Well, you could have blown me down with a feather! I have already reported to you in my last two progress posts that one of my gluten migraines always seemed to happen on the second day of my period. I was convinced it was a hormonal problem, possibly a drop in B6, iron or magnesium or something at that time, but nothing seemed to help.
I already know that other migraines in the month happen whenever I get ‘glutened’ especially with corn. Could something I was doing at that time of the month be corny maybe? What about sanitary wear? I started searching on forums etc and discovered that quite a few women have identified the same problem (don’t ya just LOVE the internet?!). I was not going mad: it was actually possible.
Men or anyone not wanting this info, I give you permission to skip this post by the way; it does get a bit graphic later on 😉
I began by contacting the various manufacturers including BodyForm, Tampax and Natracare. Most just came back with a standard denial of any corn being used at all and I pressed them, of course, on the cotton being sprayed with corny pesticides and, surprisingly, all then went quiet…
Natracare were particularly helpful:
I am allergic to corn. Are your tampons and towels corn-free please?
Natracare Tampons are made from only certified organic 100% cotton. This means the tampon and the string itself are only organic cotton. There is however an 100% compostable starch film on the back of our pads and liners which acts as a leak-proof barrier. This film is made from certified GMO free starch derived from corn although the film is more increasingly made from starch derived from thistle plants. Nevertheless we cannot guarantee that corn has not been used. The corn starch is not the actual food part of the plant but the starch components of the plant material.
I assume the corn film is on the back and not therefore in contact with the skin, then? With the organic cotton in the tampons, could it be contaminated do you think by any sprays that derive from or contain corn eg citric acid/other ‘natural pesticides’?
The tampons are not sprayed with anything that has derived from or contains corn.
So, other people on forums had had the same denial replies but still reacted. I haven’t dared try them again but it MIGHT be that the Natracare tampons are OK but the pads are not.
By this point, I had decided to trial off them, but what was I supposed to use? I had visions of being a cave-woman with a nappy on or something. Not a pretty sight.
I did a lot of research and basically you have two real alternative options.
First, you can use the ‘cup’ type things like Mooncup which many women swear by. They are made of silicone so should be TGF safe but personally I don’t like the idea of using processed plastic in such an intimate way (probably completely bonkers that but that’s how I feel and after months of agonising migraines, I didn’t really want another month to find out..).
So, I opted for alternatives number 2: reusable cotton pads. Well, what a whole new world! I never knew they even existed but apparently they are all the eco rage! I spent a lot of time late at night chatting to my US colleagues who use and make these things, asking them all manner of graphic questions, not least about how effective they are, which is, let’s face it, our main concern.
Eventually, migraine pain won out and I ordered some off the shelf ones called AngelPadz, which I bought from a great UK site, Earthwise Girls, and had some custom made from Little Gumnut again here in the UK.
I won’t go into all the vagaries of use etc, but suffice to say the little gumnut ones were way better for me, although the AngelPadz were perfectly fine too. So, in case you need to do this too, here is what I had made and my tips for you.
Stop reading if this is now too much info for you; it gets more graphic from here on in!
OK, have the others all gone..? Good, I shall continue then.
The Angel Padz, first of all, are made from
‘a top layer of beautifully patterned cotton flannel, 2 layers of bamboo for absorbency, and a co-ordinating backing layer of coloured PUL to prevent leaks. Ultra slim fitting. Available in Regular (approx 20cm long), Medium (approx 28cm long, featuring 2 snaps) or Long (35cm long, 2 snaps, flared at the back). Angel Padz are also available as a panty liner, listed separately.’
They are fine but are substantially less soft than the Little Gumnut ones below and I could feel them much more. That said, the inclusion of PUL, a polyester waterproof layer, makes them very leak-proof, if not quite so breathable as the zorb/bamboo versions (see below; I told you: this is a whole new world!).
I ordered 8 pads in total of 3 different sizes and cost was £54. And of course I had to order a cute little purse for them, too…
For Little Gumnut. I ordered two types to start with: Little Gumnut Minky Topped Slimbo Cloth Pads – Size : 9″ and size 13″.
I hadn’t realised these were custom made so it took about 2 weeks to get them – bear that in mind for when you need them. It did give me time to use the AngelPadz ones, though, which were perfectly acceptable to use and I thought were comfy until I used the Gumnut ones. You may prefer them, of course; there is no accounting for taste.
I asked the ever-helpful Emma at Little Gumnut how they are made so I could compare them to other types:
Little gumnut slimbo reusable cloth pads have either a cotton, bamboo or minky top, a hugely absorbent zorb core and are backed with either Maldens Mills Polartec 200 DWR technical fleece, or felted Merino Interlock Wool. Both options are breathable, waterproof and and can be machine washed and dried. They are held comfortably on your panties by folding the wings underneath and attaching both together with the perfectly placed popper.
Our pads are specifically designed for sanitary and continence wearers. Our sizing goes from 7″ liners to our most absorbent 15″ pad used either for post partum or for more serious continence use.
Zorb is non-toxic and non-allergenic made of bamboo/cotton/viscose and poly micro fibers.
Procare: is a more durable option than PUL, it’s just a laminated waterproof polyester fabric.
I chose to have minky topping (very absorbent, breathable and soft) and lavender-coloured polartec fleece backing (I was worried about leakage on heavy days) . I chose two different designs and by far liked the bright pink floral design Flower Field in Fuschia – actually cheered me up every time I saw them! I ordered 3 of each size and the total cost was £60. That seems a lot until you remember how much you spend every month on these VAT-charged items (!) and that you can rewash them many times over.
Anyway, they arrived beautifully made and wrapped up with ribbon (nice touch, Emma) with a little card to tell you about caring for them. They did have some Scotch Magic tape on the top which I mentioned to Emma could cornify them. You are supposed to wash them before use so it shouldn’t be an issue but please be aware. She explained she already doesn’t choose sellotape because of the latex component and uses the Scotch Magic because it leaves no residue, but I suggested it might be wise to put the tape on the underside of the pads if poss.
Update, Update… I have since tried Charlie Banana pads (well, wouldn’t you with that name?) and like those the best. Got them from the same place as the AngelPadz above: Earthwise Girls.
How To Use Reusable Pads
Using them is easy. They fold in on themselves and secure with the popper and I just bought a small waterproof cosmetic bag and put them in my handbag. The used one just then goes into that folded up and popped securely until you get home. If you’re out a long time, you could have one bag for clean ones and one for used. I was worried this would be all yukky but it really is surprisingly not.
To use them, you just put the size on that you want and use the popper to secure them on your knickers. They don’t feel like the usual wings on pads as they are made from soft fleece so I could honestly hardly feel I had anything on and they didn’t seem to move about too much. You select the right size for the type of day – I had small and large for light and heavy/night time. Emma sent me some 11″ ones actually which worked well for in-betweeny days too. The small ones are also useful as daily pads if you are spotting or needing some form of covering for any other reason.
Did they Work?
In terms of effectiveness: great. I felt very safe with them and swapped them probably a little more often than I would have done previously just to be sure. The only issue I had on heavy days (and I really mean heavy, clotty and everything), was that I tended to bleed what is known in the trade apparently as ‘straight down’ and worried that it would leak over the sides, which it did once very slightly. I have opted to have another set made for those days with more zorb right in the middle and a bamboo topping which is very slightly more absorbent than minky (as that is a synthetic material). I originally chose minky as I was worried I would feel hot and itchy and Emma reckoned the minky was slightly softer and cooler. In reality, I don’t think there is much in it, but I shall report back of course (if you haven’t had enough of this rather graphic subject yet :)) Or, perhaps the PUL-containing AngelPadz would be best for these days. I shall endeavour to experiment!
In terms of washing etc, basically, I found the best way was to have a bucket filled with water in a discreet place (and I had to buy a cute bucket of course, any excuse). I added a scoop of bicarb and some Ecover bleach powder to mine and then just put used ones into it to soak until you have a few which you can then bung in the washing machine. The advice is to pop them inside something else but actually I have done mine in with everything else and even just rinsed them out in a sink. When they come out of the soaking water, they re already clean more or less and just need a bit extra. I have not had any stains on the LG ones yet either which is good. The AngelPadz ones, being cotton, do stain a bit I have found and I may try using a stronger stain soak thing maybe.
So, the trial was successful after all that in that I have now not had the monthly migraine for 3 months. Hoorah! I thought I would feel naffed off at having to be different and giving up another ‘normal’ product, but actually no. I like the eco-ness of them, they are actually more comfortable to wear and are much less hassle than I thought they would be.
Of course, I may be new to all this but you probably aren’t! Anyone else got any tips on this subject, please do share. Mooncups? Other brands? I fancy trying the Luna pads next. Er, people did warn me that you do get a bit obsessive about getting new ones to try, with all the pretty colours and designs to play with. Oops, looks like they were right. Who’d have thunk it?!