Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Pelvic Flaws

Alternative titles I considered for this post were Mrs Vicar's Knicker Stickers, and The Bottom Line. If that's already too much information, and you feel that a post about feminine hygiene will put you off your breakfast or afternoon tea, then may I respectfully suggest you go and watch an edifying and amusing DIY film by Big Clive instead, and come back here tomorrow.
I have debated long and hard about posting this one, but as I am trying to be more eco-conscious and this is one significant change which I have made to my lifestyle, I thought it was worth sharing. And this is World Continence Week [yes, that is a thing!] and gussets are the topic of the day after my MP's outburst last week.
Bottom line - I am a woman in my early sixties, and I'm past the menopause. My first pregnancy was difficult, and there were problems when the doctor stitched me up after Liz was born ['stitched me up' is an understatement] Fortunately the doctor who saw me after Steph's birth was great and said "I think we can repair some of that damage". But I subsequently needed a colposuspension operation to treat incontinence issues and a prolapsed bladder. 
I'm grateful my op was before the great pelvic mesh scandal which has blighted the lives of so many women. I am truly sorry for the way they have suffered. However, I still experience the occasional leak. I calculated that my use of sanpro and pantliners has contributed more than 20,000 pieces of plastic to landfill in the past 45 years. Every liner has a plastic strip, every tampon comes wrapped in plastic, and then there's the outer packaging...I feel bad about that. 
If I were younger, I'd definitely be using a Mooncup each month. These reusable devices cost under £20 and last for years - conservative estimates show the average British woman spends in excess of £1000 on sanpro in her lifetime, and 1.5 billion items of sanpro are flushed each year in the UK.
So, what have I done about it? I heard about Thinx - a company in the USA which produces 'period-proof undies' - you wear 'em and wash 'em. Admittedly, they have had mixed reviews, and some women say they have had problems with leaks and stains. But the Thinx company then decided to tackle feminine incontinence, and produced a range called "Icon- pee-proof-panties" 
I am alarmed by the growing popularity of Tena Lady briefs. The cost [around £200 p.a.] is bad enough - but just think how much plastic is going into landfill. And however hard the ads try to persuade me that they are a glamorous solution to a potentially embarrassing problem, these are, quite frankly, Pampers Disposable nappies for grown-ups.
I appreciate that OAPs in a Care Home with major incontinence issues might need something like this. But I am not ready for that yet.
I investigated Icon a little further. Developments in fabric technology in recent years has meant that super absorbent cloth [often using natural fibres like bamboo and hemp] can be made so that a lot of liquid can be absorbed by material which is not excessively bulky. This is often the basis for babies' washable nappies. Other fabrics have a one-way wicking system which can draw moisture away from the skin [used in sportswear as well as underwear] and lightweight, waterproof, but breathable fabrics can contain the moisture.
I calculated how much I spend on underwear and pantliners each year. Icon pants are expensive- they are only available from the States. In the autumn they had a deal for UK customers, and four pairs for the price of two. I agonised about it - if they last me 5 years, that's equivalent to my current spending on pants and liners. I bought some, and in November started wearing them.
I love them - so comfortable, in comparison to having paper stuck in my briefs. So efficient dealing with leaks, and they look just like ordinary pants. They wash and dry quickly. The company prides itself on its ethical standards, and for every pair sold, a donation is made to a charity which helps women in Africa who suffer with fistulas. Apart from the price, I am absolutely thrilled with my pants!
And the best bit? Once I owned some, I was able to check out the construction thoroughly - they are just like regular pants with a built in washable pantliner gusset. And there's a fabulous UK company called CuddlePlushFabrics which sells the wicking fabric, the 'Zorb' and the waterproof cloth, so you can make your own. I picked up some appropriate briefs in TKMaxx, ordered some fabrics, and made myself some more pee-proof-panties - these worked out at around £5 a pair. The picture shows two pairs of pukka Icon pants [black, blue], and two of my home made ones [black, pink]. 
As far as I am concerned, this is a no-brainer. If I can have more comfortable underwear, which handles my occasional leaks better than regular pantliners and reduces the amount of plastic being sent to landfill, then that is what I am going to do.
I started wearing these back in November - well over six months ago - so they have been thoroughly road tested now [on the motorway, on the bicycle, in the classroom and in the pulpit, walking, running, dancing] You can keep your Brazilians, thongs, tangas and G-strings - I am very happy with this hip-hugger style which keeps me cool, fresh and comfortable all day, thank you.[that's a model in the picture, not me!!] Someone else left her underwear outside our MPs constituency office at the weekend!
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  1. Thank you for tackling such a sensitive subject with down to earth common sense and useful information.
    This is not just a problem of old age, yet, until recently very little information seems to have been available outside a clinical setting. It's good that there is an alternative to the proliferation of yet more plastic products.
    I was horrified to read that tea bags contain plastic. No wonder they don't compost easily. Am I strong enough to use loose tea as a protest? .......... Sue

    1. The co-op are hoping to have non plastic tea bags available soon

  2. Very brave of you to post this Ang, I salute you.

  3. Very interesting post, I too suffer 'leaks' if I sneeze cough etc, I have been using the liners from Aldi which are very good, but I too am on a less plastic drive. where did you get the fabric from? did you use just one layer or several? sorry to ask this on a public forum, but like many others I am interested.

  4. Brilliant post Angela and thank you for the links. Very helpful and much appreciated. Thank yiu. Tricia x

  5. I totally agree with your post. I have 'plastic guilt' too. By the time the law has come into effect about plastic usage I fear that there will be no time for the planet to recover... Thanks for this post about something that affects the female population, but no one talks about.

  6. I bought my fabric from https://www.cuddleplushfabrics.co.uk

  7. Excellent post-thanks for the information.

  8. Wonderful post about a topic which is so rarely talked about. I am lucky enough not to have leakage problems (yet) but my mother age 87 has suffered periodically for years. She buys the Tena continence pants and I know this must be a strain on her limited income. I am going to investigate whether this might be a solution for her. Thank you

  9. I wonder if they sell that fabric, or something similar, in the US? When I first began menstruating, I wore cloth pads, as did many others in that time and in that place - it was basically a folded up square of fabric. I didn't like having to hand wash them, though (no washing machine).

  10. Thanks for the recommendation, Angela. I'm looking into it. Cheers

  11. This is brilliant. I have recently been using Natracare sanitary towels (I can't use tampons!) which are plastic-free but I have been thinking about using those fabric sanitary towels that you can wash. Am going to be changing my pill though soon so I want to see what happens with that before I proceed as the one I am swapping to, I may not have periods!


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