In celebration of International Women’s Day we wanted to talk about the ‘cross all women bare’ – menstruating.

We wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of the topic and ask are feminine hygiene products safe.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and it is also the thinnest. It absorbs everything we put on or near it and includes toxins. Taking into account that the vagina in particular is highly permeable, this means that you will be absorbing whatever is in your tampons or pads. Once absorbed these chemicals accumulate in the body.

The average woman uses up to 16,800 tampons in her lifetime. And that’s just tampons. Many women use countless sanitary pads in place of, or in addition to tampons.

So, what’s in them?

Many of today’s feminine hygiene products are made primarily from rayon, viscose, and cellulose wood fluff pulp. Rayon and viscose present a potential danger in part because of their highly absorbent fibres. When used in tampons, these fibres can stick to your vaginal wall, and when you remove the tampon, the loosened fibres may stay behind inside your body, thereby raising your risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

As reported on Dr Mercola’s website, Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy and co-author of Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart, revealed just how little we are allowed to know about the ingredients used in feminine hygiene products. When Andrea called Procter & Gamble directly to find out what’s in their Always Infinity pads, the only ingredients the service reps could give her were: foam and a patented ingredient called ‘Infinicel’— a highly absorbent material that can hold up to 10 times its weight.

In fact, according to her research, each conventional sanitary pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags and we all know about the hazardous nature of plastic chemicals.

Furthermore, to give tampons and pads that pristine “clean” white look, the fibres used must be bleached. Chlorine is commonly used for this, which can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethane. Studies show that dioxin collects in your fatty tissues, and according to a draft report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dioxin is a serious public health threat that has no “safe” level of exposure.

So, what can we do? Follow some important rules:

• Avoid tampons and pads with odour neutralizers and artificial fragrances, artificial colours, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene and propylene glycol (PEG)-contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness and infertility.

• Avoid super absorbent tampons — choose the lowest absorbency rate to handle your flow.

• Never leave a tampon inserted overnight; use overnight pads instead.

• When inserting a tampon, be extremely careful not to scratch your vaginal lining (avoid plastic applicators).

• Alternate the use of tampons with sanitary pads or mini-pads during your period.

• Change tampons at least every 4-6 hours.

• Do not use a tampon between periods.

So what’s the alternative?

Two of our Mojettes road-tested the Diva Cup, otherwise known as a menstruating or moon cup. We won’t lie, it’s something a modern Western woman may have never experienced before!

What is it? It’s a cup, inserted into the vagina designed to collect your menstruating blood. Simple right?

The Diva Cup has your back for up to 12 hours depending on your flow and if you insert her correctly, as she can be a bit fussy. We recommend using panty liners until you get used to inserting the cup and know what your flow is like.

Inserting can be a bit tricky. We found inserting in the shower the easiest option as squatting in the small cubicles here at Charlestown square is slightly gross and highly uncomfortable – but if we used the cubicle with the extra kiddie’s toilet we did have more room to move.

Yes, you will be faced with the horror of touching your own blood but we suggest having some hand wipes nearby, particularly when emptying the cup.

It’s safe to swim in – no it didn’t fill with salt water. And it’s fine to use during yoga – no pinging out during a downward dog.

All jokes aside it’s not scary, it’s just different and one quickly adapts (especially as your coffee change starts adding up from all the money you save on tampons). We figure getting to know yourself and your period intimately can only be a good thing. Have you read that stuff online about embracing your cycle? We are certainly embracing ours.

However, if you just can’t face it or get woozy at the sight of blood, we recommend choosing sanitary products made from organic cotton from companies such as Organyc, Natracare and TOM. I found this on the TOM Organic website and I think they have summed things up perfectly:

‘Not all tampons are created equal. The purpose of an organic cotton tampon is to ensure that only 100% certified organic cotton touches your insides. If choosing organic is important to you or you have sensitivities to plastic in tampons – please ensure that the brand you choose (organic or not) does not have a polypropylene cover – don’t confuse this with the plastic wrapping you take off – the polypropylene is part of the tampon itself and is inserted into your body. If you’re unsure, pull the tampon apart and you’ll see if there’s a non–woven material that wraps itself around the fibres. There is only ONE organic tampon on the supermarket shelf in Australia that doesn’t have polypropylene in its ingredients – and that’s TOM Organic.’