Let's get something out of the way first. I'm not sure when it started nor who started it, but a woman's "time of the month" has gotten a bad rap. I will give you that it can definitely be annoying. But the rest of the descriptions it gets "gross", "nasty", "the curse", etc. are largely undeserved, in my opinion.
A woman's cycle is a completely natural part of being a human. It is what lets our race continue on generation after generation. It is a normal bodily function just as eating, sleeping and using the bathroom. It is the body's way of naturally cleansing itself when a pregnancy does not occur that month. It may not be something that will ever be kosher to speak of at the dinner table with honored guest, but it is definitely not something that should carry the stigma it does.
And I will tell you this, for the unfortunate women out there who have, for some reason, gone through early menopause - they would probably give up an arm or a leg in order to have it back so that they could have children.
My cycle coming each month is what lets me know that my body is still able to conceive and carry a child. And after having gone through infertility, that is a wonderful thing to me.
I personally call it my "moon time". This is because in the days before electricity, women's bodies were influenced by the amount of moonlight we saw. Just as sunlight and moonlight affect plants and animals, our hormones were triggered by levels of moonlight. And, all women cycled together. Today, with artificial light everywhere, day and night, our cycles no longer correspond to the moon. Just as the moon controls the tide, it can also control our bodies.
Throughout all cultures and time, the magic of creation resided in the blood that women gave forth. This blood was regarded with reverence: it had mysterious magical powers. The blood was shed without pain, which was an experience that was not understood. Early menstrual rites were perhaps the first expression of human culture.
There are many things that I do not like about disposable pads and tampons. I don't like the waste. Think about how many menstrual cycles a woman will have in her lifetime. If she starts at age twelve and goes through menopause at age 51 (which are the national averages), she will have had roughly 468 menstrual cycles...less if she has children or breastfed. But just going on that average, if she uses 20 disposable pads per cycle, that is 9360 pads in the landfill. Think of how many women are in America alone...can you even imagine? You could fill a huge landfill with pads alone!
Traditional tampons and disposable pads currently on the market are made from cotton, rayon and blends of these fibers. The cotton used in these products has been grown using as many as 35 different pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Then they are manufactured using a chlorine process to whiten or transform the wood fibers to make rayon.
Chlorine bleaching produces an unwanted by - product called dioxin - a toxic substance linked to breast cancer, endometriosis, low sperm counts, cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and immune system suppression.
These products are also run through acid baths and caustic sodas during manufacturing to enhance absorbency. Disposable pads and tampons are left un-rinsed of these toxic residues. Deodorizing chemicals are sometimes added. All this is a danger because the vagina is a main entry point into the body. What is absorbed through this skin goes into the blood circulation.
Tampons and disposable pads are often a source of vaginal irritation as well, due to the wood and chemicals that together form their extreme absorbent fiber. An additional problem is created by synthetic backing on disposable pads that prevent air from circulating, which can lead to bacterial growth and odors not normally associated with menstruation. From this site.
For women who choose to wear pads, there are several cloth pads on the market. Glad Rags is probably one of the most popular. They are used the same as disposable pads but instead of throwing them out, you wash them. For those who use cloth diapers, this should not really be much of a stretch. Most women simply keep a container with a lid beside the loo and at the end of their cycle the simply go dump the contents into the washing machine.
I personally prefer the re-usable cup. I use the DivaCup. There are many brands on the market but they all work the same way. A menstrual cup is a type of cup worn inside the vagina. Instead of absorbing the blood, like a tampon, it holds the blood. It is them removed, emptied, washed and reinserted. This site has a comparison of all of the cups currently on the market. I found it to be a big help when choosing which one to use. This is another site for cup users.
Since we are on the subject of "down South" we may as well discuss other things that can be inserted into the nether regions....condoms.
Most condoms are made of latex or Polyurethane (Plastic), neither of which I relish the thought of being in my yoni. Not only are they made of these synthetic materials, but they usually contain chemicals meant to lubricate or to kill sperm. Again, not something I want in such a personal place. The body does it own job of lubricating and the condom should hold the sperm, killing them in addition is...well...over kill!
The only alternative that I have found are sheepskin condoms. They are quite a bit more expensive than the old standby. And they are only good for protection against pregnancy, not against STDs. But for those in relationships where you know you are STD free and are only worried about pregnancy, they seem like a wonderful choice.People seem to prefer them because they "feel more natural." By the way, unlike what the name implies, they are actually made out of lamb intestines, not sheepskin.