Menstruation might be a natural process every woman goes through, but discussing it openly in many parts of the world is still considered taboo. For years, women have been using disposable pads during their periods.
A survey found that India discards 12.3 billion sanitary pads annually that is 113,000 tonnes of garbage. About 80% of urban Indian women use disposable inorganic sanitary pads. With the rising concerns about the environmental impact of these products, many women are now switching to menstrual cups.
While menstrual cups have numerous benefits, including being eco-friendly, easy to use, and cost-effective, many women face difficulties in using it due to societal norms and a lack of education. In some societies, menstrual cups are still considered taboo, and women may feel ashamed or embarrassed to use them. Furthermore, many women may need to be made aware of how to use them correctly or may need access to them.
‘One thing to remember is to use the right size because if you use a bigger size, it might hurt your stomach since you are inserting something bigger than your vagina can handle. It took me two months to understand the right size, and it worked. Another thing to remember is to use a slightly firm cup, as I found a softer cup tends to shift easily, which could lead to leakage. I have been using my cup for three years’.Priya , founder of Greenfeels.
It is essential to combat these barriers and encourage women to switch to menstrual cups or whatever eco-friendly menstrual product they are comfortable using. In addition, women should be empowered to make informed choices about their menstrual health and be provided with the necessary education and resources.
‘I have been using a cup since February 2018. It is life-changing. It doesn’t leak but spots a little because mine’s small for me. But no more sweating, no rashes, and no smells. I had to wear a pad once after getting used to the cup, which was horrifying! After that, I went straight from plastic pads to menstrual cups’.Ashni from Mumbai
Issues Women Face
Despite the growing popularity of eco-friendly menstrual products, some women still face challenges in using them. These include:
Lack of Access
In many parts of the world, women need access to eco-friendly menstrual products due to the high cost or lack of availability.
Some cultures consider menstruation taboo, making it difficult for women to access and use menstrual products.
Some women may find menstrual cups and discs or reusable cloth pads uncomfortable or difficult to use, discouraging them from using eco-friendly products.
Potential Health Issues
While menstrual cups and pads are generally considered safe, some potential health issues are associated with their use. These include:
Risk of Infection
Menstrual cups, reusable pads and period underwear can increase the risk of infection if not cleaned properly.
Some women may be allergic to the materials used in tampons, cups and discs, which can cause skin irritation and discomfort.
Toxic Shock Syndrome
While rare, menstrual cups, discs and reusable tampons can increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Here are some pros and cons of using eco-friendly menstrual products:
Eco-friendly menstrual products help reduce plastic waste and promote sustainable living. Reusable menstrual products can save women money in the long run, as they do not need to be replaced as often as disposable products.
‘The main issue is that even if you search for cotton or cloth pads online, Whisper and Stayfree pop up. It is hard for brands like us to market our products and stand out as authentic. The biggest challenge is visibility among our competitors, as they are using a budget and funds beyond our thinking! I am ready to join hands with active CSR activities that distribute cotton pads to tribal women, underprivileged women, and school children’.Malinee. G, founder of Rebelle Pads
Menstrual cups, reusable tampons and discs are comfortable once people get used to them. In addition, items like reusable cloth pads or period underwear are often more comfortable to wear than disposable products, as they do not contain chemicals or synthetic materials.
‘Apocalyptic backpacks got me thinking of a reusable solution during menstruation. Another reason for switching to eco-friendly solutions was avoiding the 40% pink tax levied on sanitary napkins. So, I started using menstrual cups in 2020 and haven’t bought a sanitary napkin since then. They’re easy to clean and use, no thigh rashes, and I can sleep like a starfish even on a period’.Jacinta from Mumbai
- Eco-friendly menstrual products can be expensive to purchase initially, which may make them inaccessible to some women.
- Menstrual cups can take some time to get used to, and some women may find them challenging to use at first.
- Reusable menstrual products require more maintenance than disposable products, as they must be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
‘I wear disposable pads only if I travel for a long time. In such cases, the cloth pads might be hard to wash and inconvenient to use. In such cases, I opt for disposable or cotton pads after gauging how much flow I might have that day’.Namrata, founder of Kaizen the Label
Considering this untreated sanitary waste and above mentioned issues, it is crucial we break down the stigma surrounding eco-friendly menstrual products by discussing issues openly, and this would help women switch to healthier and more sustainable menstrual products.
‘I am trying to educate people that the pads they are using will last only one cycle. What are they going to do for the remaining eleven months? It is always advisable to use cloth pads as they are more convenient, economical, hygienic, and the safest way to protect feminine health. We are actively reaching out to government school children and making our pads affordable to avoid burdening our sponsors’.Malinee. G, founder of Rebelle Pads
We will be discussing more on sustainable menstruation and issues surrounding its progress in the upcoming articles. Subscribe to our platform to know more!
The author Meenakshi Girish, a proficient content creator with over four years of experience in writing and speaking. Her expertise in content creation has allowed her to work with multiple national and international companies as a freelancer. Meenakshi is dedicated to bringing brands to life through creative content with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. Her love for literature is evident in her successful Instagram page, where she shares her reviews with her followers. She is a die-hard Potterhead when she is not reading or creating content.