If you’re anything like me, you don’t exactly relish having your period. My period and I haven’t always been on the best terms but I’ve come to appreciate that time of month as a time to slow down and reevaluate. However, my life has gotten so much better because of the changes I have made regarding the products I use during my period and to help with my own menstrual health.
Because there are more women in science who are researching science that actually affects women, we are reaching a new point in menstrual health where we are actually talking about what happens every month. Instead of sweeping it under the rug and pretending we aren’t menstruating, we are embracing a natural, healthy part of being a healthy woman in the 21st century. And also, living in the 21st century means we have more access to better period and menstrual health products than any other generation before us.
So, what do we do with this knowledge? How do we help create better periods for ourselves? Here are a couple different advances that you may or may not know about that are changing the game when it comes to period and menstrual health.
1. Reusable Period Underwear
If you are on the internet, you’ve heard of THINX underwear. They are reusable, absorbent underwear that you wear in lieu of a pad or a tampon during your period. They took the world by storm with their ad campaign battle in New York City. The ads featured models wearing the product, but also different objects like eggs or fruit, much in the vein of a Georgia O’Keefe painting, if you know what I mean. But overall the science holds up to the claim. The underwear, which is not the only kind on the market, with another brand being Dear Kate, is made with different layers of material. Essentially, there is an absorbent layer, a moisture-wicking layer, and a layer to prevent leaks.
These are a great alternative for using pads or tampons. They are reusable, and can be used for about five years or more given proper care. That makes them good for the planet, as you reduce your waste instead of using single-use products. They are also good for your health because you are not putting bleached cotton right next to your vagina, which is one of the most absorbent areas of tissue in the body.
Another option, as opposed to reusable period underwear, are reusable cloth pads. One option is Lunapads. Lunapads are a reusable cotton pad that you can wash and reuse time and time again. Like THINX or Dear Kate, they are so much better for the planet, and for your vaginal health. If you’re wondering what it’s like using them, you can check that out here.
THINX underwear sells six different styles of underwear, along with training shorts, and bodysuits. Dear Kate sells 3 styles of underwear, as well as activewear like yoga pants, dance wear, and an entire collection for plus-sized women.
2. Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups have been around for almost 40 years, but only just recently have they started making a resurgence. As the proud owner of a menstrual cup myself, I can say at first it sounds very unappealing. I was never one to wear tampons. To me, they were just uncomfortable. So when I first started looking into menstrual cups, I found myself scratching my head asking how would that fit up there? But the thing about menstrual cups is that they are designed with women in mind. The vagina can stretch a lot (it was designed to handle giving birth, remember!) and the cup sits nicely under the cervix to collect your period.
Made with either medical grade silicone or a component called TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), these cups can be used for up to ten years with proper care. Once you place them in, you don’t have to think about them for about 12 hours, depending on your flow. It’s the ultimate low maintenance solution. There is also no threat of Toxic Shock Syndrome because of the materials used. Again, like reusable period underwear, menstrual cups are also good for the planet because of you can reuse them for years.
Not only that, but a new cup – LOONCUP – could completely change the menstrual cup market. Made with the same medical-grade silicone that most menstrual cups are, the LOONCUP also would come equipped with a bluetooth device that connects to an app you would download onto your phone. Through the app, the cup would be able to tell you different facts about your period, like how much fluid you are producing, and when you should change your cup. Unfortunately, this cup is only good for six months, which makes it less environmentally friendly and long-lasting as the other options on the market, but it’s an incredibly cool idea!
Here is a list of the different menstrual cups on the market today, rated by users. Most are available online to be shipped, but some, like the Diva Cup, can be bought in the USA in drugstores like CVS, or even Walmart.
3. Clue, the Period Tracker App
There are dozens of period tracker apps on the market, but none quite like Clue. Clue, designed by a Berlin-based menstrual health company by the same name, is designed to be the best tracker on the market. It isn’t pink, it is’t frilly. There are no euphemisms here for what is happening in your body. The app tracks the different signs of fertility, and also a myriad of other options, from hair to mood to cravings, all things that are affected by your period. There is more to the app then just putting in the days you’re bleeding each month, and having the extra tracking options helps the algorithm – and you – learn more about the science of your menstrual cycle.
The way the algorithm works is it follows what you track, every day, and the more you put in the more it learns. By using the app every day you can better predict when your next cycle will begin, when you are due to ovulate (though the app is not entirely accurate there; you cannot use Clue as the main tracker if you are using the Fertility Awareness Method, only as a supplement to it), when PMS should start, and other parts of your cycle. By tracking different aspects of your life, you can start to realize how so many different systems in your body are interconnected. And isn’t learning more about your body a beautiful thing?
Clue can be downloaded for both iOS and Android.
4. Electromagnetic Pulse Therapy Machines
Having menstrual cramps along with your period sucks. For a lot of people it’s debilitating, and not everyone wants to be taking painkillers every day of their cycle. A lot of people tend to use heat to deal with menstrual cramping. However, there is another way.
Electromagnetic pulse therapy machines like the Livia use low-frequency pulse to keep the nerves “busy.” The pain signals can’t pass through because of that, and you can go about your day, pain free. Livia was backed in a very successful indiegogo fund, and is now available for purchase. However, just because it comes in pretty colors and with fun pads to stick onto your skin doesn’t mean that you can’t find a cheaper alternative. The Livia is essentially a tens unit, which have been used in electromagnetic pulse therapy for years, and are proven to help with menstrual cramping. You can purchase a tens unit for fairly cheap online. The idea is the same – pulses disrupt the pain signals, and you go about your life pain free. That sounds like a much better way to spend a period.
Your period can be awesome. You can make it awesome. You can track to find out when you’re going to get it, wear reusable period gear to help with your menstrual health, and even get rid of cramps. It doesn’t have to be some mysterious part of your life that you learn nothing about. The science is in – the 21st century is the time for periods to shine!