It's 2023, and we still struggle to talk (comfortably) about periods.
As I drafted the outline for this blog, I asked myself - will this be too much for some people?
And that's just the thing.
It is too much for some people.
But those people have some catching up to do - because it's about time women embraced what some native tribes consider the most sacred time of the month.
Ojibwe women used seclusion huts during menstruation to give them the space to reflect and restore. Other women in the tribe would bring them food and take care of their children during this time.
Some cultures associate menstruation with spiritualism - tracking their monthly cycle in cohesion with the lunar cycle and honouring the symbolism of each stage.
🌖 The Link Between Menstruation and The Moon
Since the average menstrual cycle is 28 days, and the lunar cycle is 29.5 days - it's clear to see how our menstrual and lunar cycle can sync.
If your cycle is much shorter or longer, it's easy to dismiss this theory - but there is some science to back it up...
The research suggests that artificial light in modern-life has disturbed this synchronicity with nature.
An understandable conclusion, since artificial light disrupts the daily solar pattern that our circadian rhythm relies on to regulate melatonin levels.
Light during darkness can block the production of melatonin, which is heavily linked to mood disorders, anxiety, immune suppression, and a disruption in the balance between oestrogen and progesterone.
And if you haven't already guessed, an imbalance of hormones disrupts the natural flow of your menstrual cycle.
Our stress-inducing 21st-century lifestyles and a society full of repressed and unresolved psychological trauma have caused our cortisol levels to rise...
...another disruptor of our cycle.
The process of menstruation is one that naturally draws you inwards. If given the recognition it deserves, it can be an extremely powerful time to utilise.
🤷🏻♀️ Why is Menstruation Still a Taboo?
Before the invention of period products, women used cloth to absorb their blood, or a concept known as "free bleeding."
The taboo of menstrual bleeding has been challenged more prominently over the last 20 years as we've seen a rise in the free bleeding movement.
But, with every new movement - comes a heap of backlash and outdated opinions that keep the taboo alive.
We're quick to call out Gen Z-ers for being a "snowflake" on 21st century social issues, but this name is probably better suited to most people in our Westernised culture for their inability to grasp menstruation as a natural process.
We exist in a world where convenience is king - we've never had to consider how our ancestors coped with bleeding because we've always had a "solution."
The thought of free bleeding to most people is disgusting, unhygienic, and inconvenient.
And since periods are tarnished with the inconvenience brush, our solution has been to conceal them in any way we can.
This is where period pants come in.
They provide a modern-day free-bleeding method that honours your flow and allows you to feel and be present on your period but respect your need to keep things physically contained.
🩸What are Period Pants?
Period pants provide a more sustainable, cost-effective, and practical solution to 21st-century period care.
Most people can't grasp how they work. I certainly questioned it before I purchased my first pair.
Surely if a super absorbant tampon can't contain my period, a pair of underwear won't either.
I know what you're thinking...
They've got to be huge, right?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover how closely these resemble standard knickers. Yes, they are thicker (understandably) - but style and fit is not compromised.
🤔 Why Period Pants?
I initially sought out period pants after a planned trip to London was disrupted due to the ongoing rail strikes (yay!) 🙄
The alternative travel option was to spend 5-6 hours on a coach on the day I was due on my period vs a 2-hour train journey.
Knowing I could flood a super tampon within a few hours during my first day or two sent me into a panic.
Enter period pants….
Luckily, thanks to the Queen's death (sorry, Liz) - the train strike was cancelled, so I didn't need to get on a coach, but I did invest in my first pair of WUKA period pants.
After exploring the UK's leading period pant company's website - I soon learned the impact of switching to a pair of period pants.
This investment was good news for -
✺ My dignity
✺ My confidence
✺ The planet
✺ My bank account
✺ Period poverty
If that's left you questioning if these modern marvels of menstruation are for you - here are the five reasons period pants were my best investment in 2022.
1️⃣ Increased Confidence
I first considered period pants after the recurrent lack of confidence and anxiety I felt when leaving the house during my heavier days.
You would think after experiencing a period once a month for the last 15 years, I'd grasp my flow and understand how frequently I needed to change my tampon...
...not the case.
Almost every time I came on my period, I failed to change my tampon before it leaked.
I sometimes only had one hour from inserting a super tampon to flooding.
To put that into perspective - I'd make myself my morning cuppa, have some breakfast, do 10 minutes of yoga, get dressed to start work - and then...
Whoomp, there it is!
So I initially purchased period pants as additional protection to tampons - I never intended to completely replace them.
I've worked from home since the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, so I've had the luxury of not needing to leave the house on my period.
But since going freelance and reducing my hours, I left the house more with my spare time - which meant more risk of out-of-the-house accidents.
My partner and I took a trip to the beach during summer - and it's safe to say the beach is no place for leaky tampons. With toilet access a good 10-minute walk away, it was less than an enjoyable day.
I felt uncomfortable and on edge, doing the classic period leak check at least five times an hour.
On the flip side, when I left the house wearing my period pants, I felt confident and almost forgot I was wearing them.
I've yet to experience any leaks or accidents. I don't have to remember to change a tampon when I'm out.
And if you can't get used to the free-bleeding feeling, these are still an excellent investment for anyone wanting that extra layer of protection with tampons.
2️⃣ Saving in More Than One Way...
With any new investment in life - you have to weigh the pros and cons.
Since period pants are here to replace a single-use solution, the upfront cost is higher.
But, as previously mentioned in my blog about the benefits of organic period care - when you purchase period pants from a supplier like WUKA, you save up to 50% with this one-time purchase.
Not only are period pants much better for your bank balance, but they help save the planet with 200,000 tonnes of waste produced each year from disposable menstrual products.
I hate waste.
Throwing things away that won't decompose for hundreds of years fills me with guilt, especially when I know it can be avoided.
If saving your money and the planet is at the top of your priority list in 2023 - consider period pants as your next best investment.
3️⃣ Gain Control of Your Health
Before I tuck into this next section, I don't want this to come across as scaremongering or a dictatorship of what is right or wrong.
You are free to make the right choices for your own body.
There are plenty of articles out there that shame women for using commercialised products for the sake of taking care of their monthly bleeding.
If these products work for you - great, keep at it. If the upfront cost of period pants is too much right now, you gotta do what you gotta do.
What changed my mind was reading Period Power by Maisie Hill.
This book has been game-changing, not only for my period health - but for my life.
I learnt that many mainstream brands of tampons contain chemicals like chlorine and dioxin, with some also containing Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) such as BPA.
Just like you'd want to know what's in the food you eat (put in your body), you should be curious about what is in the tampons you use (put in your body).
Nonorganic cotton tampons are made of several pesticides and herbicides too.
Organic tampons and pads are a better option, but they can still cause issues for some people.
If you're prone to vaginal dryness, tampons are your worst option. They are made to be highly absorbent, so they can cause irritation and discomfort.
Personally, I hate the thought of pushing something up there when I have crippling cramps - it's the last thing I want to do.
In fact, recent research has suggested that free bleeding also reduces cramps.
This research is currently limited, but it suggests that inserting tampons can cause some people to involuntarily tighten their muscles - and tight muscles can lead to increased cramps.
Although rare, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is another risk around tampons use.
Certain factors can increase the risk of developing TSS, such as using super-absorbent tampons, especially those containing synthetic fibres.
These tampons can create a favourable environment for the growth of bacteria and the production of toxins.
So, although the above is a low immediate risk - it is certainly something to consider.
We can only place some of the blame on tampons, however, since most mainstream products are laced with toxins and EDC's.
Shopping organic and locally is the best way to avoid this, but this a luxury, especially in our current cost of living crisis.
The main point here is the importance of transparency and education in the products we regularly use or consume to make informed decisions for our health & well-being.
4️⃣ Physical, Emotional, and Mental Comfort
Comfort in period pants has been highly debated since they first launched.
Their typically larger design and thicker seam has some people questioning whether they're comfortable.
But the vast range of styles and absorbencies means these pants can look and feel as good as your usual knicks.
As previously mentioned, I've never received the comfort, security, and practicality that tampons should provide.
So why aren't more people adopting them?
Well - the most common reason I hear is that people don't like the feeling of sitting in their blood.
And I get it. I felt the same too at the start.
There's bound to be insecurity around any new feeling, particularly if it has yet to be embraced.
Many of us have experienced shame and embarrassment with our periods at some point - so it's understandable why we struggle to embrace them.
In ancient cultures, where periods were worshipped and given the respect they deserved, women could let nature run its course, free-bleed, and harness this sacred time.
Since menstruation is linked to a time to turn inwards and reflect, it has been seen as the most creative time of the cycle.
Creative energy flows best when the mind is left to rest and recharge. Why else do we get our best ideas when in the shower, lying in bed, or out for a walk?
Our society is led by masculine and patriarchal attitudes favouring productivity, convenience, and efficiency in replacement of wellness, recharge, and rest.
This is just one substantial reason women feel it's impossible to embrace their period.
Wearing period pants is liberating because it feels like a return to the way of living nature intended. It's an appreciation of a natural process in life that deserves to be recognised, not hidden or plugged away.
As mentioned earlier, I am fortunate enough to work at home and part-time - so I can afford to reduce my stress, give at least 10% less on my period and shift some responsibilities to another day If my period hits hard.
But, I understand that completely surrendering to your period is not doable for many other women in more demanding work environments - but that doesn't mean you can't tap-in to your needs.
When I rest and reserve on my period - what Hill calls the Winter of the menstrual cycle - I enter the new season of my Spring full of potential and energy.
It's time to address the shame and the stigma around periods and grant women the space to be comfortable.
Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too.
5️⃣ Helping End Period Poverty
And finally, probably the most purposeful reason to invest in period pants…
Contribute to a cause that helps end period poverty.
But what is period poverty?
And what's more, these numbers are only rising since the recent surge in the cost of living.
WUKA - the UK's first-period pant company, has a Giving Back program where they partner with several non-profits across the globe that help educate people on menstruation and increase accessibility and inclusivity of menstrual products.
Through several giving initiatives, WUKA donates a percentage of their sales to non-profits like Mermaids, Days for Girls, and Kujuwa Initiative - providing customers with the opportunity to give back with every purchase from WUKA.
Their school sets for teenage girls, including their first-period kit, are a significant first step in the period pant revolution.
They are helping younger girls embrace their period from the start and potentially assisting families that can't afford the cost of ongoing, single-use menstrual products.
❤️ Feel, Don't Conceal…
I may have done the ole' switch-a-roo on Frozen's Let it Go lyrics, but this is the most concise way to convey my message.
To feel and to be in tune with your period and to allow it to flow (pardon the pun) as naturally as nature intended is one of the most underrated forms of self-care and appreciation.
If you've been considering period pants and are unsure if they're for you - my advice is to try them.
They can be worn complimentary to tampons or on their own - so it's up to you to what feels best.
Using them with tampons at the start may help with the transition phase and then see how you get on.
If you've already purchased a pair and felt a bit 'ick', - I suggest you give them another go with this information in mind.
Remind yourself that it's a natural process to be embraced.
If you can feel yourself bleeding (from your period, of course), it's usually a sign of good health - something to be cherished since not everyone has this privilege.