If you’re anything like me you dread getting your period. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of woman who embraces the bountiful femininity of my monthly blood spilling forth – I hate it and all the faff that goes with it, especially the PMS and hormone headaches. I suffer from pretty bad cramps for the first two days and the last two days are generally spent making risky knicker choices. I know all this about myself but I began to wonder how normal my menstrual health was and how much I’d been taking for granted.
I decided that this would be the year I’d take control of my menstrual health so I started looking to understand the root causes of my hormonal habits, and into ways to make my periods feel a bit healthier and happier.
Which period products do I choose?
Historically I’ve never really been a fan of pads or tampons. I find them pretty uncomfortable and they nearly always irritate me down there because they’re either made of chemically-treated materials or non-breathable plastics. I also find them expensive and often wonder how on earth we haven’t been having conversations about period poverty until now.
In addition to being fussy about the ways in which I choose to soak it all up, I also wrestle with the guilt of using a ton of single-use pads and tampons wrapped in plastic which will all end up in landfill. Half the UK is female which means half of us will need to use sanitary products for a few decades at least. Then there’s the rest of the world, half of which is comprised of women all looking to manage the flow as best they can. Most menstrual health products contain plastic and are not biodegradable so the sheer scale of what we use and throw away which can then take hundreds of years to break down is insane.
Opting for sustainable alternatives is cheaper and better for the environment so I set out to trial as many of these as possible in the hopes of battling my eco anxiety, protecting my bank balance and avoiding thrush – which is always a win in my book.
I sometimes find myself hoping I won’t come on because I’m always pretty negative about the experience, which of course is not a good thing to be wishing for because it would mean that my hormones are unbalanced or that I’m anaemic AF – this is generally the case if I do ever skip a period but intense stress can be a pretty big contributor too.
There are lots of reasons for skipping a few periods and every woman’s body is different. Sometimes your hormones, your contraceptive method or your lifestyle might be the reason but if you’re at all concerned about your health, head to a qualified medical professional and get yourself checked out. Doctors can be a bit hit and miss when discussing hormonal problems so be assertive and arrange a blood test and an examination for your own peace of mind.
Period underwear for women
I started with Wuka – the British answer to THINX period underwear. Basically you’ll spend the first few hours of wearing your soft, stretchy pants nervously checking the chair beneath you to make sure you haven’t leaked all over it. Once you’re beyond that point it’s pretty smooth sailing. Made from layers of antibacterial absorbent material, the Wuka pants are a great alternative to pads and tampons. The HEAVY style holds up to four tampons of liquid and the LIGHT style holds one tampon’s worth which is about 5-7ml – bank that one for your fact of the day, honeys. A pair of these pants with a lacy cami is basically the dream if like me, you struggle to sleep comfortably on your period.
Organic cotton tampons
Next there’s Time Of The Month and their entire range of period products. I switched from store-bought brands to TOTM two years ago and haven’t looked back. The company offers a period care subscription so you can have products delivered to your door and they’re now stocked in Tesco too. TOTM’s pads and tampons are made from organic cotton that hasn’t been messed about with. Everything is cruelty-free and biodegradable too which is just ace.
DAME and Daye also make brilliant biodegradable tampons from organic cotton. DAME is a sustainable menstrual health brand that works to reduce the impact period products make on the planet. They offer brilliant products like the Reusable Tampon Applicator and create impact reports to help you understand how much of a difference switching to sustainable products can make.
Daye make organic cotton tampons with a twist – they’ve created a CBD-infused tampon. CBD has been purported to help some people with relieving cramps and cervical pain and aiding muscle relaxation too. Daye’s sex and menstrual health education resources are pretty great too.
The benefits of menstrual cups
I was feeling pretty brave so I decided to test out Time Of The Month‘s Menstrual Cup to see if I’d like it any better than pads and tampons. I have to admit that, like the WUKA pants, it made me nervous at first and I was a little worried about it being uncomfortable. I went for the smallest size of three options and it was actually pretty easy to put in. Basically a menstrual cup sits inside your vagina and catches everything your body throws at it. The TOTM cup is free from BPA, phthalates or latex so is super safe to use and an amazing product if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly or if you suffer with thrush from regular tampons and pads – one in three women do.
Menstrual pain relief
If it’s all too much, you’ve already taken a couple of paracetamol and you need a little extra help whilst you’re oddly contorting at your desk and trying not to wince, Be You Period is a great shout. I get horrible cramps and I’ll admit I was skeptical at first but these little tummy patches are the best. The eucalyptus and menthol oils do take the edge off and have a nice tingling, cooling effect. Be You also offer a monthly subscription service so you can prep for the flood before it hits.
I always take my vitamins because it’s really hard to eat well when you’re in a terrible mood. I’m sure you’ve heard of Potion London because I post about them all the time on my Instagram but I swear by these vitamins and take the Greens, Collagen, Beauty and Probiotic tablets every day. I started to notice a difference in my overall health but also in my menstrual health – my cramps weren’t as intense and nor were my hormone headaches. My skin would still flare up but nowhere near as badly as it had done before I switched my supplements over.
When you’re menstruating your hormones are in flux and that causes changes in your skin. During that time I’ve found that keeping things simple and natural works best. I use raw organic coconut oil by Skinny & Co from PureRaw all over my body morning and night and keep my face clean with the Eradikate three-step treatment by Kate Somerville. If like me, your usually dry-to-normal skin becomes greasy and you’re prone to hormonal breakouts, this daily face wash, moisturiser and spot treatment is the one. I also swear by a Vitamin C serum, Obagi face wash and hair products without sulphates and phylates that strip the hair’s natural oils – your hormonal hair and skin will produce twice as much sebum and oil if you strip too much away.
Coconut oil is also pretty good if you struggle with inserting your tampons comfortably. It tends not to mess with the PH balance of your vagina so you can always use a little to help things along. Keeping a little lube in your bag or in your bathroom can also help with this. Remember that if you can feel your tampon after you’ve inserted it, it probably isn’t inserted far enough. I find a little lube can help make this process more comfortable.
I know, I know, every women’s magazine says this but that’s because it’s true… Gentle exercise whether it’s yoga, sit-ups or orgasms – get you a Smilemakers toy, girl – will get your muscles moving and your endorphin levels raised. A little exercise will also help you to sleep better and regulate the melanin in your body. I find it hard to sleep most of the time but when I’m on my period it’s even worse than usual. If you have the same problem have a read of my post on sleep wellness and do let me know if any of the practices and products worked for you.
So there you have it, a few tips on having happier and healthier periods. Do I love being on my period now? Of course not, but I will admit that my last few have been markedly less horrible thanks to everything I tried and that my ‘period routine’ and chosen products have now changed for the better.
The majority of the brands I’ve mentioned in this post are also doing their bit to end the stigma around menstruation, promote good menstrual health and are working to put an end period poverty here in the UK and in developing countries. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve tried any of the brands that I use and if they’ve made a difference for you, I’d love to hear your take.