Change My Life: Puberty and Menstrual Health

Who knew there were loads of organizations with a focus on menstrual health? Not me. I’m not even sure that I knew “menstrual health” was a thing.

Since the New York Times story I’ve been contacted by several organizations which focus on menses.

I had a chance to speak to Dr. Greg Smith, director of education for You ARE Loved, a non-profit which is dedicated to educating people about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). The organization was started by a family who’s 20-year-old daughter, Amy, died after exhibiting flu-like symptoms. They didn’t connect her time-of-the-month to her symptoms soon enough.

TSS is the dreaded tampon disease. Actually, it’s the ingredient viscose rayon, which has all sorts of great uses but is evidently not meant to be put in your hooha, which is believed to cause toxic shock. The major tampon manufacturers — Playtex, Tampax, OB and Kotex – all use this ingredient, says Smith.

Alternatives to traditional tampons that You ARE Loved recommends include organic tampons from companies like Seventh Generation or Natracare and reusable products like Instead Soft Cups or Diva Cups and disposable and cloth pads.

The reusable cup is the part that I am interested in. I, personally, have not purchased a pad or tampon in about three years. I switched to the reusable silicone Diva Cup and it changed my life. It sounds gross because it’s new, but it’s actually far less icky than wearing a diaper, I mean pad, or pulling a bloody stick of cotton . . . you get the grody picture. It’s an option that I would love for my daughter to embrace for the simplicity, the affordability, the convenience and yes, the environment. But, how young is too young?

Smith, a dude who is spending his time educating women about their periods because “every significant female in my life has had menstrual issues from a very young age and I’ve learned more about it than anyone would ever want to,” says he is aware of children as young as seven using period cups exclusively, and girls as young as six using them periodically. SIX and SEVEN. Good Lord. I had assumed it would be too hard, but then I remembered that when no one told me how a tampon worked I wore the applicator too. Then jumped on a trampoline and . . . TMI. (I’m starting to feel like Edgar Allen Poe.)

Only Diva Cup (silicone), Keeper Cup (latex), Moon Cup (silicone) and Lunette Cup (silicone) have passed the voluntary testing the United States gov. recommends, notes Smith. Smith also pointed out that there are many cheaper knock-off cups now that reusable cups have gained popularity due to price, but their safety has not been tested.

Price? Let’s look at the math: you could buy tampons every month for the rest of your pre-menstrual life (some sexuality geeks actually did this math, I found it on Google) OR you could shell out $25 for a reusable cup.

Tampons – $3,072.30
Maxi Pads – $3,557.40
Cloth Pads – $200.05

So, like, who is so cheap that they would buy the $15 sub-par, untested-for-safety cup? We’re talking about your vag. people. It’s kinda important and has to last a lifetime. This is not a hard choice, at least not for me. Of course, I’ll give my daughter choices, but there’s no one stopping me from passing on “mother’s wisdom,” when explaining that tampon use carries the added risk of the “tampon disease” that could actually kill you.

These Lunettes are so cute I may spend another whopping $25 to get that orange one for myself when I go to buy one for my daughter.

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