We have grown so reliant on throwaway products for perfectly natural events that sometimes people wonder how on earth they would deal with it if suddenly those products were unavailable. Of course, for many centuries we handled things like menstruation without access to the local Wal-Mart, and with just a little bit of preparation we could do so again.
This issue of feminine hygiene is an important one not only from the perspective of personal, feminine comfort, but for overall health and prevention of bacterial infections and other nasties.
Guys, if you are not comfortable with the topic of feminine hygiene, feel free to skip over this one or send it off to one of your lady friends who most assuredly will thank you. On the other hand, it is important to have an understanding of others and the challenges they face following a disruptive event, so, for that reason, I hope you stick around.
History of Feminine Hygiene
With most topics relating to preparedness, the answers we seek come from the past, and the subject of feminine hygiene is no different.
Throughout history, women have used two means of absorbing menstrual fluids: external protection, like a pad, and internal protection, like a tampon.
Women have fashioned absorbent pads from materials like animal skins, oil silk, wadding, paper, wood fibers, linen, and wool. The pads were held in place by belts or string.
What many people don’t know is that from as early as ancient Egypt (1850 BCE) women were fashioning tampons for internal protection. They have used sea sponges, bits of fabric like cotton or wool, rolled up and tied with string, papyrus, and even moss or grass to absorb their flows.
In the early 1800s, many documents indicate that women simply wore dark undergarments and clothing and did not use anything additional to absorb the fluids. It wasn’t until about the mid-1800s that a rubber menstrual cup was patented. Most women, however, made their own products to deal with their periods during that time.
The Tampax company began producing the first disposable, mass-produced tampons in the early 1930s. The first modern menstrual cup was patented in 1937 but was unable to compete with the convenience of the disposable tampons. The first disposable pads that came out had to be pinned to the underwear until the 1950s, when sanitary belts began to become popular. In the 1960s, pads with adhesive strips revolutionized feminine hygiene.
The Feminine Hygiene Preps You Should Make
While it is interesting to see what was used throughout history, I doubt that any of us wish to use moss to deal with that time of the month. If you are a woman of childbearing age, or if you have daughters, even ones too young to be menstruating, you will want to make preparations to deal with menstruation in the event a time comes that you can’t make a quick, monthly trip to Wal-Mart or the drugstore.
Feminine preparedness is something that is often overlooked by those of us that write about prepping. After receiving a number of questions from readers, I felt it was high time that I became educated to some of the alternatives to traditional, disposable methods for dealing with the monthly menses.
It is my wish that the following suggestions will help you to get some feminine hygiene preps in order.
Stockpile Sanitary Napkins and Tampons
When times are stressful, it can be helpful to avoid as many changes as possible. If you stockpile several months’ supply of sanitary napkins and tampons, you may be able to ride out the event that has kept you from being able to purchase them at the store. Purchase additional packages of disposable products each month and stash them away for a time in which you need them.
As well, if the event causes water to be in short supply, having some disposable products on hand will keep you from using your valuable supply to soak soiled cloths.
The best way to dispose of soiled menstrual products is to burn them.
Why You Should Consider Reusable Products
In a long-term scenario, you will need solutions that can be reused and don’t require disposal. Not many people could stock up on enough disposable supplies to last forever. Don’t forget that reusable pads can also be used for minor incontinence and post-birth bleeding, making them handy for many different stages in a woman’s life.
Some women are turning to reusable solutions voluntarily. This has several benefits. First, they are able to avoid the potentially unhealthy chemicals used in the manufacture of pads and tampons. Second, they are being kind to the planet by reducing waste. Thirdly, they save a lot of money by not having to make a purchase each month.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, if the SHTF, they are already accustomed to dealing with these methods of feminine hygiene.
Buy Cloth Pads
Most of the ready-made cloth pads that you can buy these days are really comfortable and convenient. Popular materials are cotton, flannel, and bamboo. Gone are the days of pins and belts. Today, most of these pads are made with little wings. Where disposable pads would have adhesive to keep them in place, on the wings of the reusable pads are Velcro or snaps that wrap around and fasten the pad to your underwear.
You should plan on a variety of pads to meet the different needs of your cycle. You will want to purchase half a dozen pantyliners and overnight/heavy flow pads and about 12 daytime pads. You can save money buy purchasing an entire kit. While this looks expensive, keep in mind that this is a one-time purchase that will last 5 years or longer if you take care of it properly.
DIY Some Cloth Pads
If you are into saving money and DIY, it is a fairly simple project to make your own pads.
This two-part video tutorial will walk you through the steps of making your own pads.
Caring for Cloth Pads
Another question that often arises when discussing cloth pads is, “What do you do with them when you are out or are away from home?”.
You can treat them basically like cloth diapers. When you remove the soiled pad, use the snaps to fold the soiled area inward. Then, place it in a sturdy Ziploc freezer bag or one of these “wet bags” designed for feminine hygiene products.
If you are at home, of course, it is exponentially easier. Rinse the pad in cold running water. Then, put it in a container under the bathroom sink that contains a white vinegar and water solution. This will keep any stains from setting in until you have a chance to wash it thoroughly. Generally, pads are machine washable and can be dried on low. If you want to be discreet about washing them, use a mesh lingerie bag to keep them together in the laundry.
Avoid using bleach, as it will break down the fibers of your pads and reduce the lifespan. Avoid using fabric softener, too, because it can cause the pad to be less absorbent.
This video goes into more detail about washing your pads.
Some women truly dislike using pads because they find them uncomfortable. There are a couple of safe methods of internal protection, too.
The Menstrual Cup
One of the most popular reusable solutions is the menstrual cup. Generally made of flexible silicone, these cups are inserted vaginally and collect the menstrual flow. They are removed, dumped, rinsed, and reinserted.
The most popular menstrual cup on the market is the Diva Cup. It comes in two sizes, pre-childbirth and post childbirth. A newcomer to the market, the Blossom Cup, is about half the price and has fantastic reviews.
A product used for centuries, natural sponges are absorbent, safe, and reliable methods for internal protection.
To use the sponge, simply dampen it, squeeze it out, and insert it. You can tie a string around it for easier removal. Rinse well, squeeze out, and reinsert. You can use the same sponge for numerous cycles, until it begins to break down and become less absorbent. When your cycle is over, soak the sponge in hydrogen peroxide, then air dry it thoroughly before storing it away.
You can purchase sponges that are sold as sponge tampons if you want to pay 6 times the price, but any sea sponge will work. You can cut them to size if the sponge piece is too large for comfortable insertion.
The Final Word
Feminine hygiene preps are often overlooked as we pay attention to things like food, shelter, fire, and water. Although I am well past the age of needing this type of prep for myself, I do believe that this is something many preppers need and thus is deserving of our attention.
If you are a woman or if you live with women (or girls), prepare for your monthly needs in the same way that you would for any other regular occurrence. Build a stockpile to meet immediate needs, and prepare a back-up in the event that the crisis lasts for a longer period of time.
As far as comfort in a disaster is concerned, having some solutions in place could greatly relieve anxiety and inconvenience in a stressful scenario.