Reusable Menstrual Products
Why Make the Switch?
Celia is from Paris and moved to India four years ago to join an NGO in Pondicherry working with children. Today, she lives in Auroville, an international community in Tamil Nadu, India and has been a part of the Eco Femme team for the last three years. When she’s not at Eco Femme… you can find her belly dancing among the trees!
Why did you make the switch?
I was already using a menstrual cup before I found out about cloth pads.
Before coming to India, I bought a cup because it was convenient – I only needed one thing and didn’t need to go and buy products. It was really about the practicality – I didn’t know so much about the impact of disposable menstrual products on the environment and my health.
Actually, it’s funny how I first saw a menstrual cup! I was at friend’s house and we were looking at everything in her room and amongst her jewellery things – it was the cup!
My friend said “it’s a menstrual cup” – but I was still confused.
At the time she didn’t really tell me much. I think my friends were shy to share, not because it’s about menstruation, but because they didn’t want to impose their views on me about making a switch to a reusable menstrual product.
The first time I heard about cloth pads was at a festival in Auroville. There was an Eco Femme cloth pads stall and I thought…
“What? How strange!” I didn’t feel that positive about cloth pads at first.
One of my friends worked at Eco Femme and she started to tell me more about the impact of disposable pads and tampons on the environment. At the time, I had some leaking from my cup so I bought pantyliners to try.
Eco Femme cloth pads
It was just by having conversations that gradually I had more and more cloth pads and wanted to try them for my whole cycle. I realised that some people have less cramps with the pads – of course, some have less have cramps with cups too, it depends on the individual. In France, I only used disposable pads, so I also thought it would be nice to come back to pads.
“For me, using cloth pads was more out of curiosity and talking with people who liked using cloth pads, rather than the cup.”
Before, I sort of knew disposable pads were not good but I never wondered what was in them. Now that I know these ingredients, the impact on the environment is quite obvious – all that plastic and chemical waste.
“It was only when I started working at Eco Femme that I really learnt what disposable pads are made from – that they are plastic and full of chemicals. And for tampons, that they are made from non-organic cotton which has pesticides.”
What is it like to use menstrual cups and cloth pads?
The two different products have totally changed my relationship to my period. In terms of my relationship towards my menstrual cycle and also in terms of practicality. I still keep the cup because sometimes I’m a lazy person! I wish I washed the pads quickly – it would make things simpler, but I am not so organised. So I have a lot of pads, and the cup can mean less laundry. Also, with a cup I don’t need to think about bringing a spare pad to change.
“Sometimes I am more of a cloth pad mood than a cup mood – especially when I am at home or more moody. There is something about cloth pads that is really safe and comfortable like a blanket, more nurturing.”
Sometimes when I menstruate, I have this feeling of an open hole below my body and it’s too open and too vulnerable. There’s something about cloth pads which is more comforting.
“In a way, cloth pads are about more than just a cloth pad. They are choice that can put you on a path of learning about yourself and your body.”
For me, I want to be more aware of my body and have curiosity. When I am curious I am listening and then I am responding – what does my body feel and need? With the cloth pads I am more aware of my blood and flow. With the cup, it is difficult to feel the blood coming out. It depends what you prefer. Although, with the cups it is interesting to see how much you bleed and whether you are average, light or heavy – because I had no idea before.
The foldable pad was another experience. I was always presenting it as a village women thing – more traditional etc and of course no-one internationally was buying it. Then I tried it and realised, it’s really good for heavy flow. For myself, I have an average flow, but it really brings a sense of safety and comfort for me.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to people making the switch?
I think people are worried it isn’t comfortable and that it will leak. People think cloth pads don’t have the same amount of absorbency as disposable pads, yet they really are the same.
“I have used both cloth pads and disposable pads for a long time and I can say from personal experience that they have the same absorbency.”
I have had leakage along the wings of disposable pads. With the Eco Femme cloth pads, I also had a little leakage along the wings but it was only for the first few uses. The first time you use the pad, the cloth is still new. As you wash it, the cloth becomes softer and more absorbent. After this, the leakage does not happen again – not like disposables.
What would you say to someone thinking about making the switch?
If I speak with women, I will say everything – all the different aspects of using cloth pads because everyone is different. For some women, the health aspect will be really important because they have experienced problems with disposable pads. For others, it will be the economic part – that cloth pads save you money in the long-term.
I don’t believe in only talking about the ‘save the world’ environment perspective when it comes to cloth pads. It is still only a small percentage of the population that may feel this a priority. Normally, comfort and practicality are higher for us.
“Cloth pads aren’t just for the earth – it is also about comfort and functionality. It is a big benefit – cloth pads are more comfortable and are just as functional as disposable pads.”
Eco Femme is a women-led social enterprise based in Tamil Nadu, India that produces and sells washable cloth pads, provides menstrual health education and opens conversations on menstruation all along the way! To learn more visit https://ecofemme.org/.