Yes indeed. This post is about vaginas. Vaginas and all the loveliness that comes with being a proud owner of one. I have been thinking about this post for over a year now and haven't really had the guts to write it, or even more, post it. But this is important. For several reasons. There are lots of ladies out there, and therefore, lots of vaginas. We spend a ton of money and time taking care of them and I feel like we are in it together. If one finds a new trick or tool to make taking care of a ourselves easier, then we as women have an obligation to pass along that knowledge. I'm about to drop some serious knowledge on y'all, so watch out.
(You may also be asking why this is at all appropriate for this blog. I too thought about this and realized that the subheading of my blog is "A Journal of Conscious Living." Trust me, the info I have to share will make you live more consciously with your body and about your impact on the environment.)
If you're blushing and are feeling uncomfortable having read this much, you should probably click away because I'm about to get real. You might not see me the same way after this.
Still with me? Great. Let's talk about periods.
Since early on in my hormone-filled teenage years of feeling completely horrified that I had to have periods in the first place, I remember thinking what a waste menstrual pads were. Watching my garbage can fill up each cycle during the 4 or 5 days was pretty horrifying. (Leave it to me to think that even at the age of 13, huh?) When I started using tampons I felt a little better since they were just smaller in size and took up less space, but even then the applicator seemed silly, and the risk of toxic shock required me to continue using pads as well.
My first step in conscious menstruating was to buy applicator-less tampons. I recommend this for everyone. You don't need an applicator. Trust me. You really don't. Then I started getting pantyliners and tampons made out of organic cotton. But that still doesn't eliminate the stuff that goes to landfill. So I think it's time to make the ultimate leap. Zero-waste, baby!
Moms these days are jumping on the bandwagon of cloth diapers. So why not cloth pads? I've been using one periodically for a few years, called a GladRag, and have to say, I feel pretty awesome when I do use it. This one, however, is a little bulky so I don't wear it out as much. I also only have one, so when it's dirty, I'm back to using a disposable something. But I did some research recently, and found that there are tons of different companies (mostly Canadian) making and selling cloth pad options. I ordered one of several kinds to see which ones I like best. You can get a free sample at this site for just $5 shipping. (I'll update this post when the testing period is complete.)
You probably wondering what the cleanup situation with cloth pads is like. Sure, it's a little more work to clean than a disposable, which has no clean up whatsoever, but it doesn't have to take forever. The idea behind some cloth pad companies is that cleaning your own pads "gets you closer to your natural cycle." I'll have to admit, that's kind of silly, seeing as how I have no desire to "get closer" to my period. But for the sake of the environment, I'm willing to do it. A combination of cold water, hydrogen peroxide, and some natural detergent or baking soda pretty much takes care of things. You can even just throw them in the washing machine with the rest of your clothes as long as they aren't too saturated.
Now I know some of you are also thinking, "but I'm a tampon girl, cloth pads don't take care of my needs." Not to worry my friends, there is a zero waste option for you too. ---> Menstrual cups! They are little silicone cups, about the size of a shot glass, that you just stick up there. You empty it out every few hours, and it can stay in there for up to 12 hours with no risk of TSS. My friend told me about it way long ago in high school and I thought it was a crazy idea. But times change. I bought one. Haven't used it yet but I'm excited to.
Ok, so I think that takes care of periods.
Moving on to bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.
This just gets better and better, huh?
I received an incredible piece of advice from a Swedish Physicians doctor several years ago that I still, to this day, consider the single most useful (and practical) piece of info I've ever gotten from a doctor.
Basically, vaginas need a delicate balance of things to stay happy. Any time this balance changes, you get infections of the yeasty or bacterial variety. This imbalance is often caused by a change in the Ph of the environment. Vaginas are naturally acidic, at about 3.5-4.5 on the pH scale. This keeps the bacteria present to a controlled level. However, when the pH rises, the change effects the balance of the good bacteria and allows for an overgrowth of the bad stuff, plus a chance that yeast can move in and get comfortable. Gross.
Now commercials tell you that you have to go out and buy the latest fungal ointment or douche or "feminine wash." Those are not only chemically based, which is a problem in itself, but are also expensive, gross, and unnatural to use. All that really needs to be done is to return your V to its happy pH.
What does this? Boric Acid. You can find it in any drugstore, maybe near the hydrogen peroxide, in an 8oz bottle. You should look for the stuff that says it's for "household and farm products." You also need to get some size 00 gel capsules. Those come in packages of about a bazillion. Seriously, these are both super cheap and will give you enough to last for many years for not only you but your mom, your sister, your friend, and anyone else with a vagina. Just fill a handful of gel-caps up with the boric acid and keep them in an airtight container in the bathroom.
It works because Boric Acid has the same pH as your V. It also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It can be used to treat an existing problem or as a preventative. Either way, insert one gelcap, just as you would a tampon, before bed. (Make sure you go to the bathroom as soon as you get up in the morning or you'll be greeted with a a bit of a mess.) For an existing problem, use nightly for 7-14 days. Then you can treat once or twice a week for preventative measures, or at any point when you feel like your precious pH has been compromised, like after swimming or sex.
Pretty easy. I've read that some people have some irritation at first, but it's uncommon. It's also important to note that Boric acid is toxic when ingested. So don't eat it!!! And clearly label your capsules so no one gets confused.
I should also remind you all that I'm no doctor, and never will be. This is simply a tip that I have found incredibly useful in my life, but you should always talk to a doctor if you're feeling anything unhappy down there.
Here's to living closer and more comfortably with your femininity.