One of the most frequently asked questions about cloth pads is whether they can be used during travel (especially on public transport) and about managing changes while working outside the home for most of the day. So, here’s the definitive guide to being a cloth pad user (and also simultaneously being a normal woman. Whattawin!)
1. Can I use cloth pads on days when I have heavy flow?
Most people have less than 40 ml of menstrual discharge over their entire period. That’s three tablespoons of discharge over 2-7 days. Each day, your overall discharge is probably less than 1 tablespoon in volume. Most modern cloth pads have enough absorbency to manage this kind of flow. The ability of cloth pads to soak up liquids also increases with the first few washes. Even on days with extremely heavy flow, you should only need about 4 pads.
2. What do I do with the used pad after I have changed it?
The idea of carrying around a used pad in my purse is, well, ewww.
If you need to change your pad outside the home, you can simply wrap up the used pad and place it in a cloth bag or waterproof dry bag. Some people swear by cloth bags and say that they prevent the pads from stinking. Others prefer using a waterproof dry bag in their backpacks or purses. In my personal experience, a used cloth pad doesn’t stink (even overnight), while nearly every disposable made me gag while changing. The ‘ick factor’ is considerably reduced in cloth pads.
3. I have extremely long hours at work and I really don’t want to spend time washing and cleaning the pads. I want to use it, throw it, and forget about it. Cloth pads are inconvenient and I really don’t want another source of inconvenience during my periods.
Many people report having a vast reduction in menstrual discomfort after switching from disposables to cloth pads. So that’s already a few problems off your list. The washing and cleaning of cloth pads can also be done once a day. Simply dump your pads in a bucket of water at the end of the day (and maybe soak yourself in a bathtub or take a warm shower), rinse twice and put the pads out to dry (or send it for a spin in your washing machine). The whole process should take less than 5 minutes.
If the blood in your cloth pad has a strong, disagreeable smell, there is good reason to get checked out by a gynaecologist.
4. I live in a joint family and there is no privacy to dry my pads. It is easier to wrap disposables in a piece of newspaper and throw them quietly into the bin.
Your cloth pads can be dried in the same place that your inner garments are dried. Most modern cloth pads have pretty prints and look, well, unobjectionable, even if your drying rack is only 6 inches from someone else’s window. Some cloth pads can even be opened out and look like simple square pieces of cloth.
5. I am out in buses and trains most of the day. Getting hold of a toilet is often tough work. I don’t want to worry about changing pads.
Cloth pads can often be worn for slightly longer periods of time (compared to disposables) because they don’t cause rashes and I am beginning to think that the absorbency is actually better. If you are having difficulty finding a decent toilet, that’s all the more reason to shift to cloth (also look for apps in your city that let you find the nearest public facility. Malls and petrol bunks are a good bet. Most commercial buildings will have at least one common toilet).
6. What about road trips?
That’s a tough one. That would depend on where you are travelling. My guess is, though, if you are travelling through a wilderness that doesn’t have malls, petrol bunks, or public restrooms, then you absolutely need to find a way to not leave disposable sanitary pads in that pristine landscape. Perhaps you can consider alternate means of sustainable menstruation, like a menstrual cup or labial pads.
There is a learning curve with cloth pads, just the same as you had when you first began using disposables. Perhaps the best way to let yourself down this road is to try it a few times when you are mostly at home and become familiar with your body, its rhythms and the idiosyncrasies of your pad. Other than that, happy travelling!