Feminine hygiene during menstruation is an essentiality for a woman during her active reproductive life spanning over 35 to 40 years. Sadly, a majority the womenfolk in India are deprived of the basic means of menstrual hygiene management due to factors such as illiteracy, poor economic scenario, social and cultural compulsions.
Even in the present age, most rural Indian women are restrained from safe practices during menstruation due to the taboo faced by them. The perpetuation of this distressing scenario starts with most girls opting out of schools on reaching puberty due to lack of adequate infrastructure in our rural schools to cope with this phenomena; leave alone the wherewithal to access menstrual products and their affordability.
How do you describe menstruation?
Menstruation or period is a natural biological phenomenon of procreation, in which a female goes through this cycle roughly once a month. The process is triggered by the pituitary gland in the brain which prompts the release of a mature ovum from the female ovary to lodge in the uterus for a fortnight waiting to be fertilized by a sperm. In the absence of fertilization, the ovum along with the primed inner wall of the uterus is discharged as menstrual flow from the genitals in the form of blood. This flow lasts for 4 to 5 days and that is when women menstruate.
A brief description of available menstrual products:
There are two basic types of menstrual products viz. Internal and External. The first is designed to collect the menstrual fluid within the body like Tampons or Cups and the latter as the name suggests, captures the flow outside the body like Sanitary Pads and Liners, which again have many variants.
What are menstrual products made of?
Most of the conventional sanitary napkins are made out of plastics or its derivatives to the extent of almost 90%. Polymers are used as the super-absorbent core. The tampons are made out of rayon while cups are generally made of silicone and sometimes rubber. These being the most commonly used menstrual products, pose health hazards to the users as they come in direct contact with the skin causing allergies or rashes and breeding ground for several infections. In recent times, reusable cotton cloth sanitary napkins and more particularly organic, biodegradable and compostable menstrual products are gaining popularity, despite the deterrence of higher cost.
What are organic, biodegradable pads?
Sanitary pads and liners that have an organic plant based top cover with a corn, bamboo, wood, banana, jute pulp or cellulose absorbent core and thus free from any plastics, chlorine, latex, rayon, chemical additives or dyes are classified as biodegradable pads. This makes them fully compostable and lessens the accumulation of plastic waste.
Benefits of biodegradable sanitary pads :
Organic sanitary pads can benefit you in many ways, first and foremost by directly helping in the management of menstrual hygiene and indirectly by impacting the society as a whole. Let us enumerate nine of them one by one:
1. Basic Hygiene: The organic, biodegradable pads have an efficient absorbent cellulose core which is better suited to keep you dry. The sensitive skin around the genitalia does not react, and hence the user is free from rashes as the material does not contain harmful chemicals.
2. Sterile: The organic pads are sterile. Frequent changes are part and parcel of menstrual hygiene; otherwise, the menstruating women face the risk of contracting severe bacterial and fungal infections.
3. Cleanliness: The organic pads are made from substances that are free from any contamination, and they do not harm the reproductive parts.
4. Plastic-free: By choosing organic, biodegradable sanitary pads you have chosen a product that is free of any plastic. This makes it skin friendly and obviates health hazards originating from the rampant use such materials.
5. Eco-friendly alternative: Conventional sanitary pads are a source of plastic waste with billions of pads disposed of by women. It is well known that plastics do not decompose in nature easily and it is estimated that they may take up to 500 years to break down completely. Incineration is no solution to this environmental hazard as they release toxic fumes further polluting the air. Natural sanitary pads are biodegradable and decompose within 2 years of disposal.
6. Chemical free: The organic pads are free of harmful chemicals as it is not bleached in chlorine or contain dioxin that may cause dangerous diseases like cervical cancer, miscarriages, birth defects in offspring, and UTIs. It makes use of the pads safer for you in every aspect.
7. No Release of Dioxin: The polymer absorbent used in traditional pads release dioxin on contact with the air or when incinerated. The fumes of dioxin are toxic causing severe air pollution.
8. Animal-friendly: Organic sanitary pads indirectly impact animal life. These are free from any animal ingredient and they raw material is grown in organic environment precludes the use of any pesticides thus saving the lives of birds and animals in the fields.
9. Gynecologist recommended: Because of the absence of synthetic material, organic pads are recommended by gynecologists for use by the menstruating women to reap the benefits of hygiene free from the risk of infections, rashes, allergies and easy disposal methods.
Cost and Education- The only disadvantage
As of today, the organic sanitary pads are way better than the conventional sanitary napkins that are plastic based. Most sanitary napkin users are unaware of the availability of such options and feel shy to try something new. In India where more than 70% menstruating women are not in a position to even access the most basic feminine hygiene product, the cost of a biodegradable and organic pad acts as a deterrent and prevents the spread of its use on a greater scale.
A new beginning has been made with the arrival of biodegradable sanitary pads and education about the product will help the category to emerge from a niche market. In the broader interest of Indian society, the spread of awareness, education about menstrual hygiene, easy access to such menstrual product options will surely usher a day where the benefits of biodegradable sanitary pads will change the life of every woman.