For most women, once a month our favorite aunt, Aunt Flo, comes for a little visit. Most women have had plenty of time to get to know Aunt Flo. This monthly visitor is part of the menstrual cycle. For most of us, every 28 to 35 days vaginal bleeding occurs for between two and eight days. This is part of the uterus shedding its inner lining.

There are many ways to care for the body when menstruating.

Gladrags

Gladrags provides reusable cotton pads with wings that snap in place. They come in two sizes—daytime and overnight--both with the option of a cotton insert for added protection.

Tampons

Tampons are another popular option. There are some concerns with potential health risks in association with using tampons. The vagina houses many helpful bacteria which ward off harmful organisms. There are instances, however, when the harmful bacteria take over and this can cause disease. Toxic shock syndrome, for example, is a disease caused by infection of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Most conventional tampons are made of rayon or rayon-cotton blends. Since rayon is commonly bleached with chlorine, it contains dioxin. There are studies showing that the dioxin in tampons can be linked to cancer, especially breast cancer, and also to immune system suppression. There are also studies showing that the dioxin levels in tampons are too low to harmfully affect the body. A study conducted by the New York University School of Medicine published in July of 1994 suggested that rayon (often found in conventional tampons) also produces Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which causes toxic shock syndrome. Twenty varieties of U.S. tampons were tested and the bacteria were detected in all brands.

Fortunately since September, 1993, Natracare has offered 100 percent organic cotton tampons to American women. They offer regular and super absorbency tampons, with and without applicators. They are chlorine-free and have no additives or perfumes.

Sea sponges

Sea sponges are a natural alternative to the tampon. They are reusable and all natural and used just like a tampon. They need to be washed out every four to six hours, and they can last up to six months. If needed, a piece of string can be sewed to the sponge so it is easy to take out. Because the sponge is so flexible, a panty liner is suggested. The sponge should be rinsed out before reinserting and cleaned after each menstruation. There are several ways to clean the sponge. One way is to soak the sponge in a solution of one cup warm water and one tablespoon baking soda. Another solution is one cup of warm water and one tablespoon apple cider vinegar.

Menstrual cups

The DivaCup is a reusable menstrual cup. It looks like a small cone-shaped cup with a narrow handle at the base. It is made of soft medical-grade silicone. It is latex-free, odorless and hypoallergenic. It can be used over and over again for many years. The menstrual cup eases concern of filling landfills with tampons, pads and wasteful packaging. Unlike tampons, which absorb vaginal fluids, a menstrual cup just collects menstrual flow leaving the helpful vagina bacteria undisturbed. The DivaCup comes in two sizes—one for those under 30 who have never given birth, the other for those who have given birth or who are over 30. The menstrual cup can be worn up to 12 hours. Depending upon flow, it may need to be changed up to five times per day. Wash your hands prior to removing the menstrual cup. Then, simply remove the cup, wash it out and reinsert. If a sink is not available, it can be wiped out with dry tissue and reinserted, but make sure to wash it with soap and water when convenient. A menstrual cup is as reliable as tampons. Just like a tampon, if they get too full they leak and if it is not inserted correctly it can be a bit uncomfortable. If you were able to get used to a tampon, you can get used to a menstrual cup. Just give it a little time. Upon using it the first time, it is suggested that it be run under warm water so when it is inserted it matches your body temperature. It also becomes more comfortable once menstrual fluid settles in the cup.

We’re all different

We have come along way in the care of our bodies and vaginas. We have many options available to us. Remember, every body, and uterus is shaped differently. Take the time to find what works best for you. Happy hunting and happy menstruating.