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Menstrual Options For Off-The-Grid Living

Aunt Flo. The Curse. Period. Monthly Courses. Whatever terms one might choose to describe that time of the month, every woman of childbearing age should have a plan for how they will handle this aspect of their lives, both in an emergency situation and for planned off-the-grid living.  Sure, one can stock up on cases of commercial paper products, but there are other options that don’t require reliance on big-name companies and a monthly run to the store (and what is the plan once the paper products are used up?) Here are some options to consider, whether prepping your bug-out bag or stocking up for more long-term possibilities.

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Rags

Yes, I said it. Rags. There’s a reason it’s called “on the rag” (though we women don’t often appreciate that descriptor).  The simple rag is one thing women have used historically to deal with their monthly menses. This method is even referred to biblically in the book of Isaiah. But I digress.

Rags can be a godsend to a woman caught away from her stash without any other option. Placed in a bug-out bag, rags can also serve the purpose of general cleaning, dressing wounds, tourniquet, etc. When choosing what rags to save for this purpose, think natural fibers, which will be much more absorbent than synthetic fibers.  Cotton socks can be an aid in creating pads from rags: fold your rag into the proper size and shape, insert into a sock, and you have a pad that won’t fall apart as you hike down the trail. Pack a waterproof bag or two to store the soiled rags in until you can wash them.

Cloth Diapers

Often thought of as only for babies, cloth diapers can be a good option to solve the problem of what to pack to prepare for this aspect of life.  If you are of childbearing age (or have loved ones who are), it is a good idea to have some method planned to deal with the diaper end of childcare any way.  Although “elimination communication” can be an option, in a high stress situation, one is not likely to be able to have the focus needed to carry out this training.  Anything is possible, but having cloth diapers on hand for babies also offers the option of using them for menstrual pads. Cloth diapers are also a good option for the postpartum mother and a good addition to a birth kit.

When making a cloth diaper or purchasing a cloth diaper for the purpose of adding to your bug-out bag or prepping arsenal, it is important to consider the thickness of the diaper. There are many types of cloth diapers, but the best option for easy care, thorough washing, and quick drying, is a flat diaper, also known as “flats”. Flats look much like a kitchen dishtowel, and they can be folded many different ways to serve the intended purpose. Once used, they are easily washed and dry quickly, since they are one-ply.

As is the case for rags, cloth diapers should be made of an absorbent material. Cotton is most common and dries the quickest, but hemp and bamboo are also available (though more costly).

Homemade Pads

Homemade pads look like commercial pads, only they are made of absorbent fabric that can be washed and reused.  Many of them offer a water-resistant lining to protect your other clothing (because who needs more laundry to do, especially in a stressful situation?).  There are patterns and instructions available online, as well as the finished product sold both commercially (Glad Rags and Luna brand) and by work-at-home businesses on sites such as Etsy.  Look for pads that can be folded or stuffed to add absorbency, rather than one thick pad, as you want something that will wash easily and dry quickly.

Sea Sponges

Sea sponges are just what they sound like: sponges harvested from the sea. For the purpose of menstrual use, they are cut to size and used like a tampon.

Sponges need to be rinsed with water between each use (about every two to four hours, depending on flow), and at the end of the cycle they must be washed in hot water with tea tree oil or a similar cleanser and hung to dry.  Sea sponges can be used six or more months with good care.

Though they take more maintenance and water than pads on-site since they must be rinsed each time, sponges might be a better option if water is not in abundance; there won’t be a daily wash needed as in the case of pads, and they will require less water. Also, sponges won’t leave you feeling like you’re wearing a diaper. Bonus!

Homemade Tampons

Women have been creating solutions to menstruation for centuries. Often, we in modern times turn our noses up at such options—especially internal options—claiming it is unsanitary and unsafe. For the record, commercial tampons are not sterilized. What you can make with your own hands (or get someone else to make), as long as it is washed thoroughly between uses and changed frequently enough, should not cause any more problems than a commercial, bleached, dioxin-laced tampon.

Homemade tampons can be made from a simple cloth, rolled or folded to the correct size, and inserted like a non-applicator tampon.

Another option is to knit or crochet tampons out of absorbent thread or yarn.  This way, the absorbency can be controlled by the size and materials used and you can have plenty on hand with very little cost. A simple Internet search will yield instructions on how to make them.

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups have been around since at least the 1960s, though they have a rather underground following.  Approved by the FDA, versions of them have been used by women in the Peace Corp, missionaries, and those seeking alternatives to conventional commercial products, whether from an aversion to how they are produced, what is in them, or just wanting to save money.  Unlike commercial tampons, menstrual cups are not linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome, since they do not create small tears in vaginal tissue for bacteria to enter in and multiply and create toxins.

Menstrual cups generally have a learning curve, so if the first month doesn’t go great, give it at least another month to get the right techniques down for your body.  It is a good idea for the woman who is going to use it in an emergency/prepper situation to have a few trial runs with it so she is clear on what she is doing.  There are groups online that one can join to discuss particular issues one might have in using menstrual cups.  Many women who try the menstrual cup find that they love it and declare that they will never go back to tampons and pads.

Disposable Cup

At this time, there is a disposable version of the menstrual cups that goes by the name Instead.  This cup is not a good example of the “classic” menstrual cups, in that it is shaped differently and fits much higher in the vagina than do the other cups. However, Instead can be a good bug-out bag option.  The Instead cup is inserted and worn much like a diaphragm and can be worn up to twelve hours before it needs to be removed and discarded. Some women rinse and reuse this product, though that is not recommended by the company.

Long-Term Reliable Cups

The “classic” menstrual cups look much like a tapered shot glass with a stem at the bottom for easy removal.  This type of menstrual cup lasts up to ten years.  This stem can be cut to whatever size is comfortable for the woman.  The first cups were made of latex, but now many of them are made of medical grade silicone.  Depending on the brand, there are usually two sizes available, and what size is needed depends largely on whether or not the woman has been pregnant before. Menstrual cups can be left in for up to twelve hours, depending on flow. They should be washed at least daily with hot soapy water, and rinsed with water between uses.

Brands to look for are Keeper, Diva Cup, and Moon Cup. Depending on flow, some women may need some pad backup protection.  Cloth pantiliners are a great addition to a bug-out bag with a menstrual cup.

Along with stocking up on commercial menstrual products, there are many alternative options for women to keep in mind as they prep for dealing with their periods.  Many of these options serve dual purposes, which is a key thing to keep in mind when prepping a bug-out bag. All of these options would be likely candidates for bartering, as this is an issue all women of childbearing age have to deal with and might not have thought about even if they were prepping.  So, toss a few extra items into your stash. You never know who you might run into that might need and greatly appreciate your help and your preparedness for this aspect of life.

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