Making an Organic Choice
Reading labels on menstrual health products
As an OB/GYN, when it comes to giving advice for choosing menstrual health products, there are two primary issues I consider. These are women’s well-being and the environmental impact.
Health and Menstrual Health Products
First, health! The vagina has an extensive network of capillaries and nerves. There is a rich blood supply which means that the skin absorbs A LOT of what we place in that area. I suggest trying to only choose products that are clean and chemical-free as much as possible. Look for products that are free of perfumes and dyes. Go for all cotton and organic.
When reading labels, scan for unbleached since some of the toxins in products are byproducts of bleaching. For example, dioxin and furan are known carcinogens that are a result of manufacturing and bleaching of fibers in menstrual care items. Some of these byproducts are also potential hormone disrupters. We are still trying to understand their long-term effects. In addition, consider the possible cumulative effects of using these products over decades.
As if these concerns aren’t enough, it’s also hard to discern what we may actually be exposed to. Remember that when we’re using menstrual health products, we’re placing items right next to the absorbent skin of the vaginal canal and even the outer lips of the yoni. Reading labels is important but may give you limited information. Much of what might be unsafe is hidden in proprietary ingredients that are novel and highly absorbent. Tampon manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients, which is something that women are currently protesting in an effort to change.
The organization Women’s Voices for the Earth is dedicated to product transparency as well as toxin-free precuts. Period Equity is another organization devoted to menstrual health and policy initiatives.
Environmental Health and Menstrual Health Products
And then there’s waste, which affects environmental health. Look for manufacturers that limit their packaging. Try to use tampons without applicators if it works for you, or with minimal or even recycled or recyclable applicators. Washable re-usables like menstrual cups, cloth pads, or even sponges can be great choices for people who can use them without difficulty.
Whatever you choose to use, remember that you’ll be selecting something that can have an impact on both your body and the environment. Fortunately, there are a number of innovative companies offering functional solutions that put health first.
Read More about Menstrual Health Products
Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz is a board certified OB/GYN as well as a board certified Integrative and Holistic Medicine and a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist. She has a clinical practice in Los Angeles, is a mother of two children, and is active in social and environmental initiatives: thedrsuzanne.com.