Ever wonder what your grandmother, great-grandmother, and all the preceding
generations of women used during their monthly cycles? Surely,
with no 24-hour convenience stores, no mega-stores with endless aisles, and,
if you can imagine this, no internet, buying disposable, single use menstrual
products 24/7 was not an option for these ladies.
In fact, disposable, commercially manufactured disposable feminine protection products as we more or less
know them - menstrual pads discarded after use and flushable tampons - only came to market in the
1920s and 1930s. And it was not until the 1960s that pads came backed with an adhesive;
before that, belts were primarily used to keep them in place.
What then, was used? Everything from papyrus by the Ancient Egyptians, wool by
the Romans, rolls of grass by the Equatorial Africans, vegetable fibers by
Indonesians, and rags (hence the expression "on the rag") in the United States.
Some of these, such as knitted or crocheted wool pads and rags, were
reusable: washed and ready for the next cycle; while others were likely
disposed of after use, such as make-shift tampons wherein softened paper was
wrapped around wood.
Aha! Now it makes sense - where the expression "on the rag" comes from!
60% of women surveyed were not aware of today's reusable menstrual
products. News Flash: they exist, they exist!
Fast forward to today. Do reusable products exist and are they being used?
When we posed this question in a recent MyMonthlyCycles poll (see below),
60% of those taking the survey indicated that they did not know reusables exist.
Reusable menstrual products are absolutely available today, having made a
resurgence in the 1980s. There are several alternative feminine protection menstrual products that may
well be of interest to you during your menstrual years: reusable cloth pads, and reusable
Do you use reusable menstrual products?
Yes, all the time
Yes, for part of my cycle
No, I prefer disposable
No, I did not know they existed
Poll previously run on MyMonthlyCycles.com. Total votes: 3,503.
TYPES OF REUSABLE MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS
Reusable Cloth Pads
Cloth pads are similar in concept to disposable menstrual pads, in that they attach
to your underwear, either via velcro or wings that fold over and are snapped. Liners
are inserted into this outer casing, and absorb the menstrual flow. Pad fabric varies
per vendor, some being made of cotton, flannel, or fleece.
After several hours, or as needed due to flow level, you change the pad. However, you
don't dispose of them. Instead, you wash the pad - most manufacturers recommend soaking
in cold water first, then laundering. What to do with the used pad if you are out of
the house (e.g. at work)? Most Manufacturers offer carrying cases to easily transport
the used pads back home.
Pads typically are sold in a variety of sizes and thicknesses for light to heavy days.
With some brands, you stack multiple liners to accommodate different flow levels:
light flow, one liner; heavy flow, two or more liners.
Reusable Menstrual Cups
Like a tampon, a menstrual cup is inserted internally, but the similarity ends
here. A tampon absorbs the menstrual flow, whereas a menstrual cup catches
the blood. Bell-shaped, and made of rubber or silicone, the cups can usually
hold about 1 oz of fluid, so you'll need to remove the cup periodically during
the day to empty it and clean it before re-insertion.
Menstrual tidbit! The typical flow during one's menstrual period is
2 to 4 ounces.