Period books for International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. I therefore thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share all my books relating to periods and celebrate the amazing women who are challenging the current system which shames, undervalues or just clean forgets about the experiences of a whole gender.

In preparation for my dissertation, I went on a second-hand shopping spree on eBay (the only type of spree I can endorse!) for books covering different aspects and experiences of mensuration. The result is this small collection which is forming the basis for my research and providing heaps of inspiration. Since leaving school, I have struggled to read a full book, but I am finding that now I am reading about a subject I care about, I can’t put them down! I wonder if it is possible to be too interested in periods?!

Here are the mini reviews:

Period by Emma Barnett – Challenges the taboo that exists around periods, drawing on experiences of different women. As an endometriosis sufferer, Barnett describes her long journey to receiving a diagnosis and the consequential fertility issues and IVF treatment. It explores periods in schools, workplaces and even religious context which made for an eyeopening read.

Vagina: A Re-education by Lynn Enright – The education we all needed about vaginas and female bodies. A mixture of opinion, research and personal experience, this book is a great overview of the misinformation and shame that is instilled in us from a young age and the negative impacts this has for society.

The Sanitary Protection Scandal by The Women’s Environmental Network – Written in the late 1980’s, this book was pioneering in highlighting the environmental and health issues linked with disposable sanitary products. Sadly, over 30 years later, many of these issues still exist but there are some fantastic campaigners who are working their socks off to change this (I will write about this soon!).

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – Explores the gender data gap and bias that exists throughout society, from snow-clearing to healthcare. Well-researched and covers a wide variety of fascinating cases. It calls for more inclusive data collection in decision-making processes in order to create a fairer society which represents the experiences of both men and women.

The Vagina Bible by Dr Jen Gunter – Written by an American Gynaecologist, this book provides no-nonsense information on all areas of vaginal healthcare. It gives practical advice, covering common conditions and symptoms as well as dedicated chapters on topics such as periods. Here, it was highlighted that the chemicals found in menstrual products may not be as dangerous as suggested although companies lack transparency and the research is severely lacking (like so many areas of women’s health).

It’s Only Blood by Anna Dahlqvist – Investigates global experiences of period taboo through interviews with young girls and women across different countries and cultures. It reveals the universal shame and tells the stories of inspirational individuals who are fighting against it. I have only just started this but it’s packed full of insight – I’m having to put a tab on nearly every page!

Period Power by Nadya Okamoto and Periods Gone Public by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf are next to read on my list. Just ask if you would like a mini-review for these too.

We are in the midst of a global Menstrual Movement which makes it a very exciting time to be researching periods. Governments are starting to wake up and realise that female bodies have been persistently under-researched and dismissed and that it’s time to change. I am so pleased to see the UK Government is today launching a call for evidence from women about their experiences of healthcare in hope of addressing some of the inequalities that exist. Now is the chance to have your say and help make a difference. I will be submitting evidence and I urge women with something to share to do the same.

#ChooseToChallenge

Eco Rainbow pads review

I recently came across Eco Rainbow at a market in Reading. This small business makes all the pads by hand in Berkshire. I was so pleased to find a local company making reusable pads at an affordable price. I liked the look of the plush pads (they’re super soft) but they’re normally sold in bundles, however you can email to make a custom order. I did this so that I could try out a few different types. I bought several pads in cotton, bamboo velour and plush. These smaller 7-9″ are perfect as back up for a menstrual cup or for use alone on light to moderate days. You have the option of adding a PUL layer for leak-proofing which is reassuring if you choose to use them as your only means of protection. Whilst the cotton pads come in a greater variety of patterns, I prefer the softness of the velour and plush ones. These are so comfortable!

One small downfall is that, since they are handmade, delivery can take a bit longer however, I think it is worth the wait. It is worth checking out websites such as https://www.luxurymoon.co.uk/ which stock a selection of Eco Rainbow pads (along with many other brands), some of which can’t be found on their own website. For instance, I found a fab rainbow-patterned plush pad there! The delivery for this was really cheap and super quick.

Eco Rainbow recently introduced the Fae Pad; a cheaper alternative to the handmade pads. These start at around £4 but I find there is no compromise in quality. I now have three of these and find they work great both day and night. I particularly like the feature of a wider back – this hourglass shape makes you feel more secure, especially at night. Overall I would recommend these pads. There is a good selection to choose from meaning there is something for everyone.

Lilycup review

I first heard about menstrual cups a couple years ago. Initially, I felt a bit skeptical about them but decided to try out a cheap one and opted for a Fleurcup. However, I found this quite stiff and difficult to use. After a few attempts, I gave up and forgot about it. Recently, I decided to revisit menstrual cups. Whilst researching different brands (there are hundreds!), I came across the website https://putacupinit.com/. They have lots of helpful guides, comparison charts and even a cup quiz! They also have a page of discount codes. After using the guides on the site, I eventually decided to give the Lilycup a go because of it’s shape and softness.

Menstrual cups aren’t for everyone. You will have to get very up close and personal with your intimate area and deal with emptying the blood. Despite this, I’m starting to get used mine. The makers of Lilycup claim that it is the only cup that can be rolled as thin as a tampon, making insertion much easier compared to other cups. The silicone is super soft and comfortable. Although it’s taken a while to figure out the right position for the cup, I can now wear it without even knowing it’s there. They can be worn for 12 hours so you can leave it in all day. I’ve also found that it doesn’t give the dryness that tampons do. The gripped stem makes removal easier and the top rim helps prevents spills. I do however, recommend doing this in the shower when you’re first starting out as it can be quite messy! It’s important to do your research in order to find a cup that suits you and if you persevere then you may be saving a lot of money and waste in the long run.

Honour you flow: micro-pad review

My journey to a zero waste period began with reusable pads. I first purchased a mini-pad by ‘Honour Your Flow’ from http://www.earthwisegirlsuk.co.uk. I loved the tie-dye pattern and found it comfortable and easy to clean. I later bought some micro-pads for daily use. These are great for the dischargey days of your cycle or lighter days of your period. They come in some beautiful designs and stay in place fairly well. I do find that they can bunch up a bit but no more that disposables. It also depends on what style of pants you are wearing. On a positive note, you don’t have any issues with sticky plastic in the wrong place! They are a bit on the expensive side for reusable pads (around £6 for micro and £10 for maxi) however the cotton is organic and they are ethically handmade in the UK. Also if you sign up for emails (https://www.honouryourflow.co.uk/) you can be notified of their 20% off happy hour events.

Bleed green

A few months ago, it dawned on me how much I waste I was generating during my period. Pads, liners and tampon applicators all contain plastic which will remain in the environment long after we’re all gone. 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year and due to the fact the many menstrual products are flushed, these items are frequently found in the sea and washed up on beaches. The Marine Conservation Society estimate that on average, there are 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste for every 100m of beach.

I recently read an estimate which suggests that women generate a carload of period waste over a lifetime but if we consider the packaging and daily liners on top of this, it’s probably a lot more. The other issue with using disposable products is the money we simultaneously dispose of. In the UK, the average women spends £18,000 on these products during their 40 or so years of periods. Whilst some of the reusable products are initially expensive, they have the potential to generate huge savings over time. Moreover, with period poverty currently making headlines, these reusable products could offer a long-term solution, keeping girls in school.

Following these realisations, I decided to do some research into the alternatives. I have been trying out some reusable products which I will be reviewing here. I’m keen to make my period zero-waste through the use of cups, pads and pants. I’ve been trying out a variety of options to find what works for me and I look forward to sharing the results with you.