between your thumb and index finger, press the sides together. Insert NuvaRing while lying down, squatting, or standing with one leg up – whatever is most comfortable for you. Gently push the folded ring into your vagina. The exact position of NuvaRing is not important for it to be effective. If you feel discomfort, NuvaRing is probably not inserted back far enough into the vagina. Use your finger to gently push the NuvaRing farther into your vagina. Rest assured, NuvaRing cannot be pushed too far up or get lost in your body. In fact, NuvaRing cannot go farther than the cervix. Once inserted, keep NuvaRing in place for three weeks in a row.” To remove, just reach up with your finger, hook it around the edge of the ring, and pull it right out. After seven days (just like your seven days of placebo pills in your pill pack), put a new one in.
There is nothing else quite like the Ring on the market yet, so I get some strange looks when I tell women about it. “Oh … no.” “It just sits there inside you?” “I feel weird having some foreign object inside of me.” Fair enough! Yes, it’s a plastic ring; yes, you have to keep it inside your vagina; yes, it stays there for at least three weeks. It’s a little weird. But I promise you don’t feel it when it’s there, and usually your partners can’t feel it (and if they can, it’s not ever-present, and it’s not uncomfortable). It’s the most convenient method that has combined hormones, which are best for keeping your periods regular (unlike the Depo shot or the Mirena IUD which, while more long-term, alter or end your period while in use). Although you can leave it in for a full four weeks if you like, and insert a new ring right away, allowing you to skip your period if that’s more your style. (Always ok this with your doctor first.)
Have you guys ever tried it? What was your experience?
I started getting my period I was 11, and the time it started until when I was 18 years old was a roller coaster of agony. That sounds dramatic, but let me tell you, if anything I’m being understated.
My period came when it felt like it, and the only warning was pelvic pain and nausea that could show up an hour before or 3 days before. The first 2 days were hell. I spent hours crying in bed doubled over and rocking back and forth until I finally fell asleep. I once got taken out of school in a wheelchair because the cramps were so bad I couldn’t walk. Another time, I took 1, 2, then 3 pills from a left-over bottle of Naproxen and when none of them made even a dent in the pain, I kept taking more pills out of desperation until I passed out (please don’t ever do this).
Finally, when I was 18, my mom said, “Well I guess I could take you to get on the pill.” I asked, “Why, will that help?” Oh, naive 18-year-old me. Oh boy, did it work. I got put on a common birth control pill and it was an automatic transition from “Oh god, why?” to “Gee, is it 7 o’clock on a Wednesday morning already? I didn’t even notice.”
Dysmenorrhea or really painful periods is a big problem for a lot of women. It usually starts when our periods do, and dwindles away when we get older. Painful cramps do not necessarily indicate an underlying medical problem, but regardless you do not have to suffer. Here’s some tips:
Exercise: Those of you with cramps like I had are probably already rolling your eyes, because when your uterus is throwing a temper tantrum, you do not want to do anything other than lay in bed and maybe yell at people. Trust me. For cramps, walking is really good, crunches are better. Lie on your back and do the bicycle. You can alleviate pain and get buff; it’s a win-win. Of course, these cramps may last for hours, and no matter how much of a bad ass you are you probably can’t do crunches for hours on end. But regular exercise throughout the month, not just exercise at the onset of the cramps, will also help with cramps, so you can prepare in advance.
Heating pads: Heat applied to your lower abdomen is really effective at alleviating cramps. You can invest in a plug-in pad or you can buy the disposable ones you hide inside your clothing (I recommend the Thermacare brand). The plug-ins are more economical, the disposable ones you can wear invisibly to work or school. Be mindful of safety–please don’t burn yourself, and if you’re using the electrical kind, it’s best not to use them at bedtime. Try a hot water bottle instead!
Ibuprofen. Anti-inflammatories are the best pharmaceutical remedy for cramps, and over-the-counter options like ibuprofen help out with cramps a lot. Motrin, Advil, and (some) Midol all contain ibuprofen, so be careful if you have a drug allergy. Also, make sure to read the recommended and maximum dosages on the bottle and don’t go over them–if it’s not working, don’t overdo it, just try something else. Also, if your period is unpredictable, consider keeping some on hand so you don’t find yourself short–it’s best to start taking this before your cramps get really strong.
Birth control. Any hormonal birth control will most likely alleviate your cramps, though your success may vary. Some women will have to experiment a bit before finding the kind that makes their periods regular and less crampy without side-effects like sore breasts or nausea. However, because when you are on a combined hormonal contraceptive you don’t ovulate, your bleeding is often lighter and your cramping is minimal.
Keep in mind, if you have previously had manageable periods and suddenly start having severe pain, then it’s time to call your doctor. Endometriosis or infection are a possibility.
Feronians, do you have any other helpful tips for those of us with angry uteruses? What have you tried that’s worked?
When you’ve been in your career field for a long time, it is rare to come across information that you’ve never heard of before. That’s what happened when I ran across a brochure titled, “Your Monthly Miracle: Storing Menstrual Stem Cells.” Seriously?
This news surprised me three times over. #1) It never occurred to me that menstrual blood has stem cells in it. #2) I didn’t know that stem cell research was already happening with menstrual blood. #3) I never knew that there are companies out there that are already storing it (and in my own county, no less!)
CryoCell International’s brochure reads,
“Menstrual blood contains unique stem cells that express multipotent markers of both adult and embryonic stem cells. These menstrual cells multiply quickly and can differentiate into other types of healthy cells including heart, nerve, bone, cartilage, and fat. This is the first time researchers have found an adult stem cell that is recurring and readily accessible. Menstrual stem cells can be easily harvested in an affordable, painless and non-invasive manner, and have vast potential in regenerative medicine.”
Wow. I had no idea. I was so incredulous that I emailed our Medical Director to see if this could really be true. Yes, she confirmed, and added that much more research will need to be done before these cells can be used in humans. So far, the studies on mice and rats have focused on diabetes, heart disease, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and ischemic wounds. It’s still early, but the results of these studies are promising.
If you want to store your menstrual blood, expect to pay about $4,000 for 25 years’ worth of storage. Collection is easy, much like the Diva Cup that our own E.G. Hanna has discussed. I called the company to ask a few questions and was delighted to get a personable and knowledgeable representative on the line. One of my questions resulted in an answer that deserves its very own blog post – more on that next time. Let’s just say that I’ve searched for that answer for years so I’m pumped to finally have an answer … and that the answer is exactly what I wanted to hear. I mean, how often does that happen?
Imagine the possibilities! Now, Feronia friends: would you ever consider banking your menstrual blood?
Walk down a “feminine products” aisle in any drug store and you will almost always see shelf after shelf of the same two things: tampons and pads. Tampons with applicators, without applicators, with perfume; pads, with or without wings, plastic sticky mini-diapers that smell like chemicals, or worse, perfume. These two products have probably been a staple of your life at least once a month for a while now, and if you’re like most of the women I know, you don’t like them very much.
Tampons can be uncomfortable and can leak, and if you try to avoid leaks by using a more absorbent one then you risk having to pull an abrasive tampon out of a dry vagina – it’s not only terribly uncomfortable but can put you at increased risk of infection and disease. Tampons, especially super-absorbent tampons, can absorb too much fluid, drying out the vagina and increasing the possibility of micro-tears upon removal or insertion of the next tampon. These tears can provide a window for the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus, which is commonly present on our skin and can get pushed into the vagina during tampon insertion, to get into our system causing Toxic Shock Syndrome. TSS is “a severe disease that involves fever, shock, and problems with the function of several body organs…[it] may be deadly in up to 50% of cases.”
Pads are not any fun either; they feel diaper-like and crinkle and irritate delicate skin that was not meant to have wet plastic rubbing against it. Not to mention that environmentally, disposable tampons and pads are a disaster waiting to happen. So much extra waste for landfills! So what’s a girl to do? The good news is there are a lot of other options about there that are easier to use, more comfortable, environmentally friendly, and cheaper.