Introducing Menstruation Product Explorer!
Running on an endless track
Menarche, how many years ago was it? It was a day when I felt both fear because it was “blood” and calmness that “the day has finally come.” The first “day I saw blood” (now I know menstruation is normal, but it was baffling to me at that time) was at a math academy. I was in sixth grade in elementary school, and it came when I was solving questions during a competition. I took care of it roughly with the help of my teacher, and when I went home, my parents threw me a party. Although it was a small party of three—my mom, my dad, and I—but I remember eating pizza, blowing candles on a cake, and receiving flowers. My mom handed me a menstruation pad with the words, “You’ve become a real woman,” and I learned how to use it.
What kind of a person is the “real woman” that my mom said? If I had become a real woman due to menstruation (basically blood) that tells me that I have a body that can become pregnant, what was I before? Although menstruation is certainly something women go through, we must not forget that not all women go through it, and some women who have menstruation don’t have children or can’t have children. Did my mom’s mom, so my grandmother say these things to my mom when she was young? If I hadn’t received a menstruation pad (cotton sanitary pad), but also a tampon and a menstrual cup, could this N-year-long tiresome journey have ended in years or months? I’m sure I could have saved money or contaminated the environment less.
Looking back, I never positively used menstruation since then. It’s because, on a day when I’m a bit sensitive, I was told “Why are you so sensitive today? Is it that day? Do you have your period?” There were actually more days that I didn’t have menstruation, and it was frequently talked about among women.
Therefore, if there’s anyone who hasn’t had their first menstruation, I hope they can be congratulated to the fullest by people around them. But the meaning of being congratulated has to change a little. Instead of being congratulated for becoming a real woman, I hope it’s a day of being congratulated that the time has come for you and your body to understand and respect each other through exploring in the way that you want.
2) The most common menstruation pad (sanitary pad), disposable pad
On the day of menarche, I started using a menstruation pad, starting with the one that my mom gave me. I thought menstruation pads were the only options for solving the flowing blood and blood clots, so I felt even more disgusted by the endless journey..
The decade of using disposable pads was insanely painful. The high price and volume were only a few of the many disadvantages. I can’t forget the carcinogen crisis that stirred Korea. The harmful ingredient of menstruation pads affected menstrual pain and was fatal to health. The issue with ingredients kept being raised steadily, but the only thing that was common to us at that time were pads, so we didn’t have any other option. However, more people tried other menstrual products in the wake of the crisis. Those who were still using pads used them with doubt over their safety.
In addition, menstruation is a phenomenon when the inner lining of the uterus is worn out, so internal tissue along with blood is released in the form of lumps. This is often called the “feeling of producing hot oysters,” and this unpleasant feeling would be beyond the comprehension of those who haven’t experienced it. And if it’s a hot summer season, the game is over. The pads, which are already damp enough with blood and sweat, are affected by the temperature and humidity, fraying your nerves. Not only that, sitting, walking, or other minor daily activities that cause friction creates a perfect environment for troubles to arise on sensitive areas and sensitive skin. In the past, when I suffered from atopic dermatitis, I felt like I was living in hell for several days in summer.
3) Adhesion is the lifeblood of overnight. Memorize it.
I’m a bit better now, but I’ve had unusual sleeping habits since I was young. I would sleep with my head on the pillow, but when I wake up in the morning, the position of my head and feet would have changed by 180 degrees (The mystery of my feet on the pillow), or sometimes I would hit my mom when I’m sleeping with her (I believe my movements were just intense, but that it’s an exaggerated story from my mom’s point of view).
I’ve started menstruation while I had these movements during sleep, so it’s obvious what happened even if you don’t see it. Except for the first and the last days, blood was on the bed every time. I should use an overnight pad? I bet there’s no super overnight pad in Korea that hasn’t gone through my hands. However, it wasn’t easy to find a product that fit me since each company had its own pad size and ridges, and on a day when I chose a pad with poor adhesion that couldn’t handle its length, it was a catastrophe, or a “bloodbath.” While tossing and turning on the bed, the blood went down the hip bone, and at the same time, the weak adhesion couldn’t overcome my movements, so it folded around. When I woke up in the morning and saw the overnight pad all crumpled without having executed the one function it had, I felt betrayed. On days when I calculated how much a piece of cloth costs that just gets replaced within a few hours, I seriously wondered if I should buy an “incontinence underwear.” Of course, this is a story about a time when I didn’t know the existence of a menstruation pad (sanitary pad or menstruation panties) that you can wear.
4) Tampon, My Savior who came to save my life
“My world is divided into before and after knowing you.” Didn’t a singer (a song called “Every Moment of You” by the Korean singer Sung Si-kyung) sing this before? Yes, my menstruation life is divided into before and after knowing tampons. I don’t remember exactly when, how, or why I first came across tampons (I probably bought them on impulse after seeing promotions at a school drugstore), but I’ve been using tampons since that day.
* Can I use tampons even if I don’t have any sexual experience?
Are you afraid that your vaginal membrane (hymen), mistakenly related to virginity, will be damaged?
The vagina is a very flexible, resilient tissue that is made of muscles and can’t feel pain. People may have a tough or soft vaginal membrane, only have a trace of it from the beginning, only a tiny hole, or the cervix may be completely closed, and it can be damaged from swimming or cycling. It may not tear after inserting a genital or a finger, or it may tear and heal. There’s a study that less than 50% of women Our vagina doesn’t exist only for insertion for sexual satisfaction or pregnancy. Please remember that it’s a part of your body, just like your eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, heart, and lungs. It’s the same for menstrual cups that take blood. It doesn’t make sense that we can’t choose the convenience we can enjoy due to our distorted perception of virginity. Let’s make our own decisions on our bodies!
After a few trials and errors, the convenience of tampons that I felt all over my body was like 100 times the feeling of despondency when I was floundering in the decimal hell of 3.14 throughout elementary school, then found π in middle school math. Plus, a little resentment without a target. Why did you just show up? Why didn’t anyone tell me this amazing thing before?
* Wait! Things to know before officially praising tampons
1. Cleanliness: It’s a form of inserting into the vagina with your hand. Wash your hands thoroughly as it may cause bacterial infection.
2. Possibility of vaginal dryness: You’re inserting an absorbent into the vagina, so it absorbs moisture other than blood. Make sure to replace it every 2-3 hours.
3. Possibility of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): It can cause a shock if worn for more than 8 hours (But even cold medicines have side effects!)
4. After swimming or water activities, replace it immediately as there may be a risk of infection.
After the Tampon Revolution swept through me, I have been praising tampons for several years as if I’m a sales representative at a tampon company. There are many things in my praise, from softness on the skin to no skin troubles, and minimal volume, but the most appealing part is that “when you’re cleaning the poo, only the poo is cleaned.” I’m sure some people are frowning over this part, (Please note that I’m also embarrassed for talking about poo in this space that will forever remain in type), but it’s also the part that made me happy the most. I also found out while using tampons that it’s an overly familiar inconvenience that I have been experiencing during menstruation.
Also, what’s causing the smell during the menstruation period isn’t the blood that’s flowing from my body, but the harmful ingredients of the absorbent. How angry I was when I found out about this. Of course. It doesn’t make sense that the clean blood that’s only two to three hours old would smell like that.
* Tampon, what do I do when I sleep?
When I’m menstruating, I’m a sensitive person who wakes up every three hours from anxiety that has built up for quite a long time (What if it’s leaking out?) My average daily sleep time is 5-6 hours, so I replace it with a new tampon when I wake up in the middle of the night and go back to sleep. It’s very easy, right? But I recommend you use it according to your own life pattern. As mentioned earlier, wearing it for a long time is not good for your health because it can cause vaginal dryness or vaginismus. Health comes first!
When will this expedition be over? There’s still a long way to go before the last menstruation comes. First of all, I’m planning to buy a menstruation panty on my upcoming payday. Also, I want to try a menstrual cup or get a Mirena procedure in the near future.
Actually, I want to try the menstrual cup immediately, but the idea of putting your hand inside my vagina while menstruating to measure the length to the cervix, or to be exact, I’m reluctant to “see the blood.” (This is simply because I’m a wimp. I’m a person who has the age of an adult but dislikes blood, still shuts my eyes when getting a shot, and flinches at the sight of a needle.) On the other hand, I’m like what’s the deal, it’s my body anyways. If it’s like this, I think I’ll probably buy a menstrual cup next year.
Mirena (one of the brands of IUD; intrauterine device) is a small device that goes into your uterus, and it’s a procedure that many gynecologists also do. Although it’s known as one of the methods of contraception in Korea, it’s often used to treat menstrual pain, and in other countries, it’s often done to treat menstruation. In fact, I have an American friend who’s had Mirena for two years, and in Korea, more people are getting the procedure due to menstruation.
Mirena is an impermanent device that you can take out whenever you want, but I’m hesitant because I can’t avoid thinking about the fear of inserting something, the side effects of the procedure, and that it’s not covered by insurance since it’s for menstruation. In particular, I don’t know what side effects will occur to me until I get the actual procedure, so I’ve been thinking more carefully. How great would it be to be free from this menstrual pain? I don’t even wish for the end of menstruation. I just wish it’ll hurt less, it’ll feel uncomfortable less, and it’ll make me sensitive less.
I’m tired of it, but the expedition continues
As adults, instead of just celebrating girls’ menarche day, shouldn’t we create an atmosphere where we don’t deny or affirm menstruation that occurs in our daily lives, but accept it as it is? Instead of saying that there are many ways in the world for many people who menstruate, and that you should care for your body preciously when menstruation begins, shouldn’t we say you are an important person despite all of these?
I hope people who are bleeding will find the right product and process for them, and enjoy that time. I will end my menstruation expedition from a passage I read from 『The Wonder Down Under: A User’s Guide to the Vagina』 by Nina Brochmann and Ellen Stokken Dahl. Menstruation is just monthly bloody loss.
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